VIDEO: Mora on Monday

Coach Jim Mora talked about a number of younger players trying to find a position, like Jeremy Castro, Kenny Orjioke and Nate Iese, and more...


JM: alright, well... A little bit different for us to come out at this time and practice. And I think it took us a couple minutes to get going, but once we moved through our little Okie drill there, Oklahoma drill, I thought it really picked up, and it was a good practice. Good energy. Having to, you know, this is Southern California so we're going to call this wind here "elements." Most part of the country this is an element, but for the quarterbacks and the receivers having to deal with a little wind is good, you know. It's not always going to be perfect day when you play. So, it's a good practice. We got a lot done. Got a couple guys back. Simon [Goines] was back out here today. Cheech [Alexandru Ceachir] is back out here today. Kevin McReynolds is back out here today. So we need those guys because we're a little bit thin on the offensive line. And Dietrich [Riley]… Dietrich was moving around a little bit. I think he's still going to get evaluated tomorrow, but at least he was not in a sling, and he seems like he's feeling pretty good so I think we're making some progress. But we got a long way to go, yeah.

Q: is Dietrich day to day? You think you might get him back pretty soon?

JM: we'll find out tomorrow when he sees the doctor, you know. And I don't know if they're going to do an MRI or what the evaluation will be. I think that they'll decide as they look at him. I'm hopeful that he'll be back out here. I think he's needs to be back out here. I think it's for him and for his psyche and just getting back in the flow of it and eventually fitting back into contact. That's important for him. And we need him, you know. We're light and we need him to get work.

Q: surprising that Cheech came back this… that you were going to get him back now?

JM: no. I felt like he might. You know, I think more than anything with Cheech, there was a fear factor involved, you know, as there would be for any young guy coming off a concussion. There's so much out there right now about concussions. It's such a hot topic, and it should be because it should be a point of concern. But I think at times, it might scare a young man like that, and it did. But he came back today and he did well so that's a positive sign.

Q: Ellis McCarthy…

JM: we're going to take it easy with Ellis, you know… I don't mean take it easy on Ellis, but take it easy working him back in. You see him do a lot of work on the side with Coach [Sal] Alosi. Movement stuff. We hope, by the end of this week, he's in some individual drills. I think it's really important with Ellis that we do the right thing. And would I like to have him in spring ball every day, doing every drill? Yeah. But I'd rather have him a hundred percent healthy when we strap it up for real in August. I really would. I just think we do the guy a real disservice if we ask him to come out here when he's not 100% healthy. You know, he's still young. He's still developing. He's still trying to feel out his body, and I think that if we get them in the summer at 100%, that's a great objective for us.

Q: for [Kenny] Orjioke, is there any thought of moving him back to tight end at all? I know you experimented with that.

JM: no. No. we're going to let them settle in at linebacker for awhile. You know, he's young and he's growing. I mean, hey, there's a chance that some day, he's playing defensive end. You know, he's put on a lot of weight. He's still 17 years old. So we'll just see where his body takes him, but I think he'll stay on the defensive side of the ball. He's doing a good job at linebacker right now.

Q: Nate Iese, as well, is he…

JM: well, we put Nate down, yeah, like you said, down at defensive end. It's kind of I think the same type of thing. We'll let his body take him where it takes him, but he'll stay on the defensive side. You know, we fiddled around with that and played them at tight end, as you guys know at the bowl prep and a little bit in the scout team. They looked good doing the scout team stuff, but they were running off of a card, you know. And it's a little bit different when you're fitting into the offense and you're having to read the defense and there's not a line on a piece of paper that tells you exactly where to go so they're just more natural on defense right now.

Q: with your offensive line, is it hard to get a sense of what it'll look like in the fall because, you know, so many new guys coming in, so many are injured right now?

JM: yeah, we have seven guys coming in. You know, we've kind of moved through the injury phase so I think today, and going forward, as long as we can get everyone out here and healthy, we'll have a better feel for it. But you know, we hope, and our expectations are that some of those guys that are coming in as freshmen can push these guys. And you know, like I've said many times, we're not going to put limitations on anybody, and we're not afraid to play young guys. We're going to play the best guys. The guys that give us the best chance to win. That fit into with what we're trying to do and do it the way we want it done so I'm looking forward to that competition.

Q: can you say anything about Anthony Jefferson today or on film? He looked like he had a pretty good day out there today.

JM: I think that he's made progress every day. I think that finally, he's feeling more healthy. You know, when he had the problem with his leg a couple years ago, I think that finally AJ is getting back to what he once was physically, and I think it showing in the way he plays and the confidence he plays with, and the plays he's making on the ball. And it's exciting to see, you know, because he's been through some really tough times. He's hung in there and he's kept a good attitude. It hasn't been easy, but he's persevered, and it's just fun to see him having some success.

Q: and [Damien] Thigpen's running around. Is he on schedule? Where is he?

JM: yeah, you know what? He was a little behind schedule for awhile, but all of a sudden, he's made a little jump. I think seeing his teammates out here doing this has kind of, you know, pepped him up a little bit and, you know, I don't know at what point he'll be back out here. It will not be in spring. You know you that. It'll be at some point during the summer camp hopefully. You know, if we have to wait until we get into the season, we'll wait. We're going to make sure he's healthy. That's a position where you have to have great confidence in your ability to make that cut and avoid a hit. And if you don't, it's really tough to play that spot so we have to make sure he's okay.

Q: and he had his surgery in December?

JM: he got hurt versus Southern Cal, correct? Yeah, and I think we waited 3-4 weeks for the swelling to go down and so, yeah, probably in December.

Q: so he's at 4 months right now? 4-5 months.

JM: yeah, about 4. But he's doing well.

Q: That's pretty quick.

JM: yeah, you know what? What was holding him back early was he just wasn't getting the extension and the flexion, but he's making some breakthroughs there. So he's able to move around a lot better there. I mean, I saw him jogging, and it's good to see. It's good to see.

Q: how's Taylor [Lagace] making the transition from safety to linebacker? You satisfied with it?

JM: yeah, I like what Taylor does there. You know, we moved him there late last year. And we call it that mini-backer spot. It seems like a perfect position for him because he's aggressive. He's good down in the box. It's really kind of a rover position and he's been impressive. You know, when we did those scrimmages for bowl prep, he showed up, making plays on the ball. And in these last couple practices, with pads, he's shown up making plays in the run game as well so I think he'll be a factor there. I also think he's an excellent special teams player. So we're looking for him to be productive for us this year.

Q: Paul Perkins had a pretty long touchdown in practice. Do you think today was like a breakout practice for him or at least a step in the right direction?

JM: step in the right direction. Yeah. I mean, it was one play. You know, I'm sure there were some breakdowns on defense. We were going "live," and I'm not sure that everyone was ready to go "live" yet. But it was good to see him make that play. I also thought that Malcolm [Jones] made some impressive runs today, you know. Like we talked about on Saturday, when he runs… it's a cliché… "runs behind his pads". Which means he lowers his center gravity and he gets a little forward lean going… I mean, he's an imposing figure coming at you. But he's got to do a better job of holding onto the football. He dropped it a couple of times, and he's got to be consistent doing that. But, you know, I think between, like we said, between Jordon [James] and Paul and… you know, Steven Manfro is not out here yet. We know that he can do some good things with the ball. And Malcolm. And Melvin [Emesibe] is doing a good job. And Rosy. We're going to be… you know, we're going to have a group there that's going to do a good job for us.

Q: [audio difficulties] seems good standing up.

JM: yeah, it's so foreign to him too. I mean, he's never dropped before, you know. Sometimes it's completely out of the realm of what he's ever done, but he's athletic and he really works at. And I'll tell you what, he hasn't stood out as a guy that you go, "God, he can't do that. You know, we've got to move him back down." He looks like a guy that can do it so he's just going to keep get better. And remember, it's been awhile since he's played football too.

Q: speaking of transition, Devin Fuller just seems like he's getting better at every practice.

JM: yeah. He's an amazing athlete. I mean, he's so darn smooth. He's not yet consistent enough catching the ball. You know, he finds himself in traffic sometimes and it's not just natural for him because he hasn't been in that position, but you're so right, Tracy, he's such an amazing athlete. And he runs good routes and when he gets in his hands, he's hard to catchm and he's hard to tackle.

Alright? Alright guys. Thanks a lot.

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