VIDEO: Mora on Wednesday

Head coach Jim Mora discusses the value of special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich and also talks about how Aaron Porter has developed over the last year...

Jim Mora talks on Wednesday:


JM: good work this morning. Shaq [Shaquelle Evans] wasn't out here. No big deal. He had the flu. So he woke up with the flu and he had a really high fever so we sent him in. Dietrich [Riley] had his MRI read yesterday, and he's got a little labrum issue. So I'm just trying to decide right now how to proceed with that. But it doesn't… we just got to make a decision which way to go so when we do, we'll let you know but I think he'll be back out here in a week or two. He's just got to do a little rehab on it. I don't think there's any other injury issues. I think we're good on that.

Q: John Young?

JM: John… you know what? I don't know that I've seen John practice much since I've been here, you know. He's got that knee that's really bothered him. He came out and I think two nights ago… you know, Saturday he practiced and he did pretty well and then I think his knee swelled up on him again so we just got to keep nursing him through that and eventually make a decision on what he wants to do. It's really tough on him, you know, because he's been working his butt off.

I thought it was good work this morning, you know. It was our first morning practice in pads so it took a minute to wake up, but once they got going, they got going pretty good, you know. So… another good day, you know. We're making progress and it's not always evident to the naked eye when you watch it. We have to go back and look at the film sometimes, but one of the things that we're stressing tremendously is just effort. You know, just burst out of the stack and breaking on the ball and, you know, the backside players pursuing. And, you know, all those little things. In addition to the fundamentals. In addition to the technique and your assignment. And I see a lot of improvement in that. And that's a mindset that we just have to keep creating. So other than that, it was good.

Q: was Simon [audio difficulties]? I noticed him kind of coming in and out. Has he made any progress?

JM: yeah. No, he's fine. He's got a cold. He's got a little postnasal drip so he gets winded easy, but he's fine. And he's pushing through it. You know, he's fine. He's fine. Yeah. He's got a cold. He's got to be able to play football with a cold.

Q: we see Ben [Wysocki] and Kody [Innes] were running with the first unit at the guard positions.

JM: yeah, you know, we're just rotating guys through. Kody… Innes just works his tail off. I mean, what a great kid he is. He's a great example for everybody out here. He hasn't played a lot. I'm not sure he's played much at all, but he's one of the hardest workers out here every day. And he's just fighting, man, and so you see a guy like that and you just want to reward him. And he's earned the chance to get in there and compete. But part of the reason that you see those guys working in there is we're a little light in numbers. And we're moving… every once in awhile we move X… Xavier [Su'a-Filo] out to left tackle. So… Because X will be our left guard. He's the guard. But we'll get him work at tackle as well. And you know what? It's good for him and it's good for Anthony Barr. They had a couple good… you guys probably saw it. You probably notice when X'd him now… but you probably didn't see AB beat him so it's pretty equal between those two. They're both really good players.

Q: what do you think of where Aaron Porter is in his development? And physically, do you think he's … obviously made some improvement from last weekend.

JM: yeah, it's funny because we were talking about that this morning, walking out. It's like, "you know who's really improved is Aaron Porter." He's really improved. He's starting to be more vocal. More assertive on the field. You know, he has a better understanding of the defense and how he fits in it. And so we've been impressed with him. Him and Taylor [Lagace] too. Both of those guys have really made improvement.

Q: kick return was kind of a question mark. At the end of last year, at least. You guys were practicing it a little bit today.

JM: a little.

Q: do you have an idea of who you want to be returning kicks? Or is that still kind of really up in the air?

JM: it's pretty up in the air. I think we have some really good candidates. I think, you know, if Thiggy [Damien Thigpen] gets back, he's certainly one that's going to be really good at it. I think Devin Fuller's got a chance to be a good returner. Ahmaad Harris does a good job… a lot of guys, you know. Shaq is a good punt returner for us. But we'll see. We'll see where that goes. We don't know yet.

Q: something you're not too concerned about?

JM: no. Not really. You know? And, you know, it's not time to be concerned yet. It's time to evaluate right now. And I think that we have a lot of really good candidates. I don't look at the team and say, "oh man, we don't have a returner." We've got a lot of pretty good returners. Let's find out who the best one is.

Q: was that a problem? Would you consider that a problem, last year, when you were kind of unsure… or does it really matter in the scheme of things?

JM: no… you would like to be, you know, really solid at every single position, but it's just probably not feasible. You know, you're always going to have some uncertainty, and I think it was more put returner than kickoff returner for us last year. You know, you saw a million different guys do it so if we could just settle on somebody and they could stay healthy, that would be great.

Q: what have you noticed about Randall [Goforth] through the first week?

JM: Goforth?

Q: yeah.

JM: his command of the defense. I think that playing as much as he did last year gave him confidence. You know, make calls. He's making plays on the ball. He's fitting up on the run. He's playing with a lot more confidence. I really believe that that experience, you know, even though it wasn't always positive last year... I mean, he struggled in that Baylor game. But I think he went back and he looked at it, and he really learned from it. And so… he's applying those lessons out here this spring. I'm really pleased with where he is.

Q: do you need him to be a little more vocal? Just as a young leader…

JM: well… you know what? It's funny because most of our communication, both offensively and defensively, is nonverbal. You know, because you're dealing with crowd noise, and you're doing it with this tempo, so a lot of what we do is with our hands and with our feet in terms of our signals. So it's not necessarily being "vocal," but maybe it's being assertive. Assertive with his calls. And as you get more confident in what you're doing and how you're supposed to be doing it, in your position, then you can be more assertive. So I see him working that way.

Q: without Joe Fauria, how much do things change in the red zone? I mean, do you feel like you need to find that one… especially reliable guy in the red zone?

JM: yeah, but I think we have guys. You know, I think Shaq's going to be reliable. Jordan Payton is an excellent receiver. I mean, you see the catches he makes. Every day, he kind of makes a… I don't know if you can call them "spectacular" but a pretty darn good catch. Devin Lucien… you know, he'll be an improved guy. And we'll have him, hopefully. You know, when we see Eldridge Massington… he's got some height, and he's got long arms. He'll be a guy that'll be a red zone threat. We'll certainly miss 6'7". You know, just throw it up there 10 feet and let him go up and get it. But we'll adjust, and we'll have guys that'll step in and do a good job.

Q: how different does that make Darius [Bell]'s role at the Y? Just because he's not necessarily…

JM: they're a little bit different in build, aren't they? Yeah, Joe and… but you know, Darius, he's nifty. And he's got… I think his quarterback background gives him a great feel for finding openings in zone. I think that he's really in concert with Brett [Hundley] and knowing work to go and when to be there. And it's just going to be different, you know. The ball's going to be lower rather than higher. But that's okay, you know. It's not often you get a 6'7" tight end so most of us are used to working with a guy that's a little bit, you know… I don't want to say "normal" because Joe will say I'm calling him "abnormal," but maybe, yeah, normal in size to what we're used to.

Q: is it nice having 2 ex-quarterbacks at those inside receiver positions?

JM: you know what? I think that it is. I think that helps. I think Devin Fuller and Darius, like you were saying about Darius… just having a feel for the game. You've seen it from the other side. You know what the quarterback's looking for. You understand coverages very, very well because you've sat in meetings forever and had to diagnose them. And I think that's good. And they both… they're both sure-handed. They both got explosiveness and burst. They're both good after the catching. I mean, Darius last year, probably was one of the most underrated surprise players on our team and part of that's because he got hurt, you know in the Cal game, but the things that he was doing as a first year as a slot receiver after being a pistol quarterback… pretty darn good. So I like the way Darius plays.

Q: so Kevin McReynolds was pretty good at that offensive guard position. Explosive on the line of scrimmage. Good leverage. [audio difficulties]

JM: he does. He's like a building block. I mean, he… and he missed the first couple days of practice with the hamstring, but he's back now, and he's doing well. And you're right. He is explosive. He can roll his hips. And I think he'll be competitive in there. You know? He's a good player. I mean, he works at it.

Q: Ian Taubler. Looks good at tight end. He's got some good hands there.

JM: Ian… for a bigger guy, he runs good routes, he's got good hands. You know, and he's like Randall. He didn't get as much playing time as Randall last year but, he got enough that he comes out here in spring and he has a little bit more confidence. He's been in games. he understands the pace. He understands the level of competition. And he does good. I like him. I think he's a good player.

Q: with [Jeff Ulbrich - Assistant Head Coach - Special Teams/Linebackers], can you… you made him associate head coach…

JM: assistant head coach?

Q: yeah, assistant head coach. Can you talk about that decision?

JM: it's just something he and I decided to do. And, you know, the guy… I think that he's got a tremendous influence on this team because he's the only other coach besides myself that talks to the team. You know, he's the special teams coordinator. I've always thought special teams coordinators were really undervalued in terms of their ability to some day be a head coach. I think, in the NFL, all you have to do is look at the guy that won the Super Bowl this year, you know. He was an ex-special teams coach. I'd like to see more special teams coaches given the chance to be head coaches because they have a feel for dealing with an entire team because they do it in special teams meetings. So Jeff's got some special abilities, and he's got a unique impact on these guys. And we just felt like it was the best thing to do.

Q: another special teams coach that became a Super Bowl winner was Dick Vermeil.

JM: yes. You know what? He told us on Saturday, when he was here, that he was the first full-time special-teams coach. Yeah. And he… yeah… I didn't know that. But that's right. That position. Those guys, you know. They have a unique role. Like I said, I think it's undervalued.

Q: Ka'imi [Fairbairn] sank his 6 field goals today. Do you see him as a guy that's made a lot of progress since last year? In what way do you think he's made the biggest stride?

JM: confidence, you know. Just being sure of himself. Everything was so new to him last year. And, you know, the one thing that he's working through right now is a new snapper. And a new holder. I mean, he's used to having Kevin [McDermott] and Jeff [Locke]. And that operation between those three is so critical so he's got to get used to the new snapper and the new holder, but I thought he kicked it, the best he's kicked it, this morning. I thought that that was his best day. And, you know, we end every practice with the kick that he missed at Stanford. So… and he's banging them through. So I just think his level of confidence has really soared.

Q: was it kind of just going through the natural freshman-to-sophomore progression right now? Or he even ahead of the curve a little bit?

JM: oh, he's ahead of it. This guy's a really good… We saw it last year. You know, we had to… we had be careful with the way we brought him along last year. And I told you guys this a lot. I didn't want to put him in situations where I felt like he was going to fail. We're trying to create success. And it's just… he's going to be a really good kicker. I mean, this guy's going to be… in my opinion, some day, he'll be thought of as one of the great UCLA kickers, and there's been some really great ones here. And, you know, I think he's got the potential to be an All-American. I really do. He's that good. It's his mindset as well.

Q: you said you ended every practice with that kick. What do you mean?

JM: we end every practice with a 52 yarder from the left hash.

Q: okay.

Q: no soaked field though?

JM: no, but you know, [Angus McClure - Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator ] is always back there, throwing the water at the guys. And it's not necessarily just for Ka'imi. It's for the whole team. just… you know, it's probably silly. Some psychologist probably'd tell me I'm wacky. But I don't know. Just do it anyway so... Alright? Thanks everybody.

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