VIDEO: Mora on Thursday

Coach Jim Mora says it was the best practice of the spring so far, and he officially starts the Heisman Trophy Campaign for Anthony Barr...


JM: yeah, that was our best practice so far this spring. Spirited. Energy. Execution. The whole deal. I really liked the way they came out and went to work today. Got a little frisky at the end which is, you know, okay. You know, we've been banging on each other now for six days and you can kind of expect that. As long as it doesn't get out of hand, and it doesn't turn into a brawl or a fight or somebody, you know, throwing haymakers, you're going to get a little of that. That's part of football. But I loved the energy today. I loved the effort. I loved the enthusiasm. Now we got to take it to the next level. And that's what I told them. It's great. Good day. We got better, but not close to where we have to be. So I am just confident that they'll keep pushing. They have responded to everything we've asked them to do. And I think they'll keep doing that.

Q: was it just energy? Or was it execution? Was it…

JM: it was everything today. It was energy. It was execution. It was focus. It was concentration. I mean, it was just a good morning. Every practice takes on its own personality and today was a very focused, intense practice, and it was great. We needed it, and it was a little bit of a breakthrough, but we can't say, "Okay, now we got it." We got to keep pushing, and we will keep pushing.

Q: would you say the quarterbacks as a whole had a better day today too?

JM: I don't know. You know, I don't watch the individual player position as much as the team. The feel I'm getting off the team. So, I mean, I'd have to go back and look. You know, because I might be watching the defensive line rush and not the quarterback throwing it down the field. Or watching, you know, the coverage in the back end or watching the pass rush so it's hard for me to tell you that.

Q: so you can only watch one guy at a time? Is that what you're saying here?

JM: well, if I've got a Bear Bryant [former Alabama football head coach] tower. And went up in it.

Q: is that next?

JM: Then maybe I'd have a better vision. But that's never going to happen.

Q: the injured guys. The guys that are sitting out. Can you talk a little bit about those guys?

JM: you'd have to remind me who they are. Because I really don't pay attention to the guys that aren't practicing.

Q: Shaquelle Evans?

JM: Shaquelle's got the flu. He… actually he's got Strep throat.

Q: so he'll be out for…

JM: he'll be out ‘til Saturday morning.

Q: let's see what's else. [Eldridge] Massington?

JM: well, he's been out the whole spring so he… we're just , you know, he's getting a little tendinitis so we just want to make sure we don't overdo it. He's on a normal progression to get back on the field.

Q: [Kylie] Fitts looked like he got a little nicked up.

JM: sprained his ankle. We'll see how severe it is. Hopefully it's not too severe. He needs to work. And he's doing a really good job for a high school senior. I don't know who else.

Q: do you foresee that [Anthony] Barr goal line catch over there being something you guys might actually do?

JM: oh, yeah. We're going to use Cassius [Marsh]. You know, Cassius caught one today. AB caught one today. Keenan Graham's worked in there. You know, let me think, who's coming as freshman that we might use? Myles Jack. You know, he's played running back. You might see him in the backfield. You know, I think [Noel Mazzone - Offensive Coordinator ] does a really good job of utilizing our personnel and trying to fit guys into positions where they can help our team. And so that's just another example of it. You get a big, good looking guy with long arms like Anthony or a guy who's athletic like Cassius and those size mismatches, you're going to try to utilize them.

Q: AB… he had such a good season last year. Where do you see the areas where he definitely needs to improve. I know you talked about pass coverage a little bit.

JM: every area. Every single area he needs to improve on. He needs to fill his toolbox up with more pass rush moves. He needs to get a better understanding of protection schemes and how to attack certain blockers. He needs to work more in coverage. You know, he needs to be better against the run. And playing with leverage and locking guys out and being violent with his disengage. And the great thing about AB is that he's working his butt off to get better at all those things. And this kid should have a phenomenal year. I mean, I think that he is… You know, I know that there's the [South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney] kid. He's a darn good football player. But I put Anthony Barr up against any defensive player in the country. There's nobody I'd trade him for. Nobody.

Q: he said, a few days ago, he's going after being the #1 pick. Is that something you can see as a possibility?

JM: I don't know why he shouldn't go after it. When you're 6'4.5" and you weigh almost 250 pounds and run, you know, under a 4.5 [seconds in the 40 yard dash] every single time you run and you lead the country in sacks within the first year of you playing a position, I think that should be his goal. I think his goal should be to win the Heisman, you know. And I think if you're going to talk about a guy like [Manti] Te'o, then you should be talking about a guy like Anthony Barr. That's just my opinion.

Q: so Anthony Barr's Heisman campaign just started right here?

JM: absolutely. It should start. And UCLA needs to promote him. And I'm going to promote him. And he needs to promote himself by going out and playing great and helping his team win.

Q: do you think you can surprise teams with the progress he's made even after the season he had last year?

JM: yes. Yes. He's so raw still. That's the great thing about him. Is he… He's a neophyte at this position. He's been doing it for less than a year. Well, we started it about a year ago, but he got hurt in spring. So he missed the whole spring. You know what, he had like three days of practice maybe? Remember he pulled… I think he pulled him ham. So, he's got so much upside. His ceiling is so high. Like I said, there's not a defensive player in the country that I'd want on my team more than Anthony Barr.

Q: how much does the NFL take into consideration the upside like that? That he's so raw?

JM: well, I think… one of the great decisions he made for himself personally and obviously for this football team was to come back. And get a chance to work with Jeff Ulbrich [Assistant Head Coach - Special Teams/Linebackers]. Get a chance to put, you know, 14 more games on tape. And develop more. And so when he goes into the NFL draft next year, he's less of an unknown commodity. But you know, they're going to see a guy who can come in and play immediately, but they're also going to see a guy with a high ceiling. And that is very, very appealing to NFL teams when they're drafting high. You want a guy that can come in and be an immediate impact player who has a huge upside, and that's Anthony.

Q: [audio difficulties]

JM: oh, man. Ryan [Hofmeister]? He's so steady and consistent. And he's an excellent special teams player. And then he can play both inside linebacker positions. He's not flashy, you know. He's not going to be a Heisman Trophy candidate, alright? But he's going to come out here and help his team win.

Q: what about Anthony Jefferson? I think you've spoken about him before, but he seems like he's making progress just about every single practice.

JM: you're right. He is. And I think that he feels healthy finally. You know, he had that issue with his leg, and he couldn't run like he had once run. And now, he's back. And he's playing with a lot of confidence and he's making plays on the ball. And, he's not perfect. I mean, shoot, you know, you see he and Devin Lucien's had some good matchups. And Devin would get the best of him sometimes and he'll come back and make a play, but he's working hard and I love his attitude. I'm happy for the kid because he's had a tough road since he's been here, and I'd love to see him have success because he's worked for it.

Q: are there some problems with snaps today? It seemed like…

JM: yeah. Oh, yeah. We had issues… snap issues all over. We're going to be auditioning snappers. No. We just… yeah, we had… you know, when Jake's in there, Jake's consistent. But, you know, you get some guys in there who haven't done it a whole lot, or you know, they're worried about their assignment, rather than getting the ball to the quarterback, we have too many snap issues. We got to get that corrected because it's a waste of a play, you know. One guy screwing it up for 21 other guys. We can't have that.

Q: Eli.

JM: Eli.

Q: Eli.

JM: Eli [Ankou], yeah. He's a stud. Eli, at 295 pounds, strapped a 100 pound weight plate around his waist and did 5 pull-ups. That's pretty impressive. He's a strong dude. And he's still really raw playing the position, and he's come a long way. Had a good winter. So far in the spring, he's kind of been up and down so he's got to find that consistency, but he's certainly got the ability to do so and the work ethic. We like him a lot. A lot, but he's a ways away from being where he needs to be.

Q: think you could do any of those pull-ups?

JM: could I do… I can't even do one pull-up.

Q: is that something you do? You strap a hundred pounds to a guy…

JM: well, you know… I don't want to reveal all Coach [Sal Alosi, Strength & Conditioning Coordinator]'s secrets or I'll get in trouble. But we have so goals and some tests and some benchmarks and some things that we do in the weight room and Eli, won of pull-ups… pull-ups they say is one of the true tests of a man's strength. And that's why I can't do one. Can you imagine strapping 100 pounds around… I mean, 100 pounds hanging between your legs and do 5… not chin-ups. But full extension pull-ups.

Q: he can put Ahmaad Harris on his back and do that.

JM: I know… that's like 120.

Q: well, there you go.

Q: [Ishmael] Adams just continues to do well.

JM: yep. Plays with great confidence. He's another guy… you know, you get Ishmael out there going against Shaq. Now, Shaq's been out for a couple of days. You get him going against Jordan Payton. You get him going against Devin Lucien, you know, on the outside. And you get really good battles. You know, he's still hampered by the shoulder. He can't, you know… we're holding back with the red jersey but he feels good… But he's so competitive. He's gaining confidence every time and you see those guys go out and compete and they're just pushing each other to get better, and that's what you want in the spring. You know, you want guys challenging each other and getting after each other and forcing each other to get better. And they win some and they lose some. And they keep fighting, and they're keeping score of who's winning what. It's the right environment.

Q: have you noticed that Paul Perkins maybe runs a little harder going downhill?

JM: no. Those guys have all got to improve. There's way too much dancing right now. Our running backs are doing too much of this. Like a keyboard of a piano. They need to fricking hit it and go. And that's something I'm disappointed in, and they're going to work hard on it.

Q: Dietrich [Riley]. Is there any update? Are you expecting him back?

JM: yeah. Dietrich's not… he's just going to rehab it. He's not having surgery or anything like that. he's going to rehab it. Strap it up and play. It's just a matter of the pain subsiding and doing a little strengthening work and then getting back here. I don't have a timetable. Hopefully soon. You know, I think he needs the work. You know, emotionally, he needs the work. Physically, he needs the work. Mentally, he needs the work. So we need to get him back out here.

Q: is there any consideration when [Ellis] McCarthy comes back…

JM: who?

Q: Ellis.

JM: Ellis. Yeah. He'll play nose. Yeah. He's going to be a nose tackle. Like, what do you… is there a consideration of putting him there?

Q: yeah.

JM: yes, yes yes. He's going to play nose. Yeah. And what we need to do with Ellis, he needs to be 100% healthy before we put him out on the field because we do a real disservice to the young man if we try to force him out there and his knee's not healthy because then he hurts it again and he doesn't make progress. And we got to make sure that this kid has a chance to make progress. He's got great talent and, you know, he's got some issues that we've got to address and we're addressing them. And when he gets out here, he'll be impactful. I really believe so.

Q: those fights at the end of practice. Is that a good sign that they're keeping their focus and that they're keeping their intensity up?

JM: well, I'm not big on fights, you know. And they didn't get out of hand. I mean, it was… If you were in there, it was pushing and shoving. It wasn't, you know… I mean, Torian [White] threw a couple… you know, at Anthony, but Anthony… Anthony showed restraint and never threw back. They're going to happen. They're a part of practice. You never encourage them. You never encourage them. You discourage them. You talk to your guys about them. You don't like them. They can create bad habits, but the reality of the whole thing is, on occasion, when you're out here banging on each other day after day after day and you're seeing each other and it's hot and the coaches are yelling at you and you're tired, they happen at times, but we've got to minimize them as best we can. And we will. We've addressed it, and we'll address it again.

Q: update on [Owamagbe Odighizuwa]? I don't know if you...

JM: Owa. He's doing really well. He's ahead of schedule. We expect him to be ready go when we hit San Bernardino. He's doing really well.

Q: so all of spring, he'll...

JM: yeah, he'll be out of spring. I'm trying to think of the injured guys. My mind doesn't think about those guys. My mind thinks about the guys that are practicing, but...

Q: sure.

JM: let me think who else there is... i think that's about it, right?

Q: I think that's pretty much it.

JM: yeah, so...

Q: [audio difficulties]

JM: who? Oh, he's got a sprained ankle. I don't know when he'll be back out. You know, he's gotten a lot better. He can walk without the boot. The boot's more precautionary right now. We'll see. I think better safe than sorry with Eric [Kendricks]. We're healthy,jim and we're fairly healthy. The guys are pushing through things. They're working hard. I'm impressed with their attitude and their work ethic. But we just got to keep getting better. Just got to keep pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing and pushing.

Okay? You guys have a great day.

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