VIDEO: Mora on Friday

The head coach talks about the play of Conor McDermott so far in practice and whether there'll be changes to 4th down decision making in light of a freshman punter and a sophomore kicker...

Jim Mora talks on Friday:


Opening statement:
We did a little mock. Mock game. So we went through our pregame warm-up, which we're going to practice tomorrow night at the Rose Bowl. Just trying to cross all the t's, dot all the i's, making sure we've taken care of all of the details as we prepare for that first game on the 31st. I like where we're at. I think physically, we're as healthy as you could expect coming out of three weeks of tough, grueling camp and we're excited about the opportunity that lies ahead, which is Nevada a week from tomorrow.

On Conor McDermott:
I like his size and his length, number one. I like his toughness, number two. I think he's very athletic for a guy that size. He's a big man. He's a hard worker and he's put on a lot of really good weight this offseason. Last year, he redshirted, but we took him with us on a lot of the trips, to get him used to the environment that he's going to be in, if he goes in and plays. I think he's just handled everything really well. I like the kid and I think he's going to be a very good player for us.

On in the freshman are ready to play:
I think that they're, I don't know, ask me Monday night. Or Saturday night, the 31st, because we're going to play a lot of them. And they've earned that right, they're good football players that come out here that have proven they're capable of performing at this level, at least in this environment. The next step is seeing them do it on the grass of the Rose Bowl against somebody else. My gut feeling is that they're really ready to play. Emotionally, physically, it's a good looking group of kids. Compared to last year, I don't know, it's hard for me to think that way. I kind of think in the present. I thought last year, we were fine, I hope this year we're better and next year we're better yet.

On if some freshman can make this a defining class for UCLA:
Well I would hope so. I think it's certainly a talented class. I like what I've seen in practice for sure. I like the way they work, I like their skill level, I like their maturity. I like the attitude that they've consistently demonstrated. In talking to Coach Alosi, it's really a carryover from what they did in the summer. We felt good about the class in summer. So now it's just about going out and playing and seeing where they are and where they are at the start as compared to the end of the year, and how much they've developed, but it's a pretty good class.

On freshman who would make an immediate impact:
I hesitate to say any names because I'm bound and I'm sure I'll forget someone, but I think that right now, Caleb Benenoch looks like he'll be our starter at guard. I think that Kenny Lacy could potentially play a lot at left guard, depending on if Simon or Torian were to get nicked for a play or two, or if we got in a game where we wanted to get them so work. I think Thomas Duarte will certainly have an impact, at least I hope he'll have an impact, I know he'll be on the field. We're still talking about Jalen Ortiz and Darren Andrews and how we want to manage the early part of their careers and whether or not they'll be redshirt candidates or if we want to play them. So those guys on offense are kind of the ones who stand out to me right now. And also Eldridge, he's in the same boat as those two guys. Defensively, I think all three of those defensive linemen will figure in. I really do. We talked earlier in the year about Kenny Clark being a potential redshirt guy. But we're doing some different things up front, personnel wise, because we think Kenny is a guy that can come in and make an impact immediately. I think that Deon Hollins will play early. I think Myles Jack will play early, I think Isaac will play early. I think Cameron Judge will play early, Jayon Brown, Priest Willis, Tahaan Goodman, Johnny Johnson would if he hadn't gotten hurt. And like I said, I'm probably leaving someone out. And Sean Covington, don't forget about Sean, he's our punter. We only have one. So playing is one thing, but playing well enough for us to have a chance to go out and win on Saturday is another thing, so that is still to be determined.

On youth in the kicking game making them look at fourth down's differently:
Like punting? I think we'll have to see how it goes. I think we have to have backup plans ready. Available and ready. And I don't think we wait until the Monday and go 'oh darn, we should have had something ready.' I think we better have contingency plans and we will. I think that goes for punt and field goal. But, I think they're doing fine. I don't get the feeling that Sean is going to be too easily rattled. I think the question for me more than anything is making sure that Longo is the snapper that we think he is and get it back there consistently because all those plays start with that snap from him to either Jerry Neuheisel or into Sean Covington.

On the freshman progression progress:
I think it's pretty big. But you take a guy like Caleb or Deon, and Caleb played in front of 20,000 people on a Friday night. Football is pretty big in Texas. It's not the Rose Bowl, and it's not the Pac-12, and it's not the competition that he's going to see at this level, but at least he's been exposed to a little bit of pressure on a Friday night. My sense about these kids, and hopefully it's confirmed as we go through the season, is that it's not too big for them. I'm sure that next Saturday night, as they go out there for the first time, I'm sure there are going to be some nerves and some excitement, and there will be some mistakes made, and you can only hope that they will be made at full speed. And then they make some plays that cover up those mistakes and I think they will.

On if he gets anxious about the young guys playing:
I get anxious watching the young guys, the old guys and the in-between guys. I get nervous, anxious, excited, all those things. I want it to be here quickly and I wish it were another year away, at the same time. That's never been anything other than that for me. I can remember times in my first year as defensive coordinator in San Francisco, on Thursday night, which is kind of the last big work day, sitting in my office with the lights off and going 'oh my god, what have I gotten myself in. We're not ready, how are we going to play.' We went out and just crushed the Falcons. They might have crossed midfield a couple of times. I think that is just part of the deal. That anticipation, that anxiety.

On Thomas Duarte pushing Darius Bell at the Y:
I don't think it matters who starts. I think you'll see them get equal reps. I think what's more important is who's getting the reps at crunch time. But I think what's great is having Thomas here, pushing Darius, it's been a really good thing. I think having Darius showing Thomas how to do it has been a really good thing. As many plays as we play, to me, they're both starters. Thomas Duarte is going to play, I mean if we have 90 plays a game, which I hope we do, I don't know if we ever will, but if we do, I can see him playing 40. That's a lot of snaps. He's a good football player. We'll rotate those guys through.


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