I just want to start off by saying "Thank You", no offense to Rivals, but thank you to the BROs, the guys from the Scout website. In the last little over 24 hours, they've raised over $15,000 for our family foundation that goes to children at risk and in need. I just think that is absolutely amazing. I know they probably watch these things, because their might be some passionate fans in that group. So from Shannon and I, and all the kids that you're helping with your generosity, we just sincerely want to thank you. It's awesome. It's really humbling. It's one of the real cool things about college football, that I've found, is the true passion for the team that it comes through in the fans. There is this connection to college football that you don't find necessarily at the next level. So many of the people who support you either went to UCLA or their kids went to school at UCLA or they grew up around this area and are UCLA fans and you really do feel it. So when things like that happen, it's pretty cool so thanks a lot.
Other than that, it was a good practice. We're creeping closer to the game. I think there is a real anxiety on our team to get to Saturday. It's only Wednesday. It just feels like we've been going forever. I think one of the challenges for us right now is just keep it fresh. Not peak too soon. And keep that edge, that sharpness that you need going into the game on Saturday so that's what we need to do.
On whatever it was Vic the Brick said:
Maniacal effort. Uncommon effort. Fanatical. Maniacal. That's a pretty sweet shirt right there. I like that. But I need a hat too.
On the sacks last season:
Well 52 sacks, it's not all on the offensive line. Backs got to protect. Brett has to get rid of the ball. Receivers have to get open but it certainly, statistically, we have to improve. It was as bad as it could get. And I think we've made a lot of strides in improving that. I think the fact we've got four returners on the offensive line. Brett's a year into the system, has a better understanding. Our receivers are more comfortable with Brett, he's more comfortable with them. That number has to come down. That's a big goal of ours. If we could cut that in half, that would be an accomplishment.
On what he's seen from Jordon James:
I've seen Jordon become more of a downhill runner. We all know that he's shifty and he's quick and he can make people miss down the field. One of the things that I think that might have happened in the past, is that he'd make his moves before the line of scrimmage. When you make your moves before the line of scrimmage, typically what happens is the hole closes on you. So what he's been able to improve upon is putting his foot in the ground and going downhill. And then when he gets to the second level or third level, that shiftiness comes in. His ability to hit the hole has impressed me.
On the stigma of 'running back by committee':
I think everyone wants to see 'the guy'. I think we've narrowed it down. I think on Saturday night you'll see the majority of the reps come out of two guys. And then you'll see a couple of others get some reps. I'd like to see them all get some time. Jordon is our starter right now and Steven is our backup, and those are the two we're going to ride the most often. But we think there is certainly a role for Paul and there is certainly a role for Malcolm as well. So we're going to make sure we'll get them in. I don't know what I'd call it. I'm just going to call it 'I think it's a pretty good backfield.'
On Kenny Clark's role:
He's going to play. He's definitely going to play. He's going to play some nose tackle for us and he's going to be on some special teams. I wouldn't be surprised if he gets 25-30 plays on defense. That depends on how many plays we have, obviously. But he's going to work in the rotation. We're going to move guys around on the defensive line. We're kind of mixing and matching and Kenny has forced us to do that because he's that good. You look at Kenny, Eddie and Kylie Fitts, that's a heck of a freshman defensive line. And they all deserve to play and we're going to get them a chance to play.
On a fresher mindset going into this opener compared to last year's opener:
Maybe just different because we're playing at home as opposed to traveling down to Houston to play Rice. There is something that was unknown. We love playing at the Rose Bowl. It's fun to be in front of our crowd. We love night games. 7:07 kickoff in the Rose Bowl is pretty spectacular. The sky is beautiful. The atmosphere is amazing. It's electric in there, so I think our guys are excited about that, running out of their tunnel, playing on their grass. It's going to be a lot of fun.
On expectations for the young secondary:
They've had three really good days of practice so far, so that's a good thing. I've seen them work in meetings. Their preparation has been real good. I want them to be able to play free and not worry. Be able to cut it loose and let their skills take over. I think they've worked hard enough on the mental part of it, that they know what's going on and they've made the adjustments. I don't want to see them play hesitant. I don't want them to play not to make a mistake, I want to see them play to win. So sometimes that might mean they give up a play, and if they give up a play, I want to see how they recover, because that's part of having a DB mentality. When you're back there, no one goes through a game, a season or a career, unscathed back there, so you're going to take your lumps sometimes. Just being able to see them respond to that. I'm excited to watch them play, I really am. There might be times I'm doing these (covering his eyes), but I'm excited to see them play.
On his comfort level in year two:
I'm just as anxious and just as nervous as I was last year and probably any other year, because even though you feel like there are more things that are known, really and truly until you get out on the field and start playing, all this practice has been great and we've made a lot of strides, but there are huge amount of unknowns for us. Have we taken the steps that we think we've taken to improve in the offseason to get better. Are we able to become a team that plays on the edge, all the time, fast and furious and eliminate some of the unnecessary penalties that we had last year. Can we find consistency this year. Can we get in a hole and battle back. There are just so many things that are out there to be learned. I'm nervous as heck. I really am. But I'm also fired up as heck to watch these guys play, because they're fired up to play on Saturday. They can't wait for Saturday. They can't wait.
On the overall health status of the team:
I think it's good. I look at it and anytime you have some guys hurt, I have that kind of mindset, like i tend to, and I don't want to sound insensitive, but I forget about guys when they're hurt. Because my mind is on who's going to play not on who's not going to play. Like a guy like Owa, he's off the grid, because he's going to redshirt. We'd love to have Owa. Marcus Rios, he's off the grid because, right now he's going to redshirt, although he's making huge strides to get back. So I don't think about him. I just think about the group that we have right now. And I like where we're at health wise. I think our offensive line is healthy. I think our defensive line is healthy. We're missing Ian Taubler. The secondary, the group that probably is the most uncertain group on the whole team, we're missing a couple of really good players in Johnny Johnson and Marcus Rios, and obviously losing Dietrich hurt us. I think we're relatively healthy and I'm pleased with our health.
On if he's looking for anything from Brett Hundley in game one:
I just want him to play well. Make good decisions. Protect the football. Make the plays that he's supposed to make. I don't think he has to say anything. I don't think he has to act a certain way. I think he just has to do his job and do well. I think if he does his job, alll that other stuff takes care of itself. He's a natural leader, and he has a lot of charisma and he doesn't have to really say a lot. Just the way he carries himself is what people respect most about Brett. He's gracious, he's tough, he's hard-working, he's smart, he's committed. All those cliche words, that's what he is.