Mora After UCLA's First Practice

Aug. 8 -- UCLA head coach Jim Mora was very upbeat after UCLA's first practice of the fall, praising the team, and pointing out some performances, like from true freshman quarterback Devon Modster...

Jim Mora talked after UCLA's first practice of the fall on Monday.

Mora:

I just want to start by offering the condolences of the UCLA football program to the University of Arizona who suffered a tremendous loss and to the family of a young man who passed last night. We’ve been through that here, and we know what it’s like. Like I said, our thoughts and prayers are with the University of Arizona and with Rich Rod and with the young man’s family. It’s just horrible, and if there’s anything we can do for them, we will certainly be here to support them.

Beyond that, it’s great to get back out here on the field and compete. It’s great to see the young guys—the guys we haven’t really seen play since high school—compete against major college talent, and I thought a lot of the young guys, for the first practice, showed well. And we’ll see how they continue to develop. It’s great to have Eddie Vanderdoes back out here and Fabian back out here, and Mossi Johnson, you know the competitiveness that those guys bring. And I thought it was a fairly crisp practice for our first practice, much different than our first practice in the spring. So, I love the attitude. I love the direction we’re headed. There’s a real sense of esprit de corps amongst these guys. They’re very competitive, but you know, cooperative at the same time. So I think I can say after one day that I’m pleased. Hopefully I can say that after every day, but I like the way we started. We’re off and runnin’!

Media:

Having your quarterback named, is that a help?

Mora:

I think having certainty at that position is a big help for us. It allows everyone to settle down a little bit. And what you’re going to see now, you’re going to see competition for that backup position. I thought Mike looked good, and I was really impressed with Modster. He had some great throws; the game didn’t look too big for him. Now, once again, I want to temper that by saying it’s the first day. Matt Lynch did some good things as well. So there are some good players that are fighting for that backup spot, so it will be fun to watch that competition.

Media:

You guys opened a little bit later than other teams—is there any strategic thinking there?

Mora:

It’s all based on NCAA rules. And we can only open a certain amount of days before our first game. And because USC—if you’re talking about them—is a semester school rather than a quarter school, they start school earlier than us so they can start practice earlier than us. But we’re all allowed the same amount of practices going into the first game. This was actually the first day that we were allowed by NCAA to start.

Media:

Is Cordell Broadus still with the program?

Mora:

Cordell is no longer with the program. He’s going to pursue other passions with his life, and we encourage that. I appreciate that he came back out this spring and gave it another shot. But this is an incredibly talented young man in so many areas, but you know, it will be fun to watch what he does with his life. We haven’t heard the last from him—probably just hearing the start.

Media:

Are Eddie (Vanderdoes) and some of those guys—are you taking it slow with them or they going up-to-speed at this point?

Mora:

We have to monitor them, you know? We want to get them full-speed reps, but how many reps is going to be key. They’re still working their way back in. And Fabian’s is a little different than, say, a ‘Mossi’ or an ‘Eddie,’ where they blew out their knees. He had the Lisfranc injury, so the bone heals, but with the joints, you know, we just want to be prudent in making sure that we’re doing the right things to get them through camp and give them the work they need and make sure they’re sharp for the A&M game.

Media:

Was anybody else hurt or injured?

Mora:

We had um… Well, Paco Perez wasn’t with us, and he won’t be with us, and he won’t be with us for a few days. He had a meniscus repair when we first got on campus. You know, some of these guys come from high school, and we find doctors and we have to repair them. So we had a meniscus repair, but it won’t be long before he’s back out there. Marcus Moore came in with a back injury—we’re managing that. I’m not sure how much he’ll do during the first few weeks at camp. But he is here, he is at camp, we want him a part of the 105. He’s learning, participating, but you won’t see him on the field at least for a week or so.

Media:

Demetric Felton?

Mora:

Well, Felton, remember, he hurt his shoulder and then had surgery during the spring. So he’s out for the year.

Media:

And is Johnny Johnson a full go? 

Mora:

Johnny is full go. You know what, I don’t even think he had a shoulder sleeve on, and he looked good today. You know, the key is to keep them healthy.

Media:

What was it like being here today, instead of San Bernardino?

Mora:

Very different. It started yesterday… You know, we love going to San Bernardino, it’s a great place for us. Walking into the new Luskin Center. I think the guys were very pleased—it’s a little bit different than college dorms. Beautiful new hotel on campus here. And just the proximity of the practice field, our meeting rooms, and our housing is really convenient for us. So we’ll be here for six days, and then we’ll go up to San Bernardino and have nine practices and really grind it out. But it’s a different energy—a different atmosphere. And I’m very pleased with that.

Media:

By “different”—is it a good different?

Mora:

I think it’s a good different. I mean that in a very positive way. I think it’s good for us, I really do.

Media:

You talked about Eddie coming back—what does his return mean to the defensive line?

Mora:

Well, he gives us a veteran presence. He’s an outstanding player. He gives us a big body, you know, you got Eli and he are now both around 320. They’re big-shouldered, wide-bodied guys, which we need. And he’s active and competitive, and he’s got a great energy about him. You know, he’s a great football player, and we really missed him. Same with Fabian, and all those guys.

Media:

How much evaluating can you do before you see the guys on the field?

Mora:

Well, you can take things like attitude, and work habits, and work ethic. And, you know, are they selfless, team-oriented guys that take direction well. We had a whole summer program out here, and what’s their effort gonna be like, and can they focus in and learn day-to day. And you know, you need to see them take those things and transfer them to the football field and practice field and build on it. Today was as good as a first day of practice—well, I don’t want to overstate it—but it was about as good as a first day of practice we’ve had since I’ve been here that I can remember.

Media:

Can you chalk that up into anything specifically?

Mora:

Well, we had a great spring, first of all. You know, having a quarterback coming back. And having the core of our defense coming back, I think that helps us. And they’re more confident and relaxed. They understand the schemes better, they understand our tempo, and how we wanna do things, better.

Media:

How much of a go-to guy do you think Ishmael (Adams is?

Mora:

I think that he could be a great threat for us. A tremendous weapon. He’s tough. He’s explosive and dynamic with the ball in his hands. You can put him in a lot of different spots. We foresee Ish being to line up in the slot, line up outside, motion in the backfield, motion out of the back field, line up out of the back field. We’re gonna have a package for him that’s going to try to utilize all of his talents. And I like the fact that he brings a competitive, defensive mindset to our offense, when it comes to blocking and taking hits and things like that. So I think he’s gonna be a great weapon for our offense.

Media:

And Ainuu Taua runs over Keyon Riley brutally on the edge…Is that a good sign that the physical edge you’ve been wanting is coming in?

Mora:

Well, I don’t want to see collisions when we don’t have pads on. And I don’t think Ainuu meant to run him over, I think he got on track and maybe couldn’t get off track. But I know the team enjoyed it. It’s a great learning opportunity for Keyon. First of all, Mossi blocked him down the field pretty well so he has to separate from the block, and it showed us Mossi’s back with his tenacious self. And if you remember, there was a play like that in the spring with Ainuu, where he ran over somebody down the field. So, if you keep seeing those types of things out of a guy like Ainuu, you go, well, we’ll throw him the ball in the flat and see if a 194-pound corner wants to take on a 294-pound. I’m sure they’ll take him low, you know, and he’ll have to learn how to hurdle.

Media:

How did the Count on Me Foundation event and Akeem Ayers come together?

Mora:

Well, Akeem is a UCLA grad, and the Rams are back in L.A. And there’s just a synergy there. Helping kids in our community. So it just made sense. Hakim’s such a wonderful person. It’s great to have him back. And to have the Ram’s back in L.A. I had a chance to watch the Ram’s practice, last Friday, I believe it was. It was fun to get back out—I got my juices flowing again for this.

Media:

And that synergy…

Mora:

Oh it’s great. It’s fantastic. I’m excited about it.

Media:

Did you get a chance to see that Josh (Rosen) is on the cover of Sports Illustrated?

Mora:

No, I heard, but I haven’t seen it. I’ve kind of been sequestered the last few days. You come in here, you get to work, and there’s not a lot of outside influence, but we’ll take a look at it. 


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