UCLA's Jim Mora Talks Enthusiastically on Thursday's Practice

Aug. 11 -- UCLA head coach Jim Mora talked positively about how his team looked Thursday and so far this fall camp, praising the players' approach and work ethic...

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Opening statement

It was another good practice. We’ve had four just outstanding work days. I love the progress we’re making. Attitude couldn’t be better, the work couldn’t be more intense, more competitive. I’m just really excited about a lot of things. A lot of young guys are showing up and doing excellent things at all positions, and today in particular was outstanding. At this point, I’m very pleased. That being said, we’ve got a ton of work to do. And the great thing about this group is that they want to do the work, and that is encouraging.

On calling the team together towards the end:

The message is this. Number one, you know, with Lokeni there was a little scuffle, which we never condone. It is part of training camp, but we had officials out here today. I asked if they would have thrown someone out, and they said they would have thrown out #52 (Toailoa). And so I said he has got to leave the field. I wanted them to see that. The other message is that we have been really, really good at times, until we get into the red zone, and then we have a penalty problem. And that was once again, not as bad, but a little bit of an issue today. We had 154 competitive plays, and we had five penalties, and they were all in the red zone. Plus a red zone sack. So just a point of emphasis there.

On if it was the best practice for the offense:

I don’t know. It’s hard for me to say. I kind of go back and forth. I can play both sides. You know, I can say they played well but they defense didn’t play well, and vice versa. What I will tell you is that I see improvement every single day out of them, out of all of them. Out of the offensive line, the backs, the receivers, the continuity between the receivers and the quarterback. I’m just encouraged.

On if both sides can have a good day: 

Yeah they can. Like yesterday, up until the last 20 minutes, it was by far the best practice we’ve ever had at UCLA. By far. It wasn’t even close, on both sides of the ball. And then we kind of fizzled a little bit.  What’s interesting is that last year, the national championship game, from the national anthem through the final gun, was four hours and 14 minutes. And that’s how long you have to be able to concentrate. We’re out here a little under three hours today. And what you see is that at the end of every practice, we start to lose it. We have to develop the discipline to keep it together, and that’s one of the things we’re working on.

On the running game: 

I like our running game. I like the backs, I like what we’re doing up front, I like what we’re doing schematically, creating angles on power with some double teams, with some zone schemes, some man schemes, some angle schemes. And then we have three backs to do it.  And any time you throw the ball outside, and they’re challenging you in the box, you have those one-on-ones outside. So they feed off of each other. I’m very impressed with that. We’ve made a huge emphasis on both sides of the ball in terms of just running it when we know that they know that we’re going to run it. And stopping the run when we have to stop the run. That has been a little bit of an issue for us. And so it’s been a huge emphasis for us, and I’m pleased.

On if any back has separated from the others: 

No. And I don’t believe you’re going to see a lot of separation. They all have their strengths. You know, Nate is a guy that can break tackles well, and then when he gets in the open field, he’s elusive. Soso is a glider, elusive with his speed, and has tremendous hands. Bolu, he’s going to knock people over.  And then those two younger guys, Brandon Stephens and Jalen Starks, they’ve been incredibly impressive, too. Brandon Stephens can put his foot in the ground and go north/south in a heartbeat, and I don’t think a lot of guys want to tackle Jalen. Although Tahaan taught him a little lesson about pad level yesterday. So I think we’ve got five really good prospects.

On Theo Howard and Darren Andrews:

Theo, he strained his hamstring. It’s nothing serious, but I don’t want to put him out here. We need to make sure he recovers before we put him out here so that they don’t miss an extended amount of time, and same thing with Darren. But it’s nothing serious.  I don’t even know Darren’s. I think something was sore during practice and it got a little bit more sore, either his hammy or his quad. But it’s nothing big. 

On Paco Perez returning:

You know, I would hope by the time we got back from San Bernardino, he’d be ready to go. He’s doing a tremendous job in meetings, he’s doing a tremendous job with Sal, he’s getting a lot of work in the weight room. And when Adrian gives him tests in the meetings, either verbal or written tests, he is right on it. Very smart, very good football player. He’s had a great summer with Sal. So as soon as he gets back, I assume he’ll get up to speed pretty quickly.

On how the offseason helped with the offense: 

I think that it’s really hard for me to overstate how important it was. I mean you see a completely different unit in these first four days than you ever did in spring. It’s really not even close. From the guys getting off the ball at the same time, the lack of the false starts, guys getting organized and lined up correctly, and then the execution. We still have light years to go, but we’re on the right track. It’s a credit to Kennedy and his organization, and the coaches, but especially the players. Their focus and the mindset have been tremendous. 

On if players have turned the corner:

I don’t know if they’re past it, but they’re passing through it. I think it’s absolutely fair to say that it’s more complicated (now). There’s more formations, there’s more personnel groups. The verbiage is a little bit different. Not terribly different, but we’re doing some different things in the run scheme, some of the patterns are different. It’s more of a game plan type of offense than a system. It’s a little bit more of a progression oriented passing game, rather than just finding the open guy and throwing it to him. I think in the long run, even though we might have had some growing pains in the spring, and some early in camp, in the long run it’s really going to benefit us as a team, Josh as a quarterback, and everyone else. 

On when he’ll decide who will redshirt or play as freshman:

It will be a lot longer than four days. We haven’t really had full gear on yet. So we’ve got time to make those decisions. We’ll wait until San Bernardino. I’m sorry, until Texas A&M. We’d like to make them as quickly as we can, but they’ve got to be made for us.

On team bonding in camp:

Well we did Remember the Titans on the field, which was really cool. Dodgeball, which was competitive. And Wednesday, we went and saw The Magnificent Seven.  We had private premier of that. And then we had a barbeque up in Sunset Rec after that. And tonight we’re going bowling, and tomorrow we’re going to hike up to Malibu Creek, and we’re going to have a BBQ. So we’re getting all the work done that we’ve ever gotten done, but we’re spending more and more time together. It’s been really good for us. 

On bringing in a speaker:

Well we hired a guy named Trevor Moawad, who’s come in. He worked at Alabama with Nick Saban for 10 years. He worked at Florida State. He’s been on the staffs of five of the last seven national champions. And we hired him.  He’s been with us all summer, and now this first week. He will be with us during the season. And I’m letting him do a lot of the speaking. And then we’ve got some other guys coming in.

On Mike Fafaul:

This is his last year, and I think he wants to have an opportunity to play. I also think that having Devon Modster and Matt Lynch, they’ve really shown the ability to compete.  That’s pushing Mike. There’s someone behind him that’s yapping at his heels. So I think any time there’s competition, it helps. Mike seems more settled, more confident, more comfortable, more relaxed, and better. 

On his Bend North Little League shirt:

My nephew plays for Bend North.  My brother is the manager. And they’re playing in the regionals out in San Bernardino. They’re two wins away from going to the Little League World Series. Actually, yesterday, I broke the cardinal rule of coaching, it’s the only time I’ve ever done it. I brought my phone onto the field. And for like the first 20 minutes of practice, stretching, not real practice, I was watching the game on ESPN. When we started, I had to put my phone away, and it killed me for two hours. This was two days ago, they won 6-2. Then yesterday they won 15-0. They play again tomorrow at noon on ESPN2.

On if they’ll be in San Bernardino next week:

Well if they win, then they go to Williamsport.

On who will wear No. 1 on offense- Soso Jamabo or Ishmael Adams: 

That’s a great question. We need to handle that internally before I let you know. But these guys can tell you, I defer to veterans typically.

On if they’ll scrimmage on Saturday:

We’ll do like we did today.  A move-the-ball period. We’re not going to tackle. We’re not going to go to the ground. I’ll be surprised if we tackle at all during this camp. We don’t need to. It’s dangerous. We’re mature enough to get our work done in individual, you know. And we’re having enough collisions as it is. I don’t know if we’ll have an all-out scrimmage. I don’t think many teams are doing that anymore.  I just think we’re moving away from that, with player safety, with the concussion issue; and these guys, they get so much work done in the offseason, they’re in such great shape, I just don’t want them to do that as much anymore. 

On if they’ll be in full pads on Friday:

It will be full pads tomorrow, yes. And then Saturday, we’re twice. So in the morning we’ll go like we did today, with just the spiders, and then in the afternoon we’ll go full gear. And then we’ll go out to San Bernardino and start Monday morning.

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