UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora Recaps First Two Weeks of Fall Camp

Aug. 20 -- UCLA head coach Jim Mora spoke about where his team stands after two weeks of fall camp, the status of some injured players, the depth of the freshmen class and more on Saturday...

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Opening statement:

That was the end of a great six days in San Bernardino. Nine practices, all very good practices. We've had 16 practices and I was telling the guys that in my five years, I don't ever remember being as efficient and competitive and cooperative and being as far along at 16 practices as we are today. We've stayed relatively healthy, they've remained focused. Practices have been efficient, we haven't had issues, I like the direction we're going in. It's a credit to the players. They've matured and accepted what we've tried to emphasize. I'm just really proud of these guys. We move into the next phase. We're out of our camp mode and into our season mode.  We're going to start to incorporate some Texas A&M stuff into our plans and we'll get going. We'll be excited to be back on campus again.  These six days were good for us and I think it was the right decision to come out for these six days. The energy stayed positive the whole time. I'm really pleased with where we are.

On if there was one group he was most pleased:

I was trying to pick out a couple players who maybe stood out. One who could break down the team at the end. And I came up with a bunch. And I think it's the same thing as the groups. There is still the unknown group, the receivers, because we lost our top three receivers from last year. What they've shown through 16 practices is some tremendous things.  It doesn't surprise me. It impressed me. Everyone else is working well.

On if he's surprised how well Ishmael Adams has picked things up:

It hasn't surprised me. But it's impressed me. Yes it has impressed me. I love the energy he's brought to the offense as well. He's a competitor and fighter and he brings it to that huddle, that unit, that group and I love that about him.  The thing that has impressed me, aside from that he's picked up the playbook is how consistently he's catching the ball.  It's different when you're a defensive back than receiver. He's running good routes, getting off the press.  I love his energy and his toughness and his character.  I love the way things are going for him at receivers.

On if he has a middle linebacker:

No. It's between those three guys still.  I think they're all three capable.  Talking about Isaako (Savaiinaea), Kenny (Young) and Lokeni (Toailoa).  They're all really good players.  Every day, one of them kind of does something.

On if DeChaun Holiday at linebacker is permanent:

I don't know, is anything permanent?  We were a little bit light at linebacker. He's 6-3, 217 pounds. He could easily get up to 230 and look normal. He has length which we like and he's built like a SAM linebacker.  He's a versatile guy. He could play receiver. If we like him at linebacker, then we'll probably leave him there because of the weight issue. Letting him gain weight. He just wants to play, he just wants to help.  He just wants to be on the field.  I think he'll play a prominent role for us, on special teams. No matter if he's at safety or linebacker. But the plan is for him right now at linebacker. 

On the freshman specialists:

Kind I just wait until we have a game? Through camp, I've been very impressed with them all. Johnny (Den Bleyker) as a snapper, is going to be really, really good. He's been consistent.  He can give the holder the laces on every PAT/field goal, which is important. JJ (Molson), the last few days, has been really picking it up.  He's done well. And Austin (Kent) booms them.  Now today, he only had 2-3-4 punts and he didn't do very good, but those are the only punts I've seen that he didn't boom. The ball jumps off his foot.  But lets see how they do in front of 105,000 people instead of the mountains and a few fans. 

On when before the opener he wants all the starters to be named:

Middle linebacker, that's the only spot. Everyone wants to have a starting lineup, but the reality of the situation is there is more than one starter. If you look at our secondary, I could give you four starters, eight starters, ten starters, and any combination I give you, we'd feel comfortable with.  I don't know who's going to run out to the huddle the first time at middle linebacker, but I don't know that its important in the grand scheme of things. Its important to them, I know. But I'm not really worried that 'this is the guy'. I'd like the competition to go all season. The reason Lokeni has been able to compete with those guys is he's so mature.  He came in and he had a different attitude than you'd expect a freshman to have.

On the injury front:

I think we're in pretty good shape. We gave Eddie a couple days off because he's coming back from the knee. There is nothing there. He's pretty sore, but there is nothing there. Jacob (Tuioti-Mariner), he was out here today, he's not suited up. He's taken the antibiotics and we'll reassess where he's at.  Hopefully that takes for him. Deon Hollins was out here today, he didn't do anything, but he could be ready by Monday, but if there is anything residual than we'll keep him out for a while. Cam (Griffin) was out here and same thing for him, hopefully he'll be able to do somethings on Monday, but if not, we'll take our time with him. Paco (Perez) is really close to being back. Marcus Moore is not. He's going to redshirt and not play for a while. We'll work him through that back injury.  Takk (McKinley) will be back Monday, he's just a little sore. Austin Robers was nauseous this morning, but he'll be back Monday. We're in pretty good shape.   

On which true freshman might play:

It's a tough one.  Obviously, if the guy can help you win a game, then you want to use him, whether it's in special teams, offense or defense. But the one thing you don't want to do is waste a season and only have a guy play 10 plays, or two plays in a game.  It doesn't make sense. There are no expectations that a guy is going to redshirt, except for Marcus Moore, who's working through the injury. The last two weeks and then next week, we'll start to get a feel. Like for instance, the running backs, we have three really good running backs. Who's the starter? I don't know. They are all the starters.  But you have Brandon Stephens who's had a remarkable camp and Jalen Starks. They'll travel. And depending on how it's going, if we need to use them, we'll use them.  But once we start to use them, we'll USE them.  I think that's the best thing for them and for us. Our primary objective is to win games and will always be based on winning now.

On if other true freshman impressed him:

A lot of them have.  Where should I start? The three specialists. Theo (Howard), Audie Omatasho, they've done a really nice job.  The last week, Damian Alloway has come on. Jordan Wilson, we haven't had a body like that at the position in a while. He's impressed us. Mike Alves, he's impressed us. Alex Akingbulu, he'll redshirt for sure because he needs to gain weight. But he's impressed me a lot. The two running backs. Even though Paco hasn't done anything on the field, just through the summer, that guy is going to be a heck of a player someday. Talk about Lokeni, he's going to be a really good player. Osa Odighizuwa will be a really good player. Chigozie (Nnoruka), he's a JC guy, but he'll do something for us. Brandon Burton is a guy who can do some things. He makes plays on the ball. At linebacker, Breland (Brandt) has the type of body that you'd like to use on special teams, so maybe he does some things for us. Krys Barnes, I really like him, he's really athletic, maybe he can do some things on special teams. I'm not writing any of them off, other than Alex and Marcus. And I'm not writing them off, I'm developing.

On if he thinks they're on progression to where they want to be:

I do.  And here's why. We've done a lot of situational work so I feel like we could go play a game right now. Is our technique is developed enough? No. Have we had enough time throwing the ball back and forth? No. But we're gonna get that over the next couple of weeks. We'll really zero in on what we'll be utilizing this season. But we're in great shape and their mindset is in a great place. Now its sharpen the spear and open things up.

On if he feels its been Cameron Judge's best camp:

Yes. Ours too, but him, yes. He's a different guy.  He was a team captain last year on special teams and now he's a starting linebacker for us. He's matured, he understands his role. He's a guy the players respect. He had a great offseason, gained some weight.  Some of these guys reach the manhood threshold and maturity at a different time.  And it's happened for Cameron and I'm excited about it.  His teammates respect him. 

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