Jim Mora After UCLA's First Spring Practice in Pads

Apr. 8 -- UCLA coach Jim Mora talked Saturday after UCLA's first practice in pads, about the players learning the offense, some personnel moves, and more...

UCLA coach Jim Mora talked after practice Saturday morning. 

Opening statement:

A good Saturday morning, a lot of people out watching, good energy, tons of work. We were out here with quite a bit of situational work. Had a really great competitive 3rd down part of practice. There is a lot of progress.  Its been a good first week and we'll go four times the next two weeks. But I'm excited about their energy level, I'm excited about where they're headed, their focus, energy and attitude. It's all positive right now but with a lot to improve on.

On if he's noticed more hunger this year:

I don't know if I can compare it to previous springs, but I'm encouraged. The winter program, the first week of spring, the focus, the intensity, the attitude, the ay they're working together. All positive. A million mistakes to correct, miles to go, but I like their attitude.

On the offense being picked up:

Third day, they're thinking a lot still, but I've been encouraged by the  lack of mistakes. There are mistakes, obviously, but not as many as I would expect. As you add volume, you increase thinking and learning. I think they're doing a great job because they're in to the learning. I'm sitting in the offensive meetings and the level of detail explained to them is at a high level. There is not much left out, so I think if they pay attention and take good notes, they'll pick up the offense just fine. 

On if Mossi Johnson has switched positions:

That's a day to day observation. Today he spent the day at defensive back but we'll work him on both sides of the ball. With a guy like Mossi, I just want him on the field. We have to find the best way for him to impact the team. He's tough and well-respected. He's a playmaker and he's fought through the injury. He's in flux a little so this spring we're trying to dial him into a position and maybe he dials up a position and its a slash, but we have to find a way to get Mossi producing for us.

On moving Jake Burton to offensive line:

Length and depth, ability. He looks like a guy, he's been told his whole life he looks like an offensive tackle. The way he moves, he moves like a tackle. He has the intelligence to make the move. I do like what I've seen, but he needs to still grow. He's gaining confidence and working hard.

On Alex Akingbulu and Zach Bateman:

They're both working through injuries right now and trying as hard as they can to get out here as quick as they can. Offensive line depth is a concern. We had hoped to go to camp with 21 players on the offensive line, but with injuries and guys we've recruited, its a position we have to over recruit and add bodies to. It's been a little bit of a challenge.

On doing all of camp on campus come fall:

Yes, we are. We have a beautiful new facility, the Wasserman Center, running two great fields out there, the Luskin Center, it's a really great environment for us. It's great for us as a program but for our fans, this is the last time that the fans really will be able to come out and watch practice.  There won't be that ability when we're inside those walls. Hopefully people will come out this spring. 

On Johnny Johnson:

Johnny is going to graduate and will pursue a post-grad year somewhere else. He came out these first two days and competed really hard. As we all know, he struggled with injuries in his time here. For Johnny, the first day in pads, he didn't want to come out and risk injury, he wanted to focus on his degree. Continue to maintain a high GPA so he can get into a grad school. He's not dissatisfied, it's more a career move for him. It's important to him that he get his Master's somewhere. We'll miss him and we loved having him here, so we wish him the best. 

On the new football facilities:

It changes every day. It's amazing the progress they're making in there. The lockers are in, the pool tubs are in, the media rooms are almost complete, the decking on the patio, the chairs for the team meeting room are waiting to be installed. Every day we go in, its a little different. A lot of people have put a lot of work in, including our donors, starting with Casey Wasserman. 

On any surprises with it:

I knew conceptually what it would be, so nothing surprised me conceptually, but when you go from paper to where you can see it, the weight room is magnificent. The team media room is just great, its unbelievable. The patio overlooking the field is fantastic. To me, those blow me away. At some point, you'll get a chance to go through it.

On if they'll miss the toughness of San Bernardino:

I'm confident we can duplicate that here. We'd been there five years and our estimation on the effect it had, had kind of worn off. We weren't getting the returns we had before. Being back on campus, the conference center, it makes sense for us to be here. We'll still maintain a training camp atmosphere, it won't be like our guys are going to be driving down to In-N-Out, it will be a contained atmosphere and really great for team chemistry, and just being able to concentrate for those few weeks.

On the value of the facilities:

I don't know how you can even put a value on it, in every single way, it elevates this program.  When we bring recruits in and show them the building, and many of these recruits have been to the top programs in the country, they say this is as fine a facility as they have seen. It gives our players a chance to work under one roof with coaches in the building and Sal, an environment built for them, it's beautiful. That compiled with the basketball facility will make the campus beautiful.  That entrance wasn't always the most beautiful but now it's gorgeous.

On moving Brandon Burton to linebacker:

We're trying to always find spots for players where they can contribute. Brandon, as you can tell, he's kind of a thick guy and he's tough and physical and a really good special teams player for us. We lack a little depth at linebacker.  That's a spot he might have a chance to help us. And he might be in that hybrid role.  Brandon kind of fits that model, so we want to get him reps at that position. I think he's done well and through the course of the spring, he'll keep improving.  He's got toughness. We're excited about that opportunity for him. We like to create roles for these guys, for all of them.  

On any freshman standing out:

Yeah.  Darnay has, Jaelan has. Jimmy Jaggers has and Austin Burton has.  You probably haven't gotten to see him throw much in live work because he's still learning, but he can throw. For a guy who looks 11 years old and still skinny, he has some nice velocity on his ball.  His dad being involved with the Patriots, it shows up.

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