Jim Mora answered questions from the media after Monday's practice.
JIM MORA interview
Good day, a lot of good things, a lot of things to work on. Obviously, you could tell by watching practice, that there’s a lot of learning going on on offense four days in. And I thought today it caught up to them a little bit just in terms of the volume. But you’re going to have those peaks and valleys, that’s just part of the learning process. I’m encouraged by their attitude and their effort. We’ll continue to get better with learning the verbage, lining up quicker, getting the ball up quicker and getting it out on time and assignments.
For a head coach, anytime you walk over here after practice, you can be positive or negative, depending on what side of the ball you were watching. So I was fired up about the defense today. But I think we’re on the right track. I just love the way they’re working and accepting the coaching and learning in meetings and going out there and applying it.
On whether practice was cut short today or not
No, we were about two-and-a-half hours and that was it. We got all our work in today. It was great. Normally at the end of practice we have our field goals but we did that in our little red-zone lockout period, which is a competitive period.
We got a ton of great work. Splitting fields and going on each field has been huge. I have to get used to the fact that it slows us down a little bit because we’re not going at quite the tempo. You can’t with the bodies that we have. But we’re getting tons of reps. I think we had 124 (or) 128 gradable reps on Saturday, which is pretty amazing.
On Darnay Holmes potentially rising up the depth chart
Well they’re all competing well, but he made a couple good plays today in 1-on-1, he made a nice tackle on the sideline there. He’s a remarkable athlete. 196.8 pounds, you know. 5’11” freshman who can run, who can hit, who’s confident. His teammates love him. It’s fun to see. He’s a special talent.
On whether he looked back at 2016 film or threw it out and tried to forget about it
No, I mean you do that every week. Before we hired this staff, I had already gone back and evaluated every player; we had write-ups on every player. We have a ‘tack tape’ on each player which demonstrates their strengths and weaknesses and what they can get better at. I don’t think you can ever just flush a season. You can learn things from great seasons and you can learn things from not-so-great seasons.
On what DeShaun Foster has brought to the UCLA running backs
I love his demeanor, and he’s an excellent coach. He explains things well, and he’s done it at the highest level. He’s been very successful. So he’s able to take learning points and describe it in ways that they describe it as running backs. He might see things a little bit differently than someone that’s never played the position. I also think that he’s brought (the running backs) a sense of confidence. That’s kind of how he coaches: He’s demanding but he’s never demeaning towards them. And I think that’s a very important quality in a coach – when you can be demanding as heck without being demeaning in your language.
On the running backs, and if any of them has stood out thus far in spring camp
Oh yeah, I think that Bolu has really stood out and I think that Brandon Stephens has really stood out. And then Saturday, Nate Starks did some great things. So I’m excited about those three, and I think Soso is getting it. In some of the things that we’re doing are new – the inside, the outside zone – you have to be a little more detailed in your angle of departure. And they all just kind of get it at a different pace. But I think those four are doing a nice job, Khalil is doing a nice job, and then Jalen Starks, with a giant club on his hand, actually had a catch in the flat today. So it’s a good group, it’s a solid group.
On potentially tightening up the running back rotation
You can’t (do that) in practice. Not when you’re working on two fields, you can’t tighten a rotation – everyone has to have reps. If you’re taking 124 or 128 reps on Saturday, you need all the backs you can get. As a matter of fact, I wish we had more – I wish we had more backs, more linemen, more receivers, more linebackers, more D-line; maybe not D-line, that’s our strongest, deepest position by far, but you just want more bodies and people to contribute and compete.