Running backs coach DeShaun Foster answered questions from the media after practice Monday.
On what it feels like to be back at UCLA
It just feels good to be back. Anytime you get an opportunity to coach back at your alma mater where you played at, you should be excited. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on, and I liked coaching at Tech and everything, but this is home. So I’m excited to get that call and be able to help the program.
On familiarity with the running backs currently on the roster
I was here for most of them during recruiting, so I know what they’re capable of doing. I just think if they can just get in there and apply the teaching that I’m giving them, then they should be able to be successful in the running game. Hank (Fraley) is doing a good job with the O-line, the plays that Jedd (Fisch) is calling, I think they’re pretty good. So as long as we stay on point, stay ahead of schedule, we should be good.
On what went wrong in the run game last year
Just a couple things. It’s not just one thing that you can put it on. Stuff will just happen, the point of attack might break down, the running back might miss a whole, somebody might miss a block. So it’s just little things here and there; nothing that you could just put your thumb on and be like, ‘hey we’ve gotta fix that.’ So it’s just stuff that we’ve got to get in there as a team and really apply, the coaching and really getting the guys to go in there and listen to what we’re saying and do it on the field. It’s a big spring for them, picking up a new offense. They’ve got to be able to get in there and go, and they’re doing a pretty good job so far.
On whether the low rushing numbers from last year surprised him
Yeah, you could say that. This is UCLA, there’s going to be big-time players here. I didn’t personally think it was them personally, it was just a combination of things that were just tough. It was just the type of season that happened. When you’ve run the ball as well as we have in the past, a season like that turns into ‘extra.’ Maybe if we weren’t running the ball as well as we were in the past, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal. But being so successful like we have been – with Johnathan Franklin, Paul Perkins, Jordon James – I think we just have to get back to what we’re used to doing. Just get in there playing hard and taking coaching and applying it to the field.
On labeling this year’s run game
Not really. I’m not really calling the plays, I’m just trying to get guys ready. So my thing is: Just make sure everybody knows their aiming points, they know their steps on the plays so that everyone has the same rhythm. I don’t want to see one guy doing it a certain way and another guy doing it like this, so I try to get in there and just make sure we’re all on the same page so when the quarterback gets in there, he’s not having to find the back, it’s just natural.
On paring down the running back rotation
Most likely. It’s kind of tough to run five guys. You can get to that much if somebody gets hurt or something like that, but I’m going to ride the hot hand. Whoever’s hot, that’s going to be the guy getting the most carries.
On whether any running backs have specifically stood out in the first four practices
Basically what’s expected. Soso is doing his thing, Bolu is running hard. Brandon Stephens is a good guy, too. Nate (Starks), Nate is a senior and he understands everything. I’ve been with Nate the longest. I’m excited for these guys. If I didn’t think that they could do it, I don’t think I would have come back. I have full confidence in these running backs, you know. I was there when they were being recruited, so I’m pretty excited for them.
On letting the RBs run more to their own personal style
When (Bolu) is referring to it like that, it’s just that I’m not forcing them to do a certain thing; I’m open to it. As a running back, I’m asking them what plays they like. So it’s just that. I learned that in the NFL, when the offensive coordinator would ask me what plays I liked, what I’m comfortable with. So I just try to do that with them, too. Because if you’re comfortable, you’re going to play better. If you’re not comfortable running a play, it’s going to be tough. It’s like if we’re asking Josh (Rosen) to do something in the passing game that he’s not comfortable with, there’s a good chance it might not be successful. So we just do the same thing with the running backs – ask them what they’re comfortable with, what plays, and we’ll just get it going.