On what he’s thought of UCLA offensive linemen so far
You know, they’re hard workers, I really appreciate that. They work their butts off. We come out, and I know they’re sore, they’re tired, but they just come out here and grind every day. That’s what I really appreciate. The one thing I think you can really show, I tell my kids this all the time, is you can control your effort. You might not get it right all the time, you might not even be the best, but your effort can always be high and that’s something you can always control.
On whether he took a look back at last year’s game film
I just watched the guys that I knew I was going to be coaching. I just watched the four. I didn’t watch really any of the schemes of it. You can see what was good, what was bad, what happens. It happens all over football. But I just watched those four (Miller, Quessenberry, Toran and Lacy); I wanted to know what I had, I watched a whole season, I watched the whole training camp and I watched the whole spring ball. Because I needed to see the guys that weren’t on the field and that didn’t get to play in the games. It was just a learning experience, just what I thought the pluses were, what the minuses were and what really, at the end of the day, what they did do good and what they need to improve on. Because you’re a teacher at the end of the day, and I think they’re working at it.
On what his primary focus is this year for the O-line
Not singling anybody out, but you’re always working your hands, you’re always working your feet. Some of the things, the first things we do, is run game. We do that every day, it doesn’t change. Your feet always have to be perfect, you hand placement. I’m a believer in technique. If you can be technically sound – you don’t have to be the best, you don’t have to be the best at all – but if you’re technically sound, you give yourself a chance.
On the offensive line changes he’s made – moving Andre James from tackle to guard and Kenny Lacy from guard to tackle
I thought that was the better way to line up, really, at the end of the day. They’re still all five in the lineup. It was just the thought process of: What I thought they were a little bit better at doing. So I moved Lacy to right tackle and Andre to inside. Andre can play everywhere though; he’s like a utility – when you see him at practice, he’s all over the place. But it was just the way, when I evaluated them and got to actually get out on the field and see it. But that’s what we kind of thought was best for us right now and they’re working together well.
On working with DeShaun Foster to improve running game
I think as an offense we just got together and figured out what we want to be as an offense. We all were throwing in ideas, and we have an idea of what we want to be and we want to strive for that. Coach Foster, you know, he was a good back himself. (He) played a lot of years, and played here. He has a lot of information, he’s a good student of the game too himself, and he has some good input. He sees (the game) through a back’s eyes, which is fun, because he understands, ‘No, I don’t like it out of the shotgun, I do like it out of the shotgun, I like it under center.’ Those are great ideas, and what he thinks are best for the backs. We want to fit our personnel. We don’t always want to put a system in and just say, ‘Hey, this is our system.’ How does your personnel fit, and what do they do best? And that’s what we’re learning in spring.
On what the process was like for him coming to UCLA
I don’t know. I was coaching the East-West Shrine Game down in Tampa, Florida, still with the Vikings. And Rick Spielman gave me a call and said, ‘Hey, coach Mora wants to interview you, would you be interested?’ And I thought it was a great opportunity for me, and I told him yes. And like the next day I was being interviewed and that following week I got hired. I went from Tampa, with a bag just for the beach and the Senior Bowl, to out here instead, and didn’t even go back to Minnesota for like a week or two. It was fast, my wife and I made a decision, and thought it was best for my family and my career. I loved it. I have a lot of respect for coach Mora. Never played for him; played against him. But I know he’s a great man and I hold him to high regards, and that’s the reason I chose it. I didn’t know coach Fisch, but I knew people that knew him and thought it was a great opportunity for me.
On whether he’s gotten a chance to settle into life in California yet
I’ve been out here for two previous stops with USD and San Jose State, so I knew a little bit about California. Right now, I’m pretty much settled in a little bit. To be honest, the wife and kids are still in Minnesota, going around ice rinks – we have four boys and a little girl. Ice rinks and baseball fields and football fields – that’s what she does. Right now, I’m settling in, but it’s been good. It’s been a great transition. I have a real strong wife back home that allows me to do something I love to do, and she really supports it. It was her decision.