JIm Mora After UCLA Spring Game

Apr. 29 -- UCLA coach Jim Mora talked after the Spring Game, about the new offense, what he's optimistic about and where the team needs to go between now and the 2017 season...

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Opening statement

Good day. We came out of it healthy, and that’s one of our objectives. The other is to get some of the guys who haven’t played in game situations some exposure to game situations. And to give our fans the chance to come out here and watch the team and get some autographs and do things like that. So I think it was a successful day. It was a really good spring for us. We made a lot of progress on the field, we made a lot of progress in terms of team chemistry. So I’m excited. The next three months are going to be really important for these guys. They jump right back into it Monday morning at 5:30 a.m. with the rest of their spring conditioning. We’re going to depend on them to get out on the field on their own and have player-run practices and continue to make progress. Overall, very pleased with the spring and pleased with today. Fun to see some of those guys – Austin Burton, and Jaelan (Phillips) and Darnay (Holmes). Unfortunately, Jimmy (Jaggers) didn’t play. He had the concussion. But fun to see those guys out on the field doing some things. And Matt Lynch getting a chance; Devon Modster (too). I thought Eldridge … he dropped that first pass, but after that he had six catches, he looked good. But it’s hard to tell on a day like this who’s good and who’s not, what’s working and what’s not. We’re keeping it so simple offensively and so simple defensively, and we’re huddling up all the time. Not indicative of what we’re going to be when we open up the season. This game’s on TV – you obviously don’t want to give your opponent, Texas A&M, a chance to study a team. So it was a good day.

On Josh Rosen’s performance in the spring game

I thought he was fine. I thought he was fine.

On divvying up the playing time in the spring game

Well, you can’t really plan it because you don’t know how the game is going to break down. If one team has a long drive, then that restricts the number of plays that the other side had. But it basically went according to plan with regard to the quarterbacks. That was really the only position where we had guys that could rotate in. We have 120 players that will be on our team in the fall, but a lot of those guys aren’t here right now. Anyone that is nicked, we certainly kept them out of this. We’re down in numbers, so most guys played quite a bit. 

On how the running backs performed in the spring game

I think they did fine. It’s hard to come over here after a game and truly evaluate anybody. So I’m not going to. I think what’s important is that you evaluate 15 practices. You see where you are as a team and what individuals have made progress and where they need to continue to improve. And so that’s what I do. A game like this is, like I said, we kept it so vanilla. Teams were split, guys were lining up next to guys they haven’t been next to before. So you can’t get into evaluation. That’s not really what this game is about. Like I said, it’s about getting some guys on the field in a game situation that haven’t been in one before. And giving our fans a chance to watch us, and giving the fans a chance to interact with our players. 

On Amanda Cromwell’s extra point

Well the defensive jumped offsides. I think she was a little nervous – but she buried that second one. I’ll tell you what, coach Val, she was on me all game. She was in serious jeopardy, a number of times, of getting flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. We had to give her several warnings. But it was really neat to have two amazing leaders like Amanda and Miss Val out here, having them around our players. They met with them, talked to them about things other than football. I think they enjoyed it, I think our players really enjoyed it. You saw Miss Val, she got the Gatorade bath. We’ve got so many great coaches on this campus, to me it’s important to expose all of our student athletes to all of them. So that was a great opportunity to do that today.

On rewarding Giovanni Gentosi with a scholarship

Well that was very meaningful. Gio has worked himself into a position here on our team where he’s very valuable, he’s very well-respected by his teammates and his coaches. And, you know, we wanted to reward him. It was time. Right now, he’s our starting fullback. He’s an integral part of our offense and special teams and our locker-room chemistry. You saw how the players reacted to that. That’s not something that we typically do; when we do those things, they’re usually private. Because I don’t like the guys that aren’t getting recognized – that have worked just as hard and are clamoring for that scholarship – to feel bad. But this was a special case; there are things going on in Gio’s life; he needed a little bit of a pick-me-up, so we gave it to him. 

On whether there’s an MVP of spring camp

We didn’t name MVPs – we had two most-improved (players). It certainly could have gone to others as well, but we recognized Osa Odigizuwa and Andre James. In terms of most valuable, my candidates: Eldridge Massington would be a candidate. Kolton MIller would be a candidate. Josh Rosen would be a candidate. Darren Andrews and Jordan Lasley would be candidates. Scott Quessenberry would certainly be a candidate. Defensively, Kenny Young would be a candidate. Adarius Pickett and Jaleel (Wadood) would be candidates. Another guy that I probably could have probably given the most-improved (award) to is Colin Samuel, who has really come on. Matt Dickerson would have been a candidate. And then, you know, nobody’s gonna listen to this, but Johnny Den Bleyker today – he was probably the MVP of the game. When you have a long snapper that can snap it the way he does and then get down and cover, that’s kind of rare. That will save us some yards. 

On how he thinks the running game has improved over the course of spring

I like the scheme because I think it utilizes the strengths of our players and it maximizes our ability to have success. I think that we’re a long ways from being where we want to be. But I love the way our players have embraced what we’re trying to accomplish offensively, and the system that we’re installing. It’s really fun to see that. I just want to save any big-time statements about improvement until we get on the field against Texas A&M. And then after that game, maybe, we can all feel good. Right now, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I am optimistic. 

On Soso Jamabo’s improvement 

Soso has improved. He’s dropped some weight, he’s about 215. I think being around DeShaun (Foster) has really helped him He’s learning how to lower his pads; he’s a tall guy, he’s always going to run a little bit more upright, so we always have to constantly talk to him about lowering his pad level. But he can be an effective guy. He’s a deceptive runner in the open field – he’s got speed, but it’s kind of build-up speed. But I think when you look at the combination of Soso and Bolu and Brandon and Nate Starks and Jalen Starks – that’s five pretty darn good backs, all capable of playing in the Pac-12 and being successful. So I think we’ve got a good group. And then Jalen plays some fullback as well.

On his confidence in the backup QBs

Well I think today gave me more confidence. And once again, I don’t want to make a firm  statement about it, because the situation is semi-game-like, but not game-like. But I was impressed with the way Devon came out and handled himself – the poise that he showed, the command, the communication. You know, I’m standing back there, so I can hear the way he’s interacting with the players on the field. I thought he did a really nice job of handling the offense and being poised. And then, you see what Matt Lynch is: Matt’s a gritty fighter. He can run and he will run, and he’ll take hits. He might be one of those guys, Matt Lynch, that will run down on kickoffs. Be a backup (gunner) that runs down on kickoffs. I think you’ve got to try to find a way to get that guy on the field somewhere. I really like him. 

On the difference between summer workouts and winter workouts

Our offseason is broken into phases. Different phases. And so we’re entering, on Monday, just kind of the next phase. So the focus always needs to remain on that phase. Your intensity level always has to be consistent. Our guys have really done a nice job of embracing it. That’s a credit to them, but it’s also a credit to coach Alosi, and the confidence and trust and respect that they have for him and his staff. 

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