Interview: Mike McCloskey

UCLA's starting junior center, <b>Mike McCloskey</b>, is playing football for the first time in nine months after sitting out most of last season and all of spring...

Junior center Mike McCloskey returned to practice this week. He sat out most of last season due to a broken ankle, and sat out spring practice due to a condition that led to pleurisy.

How does the transition feel to come back after sitting out most of last season?

"It feels great. It feels great to be back in action. Getting the pads back on felt good. It's been nine months. Things are looking really good for the team and I think something real special is going to happen. It's great to be back."

How do you feel physical?

"Good. The ankle is hurting just a little bit, but that's to be expected. So far so good."

Is there some hesitation out there, knowing you're coming off two separate physical issues?

"Sure, it's in my mind a little bit. But then when you get out there old habits take over and you really don't think about it."

How fast did it take you to feel comfortable again?

"After two or three practice periods and with the plays coming fast you're not thinking about it. You're just thinking about learning the plays and getting it done."

What's the impact of new offensive line coach Tom Cable?

"With him being the offensive coordinator, it seems like the offensive line is so much more in tune with what everyone else is doing on offense. He's simplified it, and made everything a lot clearer for us, as far as working with the receivers about blocking, or knowing what the quarterback is doing, or knowing where the running back or fullback are going. It's just a lot more clear. He's worked with this offense before and he really knows what he's talking about. He's working hard to get us in the right direction."

What were some of the technical differences in his coaching?

"For example, with our outside zone scheme, he has our bodies going in the right direction. Helping each other out, not leaving a man on an island. You're always helping out the guy next to you and then moving on. A lot of double pins, and working on our quickness and it's all helped."

For a center, has there been some adjustment going to a strictly strongside and weakside?

"There is a difference. I have to think every time which is the strongside and which is the weakside. So I have to know my personnel really well. I think it's been really effective. It's put the players you want in the position you want for the specific play. Having a strongside and weakside I think is really going to work for us."

Is there some possibility you could play a little tackle?

"Coach told me to be ready to move to guard or quick tackle. I'm concentrating on center right now, but if need be I can learn the other position. Right now, though, I'm focused on center."

Did you get stronger when recovering from the injuries?

"I was pretty weak coming off the injury. It took me a while to get me back to where I was before. But I have gotten stronger. And my speed is up to what it can be with this ankle. But I'm feeling very good and strong."

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