A few players were kicked out of practice during UCLA’s fall camp stay at Cal State San Bernardino. There were more than a handful of scuffles in that span. At first UCLA coach Jim Mora said it came off as passion. After the second or third day, not so much. He was upset and fumed over the team’s lack of focus and poise. The biggest dustup happened yesterday when he kicked the entire team off the field. Well, it’s not just Mora who comes down with a heavy hammer. According to Christopher Price who covers the New England Patriots for WEEI.com, Patriots coach Bil Belichick had had enough, too, and kicked Julian Edelman and Niko Koutouvides out of practice after a dustup on a punt return. Happens in high schools. Happens in college. Happens in the pros, and I think Belichick knows a thing or two about winning Super Bowls. Make that three.
*Today was the final day at Cal State San Bernardino. And it’s almost a shame because today we probably had the best weather in all of the two weeks we’ve been here. It was a cool 82 degrees when practice ended, but to be fair practice did start at 8 a.m.
**The team presumably packed before start of practice and was ready to board buses back to Westwood when it ended. UCLA will be off Friday and get back on the field Saturday afternoon before the team’s “Meet the Bruins” event at Drake Stadium beginning at 3:30 p.m. The next two-a-day practice is Sunday.
***Practice today was mostly situational drills, specifically on special teams. They ran some plays in between to simulate a game. No pads, though. P Jeff Locke left a the bulk of the punting/kicking duties to Ka’imi Fairbairn and Justin Moreno. They were part of the emergency drills on special teams.
****WR Shaq Evans had some tightness on his left hamstring yesterday but it was minor. And you knew it because today he made some pretty slick plays. He made a good low reach in mid-air for a reception. But what made that catch even more spectacular is that he was sandwiched by DB Ishmael Adams and CB Brandon Sermons.
*****Mora had a long talk with the team in the final huddle. Near the end, Mora thanked Cal State San Bernardino athletic director Cliff Dochterman for facilitating the Bruins’ stay on campus. Mora showed his appreciation and handed Dochterman a football, helmet and jersey. Mora then let Dochterman break the final team huddle. “This guy is amazing,” Mora said. “Every time we asked for something rather than saying, ‘We can’t’ or ‘No’ or ‘We don’t do that’ it was ‘We’ll get it done.’
“This is a guy that it wasn’t unusual for him to be emptying trash cans at 12:30 1 at night and then be up the next morning at 6 o’clock making sure the meeting rooms were open and the food was good. Without him this would not have been possible.” … Maybe even more amazing is that Dochterman is barely a year into his role as athletic director.
******I thought it was kind of funny that after the final team break RB Paul Perkins dropped to his knees and extended his arms in the air happy to be going back to Westwood.
*******On a personal note, this marks the end of my two-week assignment covering UCLA football. Not sure if I’m back moving forward. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed covering this beat in the short term. The 110-mile drive every day these two weeks and 100-plus degree weather was really an after thought for me. I’ve enjoyed interacting with you guys on here, the good and bad. Thank you!
*UCLA coach Jim Mora was displeased with the effort, lack of focus and discipline, and that led to practice ending early. Mora threw the team off the field and back to the coaches. The move stunned the players and probably everyone else that attended practice. Mora was visibly upset with the seemingly endless amount of scuffles. He’d already warned players to knock it off, but to no avail. RB Darius Bell got into it with someone during a 11-on-11 but I really couldn’t tell with who. What I can say is that Mora wanted to see more poise from Bell. But it wasn’t over. DL Cassius Marsh and OL Ben Wysocki went at with a scrum of their own. On the next play, there was no sense of blocking. It seemed more about who would get the best of who. That’s when Adrian Klemm kicked Wysocki off the field and sent him to the locker. Wysocki would eventually get back and had a talk with Klemm. Around the time that was going on, LB Damien Holmes and FB Luke Gane went at it during pass-block drills. We’ve written it before and we’ll write it again: Mora means business, and he’s not putting up with any of the juvenile crap anymore. This is his time to mark a stamp on the program. It’s time to change the culture of this program buried in obscurity, and on his watch it’s not going to remain the same.
**There was an important note in the evening practice. WR Fabian Moreau donned a white jersey and played some cornerback. He got burned a couple times but showed some promise. Mora said the move is not permanent. Sounds like it was more of an experiment than anything.
**Offensive linemen Simon Goines and Will Oliver suited up for practice with pads and all. Goines went through some conditioning before he was pulled as planned. WR Shaq Evans sat out some drills with some tightness on his left hamstring but seemed fine.
***QB Brett Hundley threw another interception during a situational drill. Aaron Hester recorded the latest one in the end zone.
Go behind the scenes on an exclusive tour of the Rose Bowl renovation with me! The video is from Aug. 3, so sorry it’s taken a while to put together, but nonetheless I think it’s a cool insiders view of the work that’s being done on the pavilion.
I’m sure a lot more work has been done over the last 12 days — considering there are nearly 300 workers trying to get this done by UCLA’s home opener Sept. 8 vs. Nebraska. Watch the video above and read my story on the renovation.
*Videos interviews with UCLA coach Jim Mora, DB’s coach Demetrice Martin, S Dalton Hilliard, S Anthony Jefferson and C Jake Brendel.
**The energy was a rather low at the start of practice despite the team not wearing any pads. It was so low that Mora made them re-start their stretching. Hilliard after practice took it upon himself to talk with the seniors, stressing that it’s the seniors’ job to raise the energy and not force Mora to re-start practice.
***RB Damien Thigpen sat out practice because of some tightness. Mora wouldn’t say if it was on the hamstring that’s affected him in the past, but with his injury history it only made sense to sit out him out in the morning. He’ll be back for the evening practice. WR Devin Lucien (minor concussion), OL Michael Padovese (heat), OL Simon Goines (heat) and OL Will Oliver (heat) roamed the sideline but did not take part in practice. OL Tre Hale left practice early while he continues to recover from heat exhaustion. OL Alberto Cid and OL Jeff Baca are still out. The offensive line did get a boost with the return of Alexandru Ceachir, who took part in the linemen rotation. He looked a little rusty, but having him back in itself is a big deal for a depleted line. WR Jerry Rice Jr. was on the bike again. I know yesterday I said he wasn’t limping anywhere near he did the first day back from a mild left ankle sprain, but today he limped a little more than usual. Not sure what happened there. OL Torian White will undergo a procedure for a “heart rhythm problem”. We were told that a “heart murmur” is not the the correct medical term. No word on when exactly he’ll have the surgery, but Mora has said the surgery will be scheduled before the Rice game and it will not affect his return for the sesason opener on Aug. 30 in Houston.
****WR Javon Williams and TE Joseph Fauria continue to have an impressive string of performances that spans several days. Williams caught a touchdown pass and Fauria continues to expolit the secondary with his size. LB Keenan Graham saw some time at fullback and even caught a touchdown pass from Richard Brehaut. RB Steven Manfro also had a nice showing. He caught a swing pass from Brehaut and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown.
******The team practiced emergency field goal situations, meaning P Jeff Locke threw a pass that was incomplete. After, kickers Ka’imi Fairbairn and Justin Moreno practiced field goals. Fairbairn went 3 for 4 and Moreno went 1 for 3. Fairbairn converted from 21, 30 and 35. He missed from 30 on the final attempt. Moreno missed from 21, went wide right from 35 and converted from 30.
*******Practice today is at 5:30 p.m. Thursday’s final practice from Cal State San Bernardino was moved from 8:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. Westwood, here we come.
*The morning practice went shy of two hours. There will be no evening practice since the team will go bowling as part of a team bonding activity. If I was going the only thing I’d wanna see would be the OL and DL telling the front desk their shoe size …
**A pretty quiet run through today. The team practiced for a bit in full pads before pulling them off. The team went through 11-on-11 drills and 7-on-7s.
***WR Devin Lucien might have a minor concussion when he took a hard shot Monday. He was held out Tuesday and looked up beat to me walking the sideline playing catch for a bit with WR Jerry Johnson. RB had his right ankle wrapped at the trainer’s tent but it looked precautionary more than anything. OL Tre Hale left practice early (heat) as did WR Ian Taubler. WR Jerry Rice Jr., nursing a sprained right ankle, did not limp nowhere near he did Monday, and that’s a real testament to the UCLA training staff that in its own right has been tested during all these injuries. Rice Jr. worked mostly on the bike and I believe did some planks and side planks along with some of the other guys still conditioning. Among that group is DT Ellis McCarthy who looks like a real beast in full pads. I know he’s as anxious as anyone to get on the field. I’ve seen that look on his face before, the one where intently watches team drills, and you know in his head he just can’t wait to jog onto the field, go down on a three-point stance and just bowl over and watch a linemen’s life flash before his eyes. McCarthy was a kid everyone raved about when he was a freshman, and when I finally got my chance to see it for myself I just could not believe he was a freshman. His work ethic on the field was unparalleled. I remember watching McCarthy his senior forced to watch from the sideline after a knee injury two games into the season. His team trailing and all he could do was pace anxiously back and forth with a cold stone stare down watching his team get creamed at home. McCarthy came back with a vengeance even if his stats didn’t show it on paper. But you knew that his presence alone wreaked havoc and altered the game. You can bet he’ll do just that when he finally gets on the field, and when he does watch out.
****There were scouts here from the San Francisco 49ers, Jacksonville Jaguars and Atlanta Falcons. They didn’t stick around for long.
*****OT Torian White is looking like the guy they want settling in at right tackle. He’s only going to grow comfortable the more he finds himself there, and it’s good news that the corrective surgery for a heart murmur won’t keep him out from any games.
*******WR Shaq Evans continues to impress. He hauled in some more spectacular catches, and Ishmael Adams had no chance. Evans also put a great move on Sheldon Price, reaching in front of Price to make the catch inside the 10 in 7-on-7 drills. WR Ricky Marvray and RB Steven Manfro also made some sweet catches after turning defenders after the push.
Wednesday’s practice is a two-a-day beginnig at 8:30 with an evening session set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday the team goes at 8:30 a.m. and then heads back to Westwood where the cool breeze (and the shorter drive) will be a welcome relief.
Here’s a column I wrote on Justin Combs – the son of rap mogul Sean ”Diddy” Combs. Impressed with his attitude and work ethic and the way he handled national criticism over his athletic scholarship at UCLA. Read here.