UCLA QB Brett Hundley dancing to a new tempo.

The biggest adjustment UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley had to make was the fast tempo with which coach Jim Mora wanted him to direct in the new spread offense.

Hundley’s gradually shown improvement over the course of five games, but it was last week’s performance at Colorado that really proved the redshirt freshman’s more than got what it takes to thrive in this offense.

It starts with Hundley’s record-setting numbers that are hard to ignore. He is the first UCLA quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards in three straight games and the eighth to total at least three 300-yard games in a season. That he’s only five games into his college career makes it all the more impressive.

Hundley ranks 18th nationally in passing yards and 17th in total offense (second among freshmen). He’s completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,470 yards and 11 touchdowns against only three interceptions.

Hundley appeared destined to start as a true freshman, but those plans didn’t pan out. He sat out last year under Rick Neuheisel, who opted for more experience, albeit a battered tandem. Hundley exhibited talent and sheer determination during spring camp and finally won over UCLA coach Jim Mora a week into fall camp.

The talent was there, sure, but the intangibles such as driving an offense under pressure, under the lights behind a roaring crowd that had yet to be proven, and therein lies the gamble Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone made in choosing a redshirt freshman as the starting quarterback.

Hundley’s led UCLA to a 4-1 overall record and No. 25-ranking. Mora and Mazzone were proven right that Hundley was the best choice, but that answer was underscored last week with his ability to dictate the perfect tempo the offense requires to thrive.

Hundley led five of UCLA’s six scoring drives against Colorado in less than three minutes, and in four of those drives Hundley needed eight or less plays.

“Here’s a kid that six games ago was playing against Hamilton High School,” Mazzone said. “He’s played five games in college football and now you’re asking him to play in a real tempo offense and make split-second decisions at the snap of the ball and immediately after the snap of the ball.”

Hundley’s not only accepted the challenge, he’s overcome it less than half way into his first season as the starter, and Mora took notice at Colorado.

“We were smoother in our operation and our tempo was more like we wanted to be,” Mora said. “I think we’re starting to hit our groove a little bit there.”

That Hundley scored 13 seconds into his college career at Rice should have been an early indication of what was to come. He scored in similar fashion against Nebraska (27-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Fauria in six seconds) and Oregon State (65-yard touchdown pass to Shaq Evans on three plays in 43 seconds), to name a few.

As Hundley continues to develop so will the efficiency with which the Bruins go about scoring. And as the right tempo continues that can only mean a bad spell for opposing defenses rushing to keep up.

“If you can catch a defense off balance a little bit, if they haven’t had a chance to read maybe some of the tactical clues, some of the tendencies that you might have developed through the years before the ball snap, that helps you,” Mora said.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA coach Jim Mora talks Cal rivalry, says Jordan Zumwalt will not start on Saturday vs. Cal, Damien Holmes again will start at outside linebacker.

Opening remark:
What we’re gonna do the rest of the day is give them time to tend to their studies. We’re not gonna have meetings this afternoon. We’re gonna extend our meetings a little bit in the morning. Just give them a little break here and lock in on school before we go up to Cal. We’ll have a final walk through in the morning, head on the buses at 12:30 and head north.

On first full week of class and morning practice:
I think they like the schedule. We get them up early, and they’re early birds anyway because year-round they work out early. They’re very focused at practice. We get them at the end of the day. It’s been good. I haven’t noticed any lapse in their focus. I’m glad we did it last week.

On learning about rivalries:
There’s a lot I don’t know. There’s many, many things I’m trying to learn. One of them is the significance of certain games to the alumni, to the university and the public, and this is one of those games I come to find out.

On what clued him in about the Cal rivalry:
Some of the players. Just the level of intensity they have. Just talking to people around campus. There’s a lot I’m not familiar with down here. It’s fun to learn about them.

On what he’s learned about the rivalry:
I’ve learned that it’s a little bit more significant than people would think. We get a lot of emphasis on our game versus Southern Cal, but this game versus Cal is pretty significant as well. We try as a team not to put any extra emphasis on any one game just because we’re trying to develop a level of consistency, but there’s certain things you can’t control, certain vibes that happen. And that’s one of the great things about college football, the passion of the fans towards their university and maybe against other universities. So it’s pretty neat.

On developing hatred toward another university:
No, I don’t hate anybody (laughs).

On Brett Hundley dictating the right tempo:
We were smoother in our operation and our tempo was more like we wanted to be. I think it was partially Brett. That was our fifth game and getting used to what we’re trying to do. You want it to start and happen right from the get go and be at full throttle, but that’s probably not realistic. It’s a new program, new system, new coaches, new terminology. It just takes you a little while to ramp up, and I think we’re starting to hit our groove a little bit there.

On a goal in mind for time between plays:
It depends on the situation. If we’re substituting then the defense has an opportunity to substitute as well. So that can sometimes slow things down, but if we’re not substituting we want to go as fast as we can go. If you can catch a defense off balance a little bit, if they haven’t had a chance to read maybe some of the tactical clues, some of the tendencies that you might have developed through the years before the ball snap, that helps you. But in terms of a specific time, it varies. It varies by time in the game, by score of the game. Things like that.

On Jordan Zumwalt’s status:
He practiced. He did everything. He had his helmet on. He felt good and he’s ready to play on Saturday night.

On whether he’s starting:
No. We’re gonna start Damien (Holmes) out there and we’ll give Jordan some time. Going forward we’ll figure out the best way to play those guys.

On what Stan McKay brings to the defense:
Great intensity. He loves to play the game. We had that role for him in our base package where we put him at the weak inside linebacker that he or Dalton (Hilliard) play. Stan’s really embraced it. He’s taken it to heart. He calls himself a little backer, or a mini-backer. Stan’s just a guy that loves to play football. He’s passionate about it and it rubs off on his teammates. The last couple weeks he’s had a knack for being around the ball.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

UCLA in good hands when spreading the love.

The numbers don’t lie.

When UCLA spreads the ball evenly among its stable of receivers, the Bruins prove to be successful. UCLA is fourth in the nation in total offense (558.40 yards) and 19th in passing offense (315.0).

A part of that success is credited to the fast tempo dictated by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. And for that, a team needs the right personnel and depth.

UCLA (4-1, 1-1) seems to have both. The Bruins have thrown to no less than eight receivers in each game this season, and for the third consecutive week UCLA threw to 11 different receivers.

“We tell them we don’t really have a starting five,” Mazzone said. “We have more of a starting 10.”

Fresh and able bodies help establish a rhythm.

“We want to try to go fast,” UCLA coach Jim Mora said. “We get eight, 10, 11 guys every week and spread it around. That way everyone can play fast and we can be fresh and be sharp.”

In short, don’t expect a go-to receiver, and that’s OK for UCLA senior Jerry Johnson and junior Shaquelle Evans, who in a 27-20 loss to Oregon State made little of their career performances.

Johnson caught a career-high five passes for 75 yards and Evans had 148 yards on six receptions for his first 100-yard game. It was the only game this season UCLA had two receivers with at least five receptions.

The only other time UCLA had a receiver with five or more receptions was Steven Manfro, who caught seven passes in a 37-6 victory over Houston. In that game, Johnathan Franklin caught four passes and Jordon James caught three. The remaining eight receivers caught two or less.

No receiver has caught four or more passes outside the Houston and Oregon State games.

“Everybody wants to be that go-to guy,” Johnson said, “but I think if we get it in everybody’s hands, we’ll win a lot more games.”

With as many as 11 receivers rotating, it’s more about defending schemes than it is about stacking defenders on one receiver. It also gives UCLA a shot in the arm offensively.

“Just by giving everybody an opportunity like that makes the offense a lot more confident,” Evans said.

Every receiver wants the spotlight, but Johnson’s maturity shows when asked if he’s bothered that in his last season his numbers won’t reflect his talent. Johnson’s in his fifth season and entered his redshirt senior year with a career 21-30 record. His only winning season (7-6) was in 2009, so it’s safe to say he’ll trade stats for more wins.

“For me, I just put my team before myself,” he said. “Us winning games is better than having 1,000 yards and a 50- or 60-reception season.”

Evans knows his effort and talent aren’t limited to catching passes. It’s the meticulous tasks like downfield blocking and selling routes that go a long way.

“Little things like that help you win,” Evans said. “It’s infectious throughout the whole team. When one guy sees one guy doing that, everyone wants to do that, and it it helps us get yards, it helps us get points, it helps us get wins, and that’s why we’re successful.”

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Wednesday Report: UCLA coach Jim Mora with an update on Jordan Zumwalt and Greg Capella.

On Jordan Zumwalt if he practiced:
He did. We had him in the red jersey. He wore his helmet. We’re trying to keep his head out of there. Tomorrow he should be full speed. Yeah, he’s going to play. I don’t know how much or if he’ll start. You know we’re always trying to find the best use for our personnel. The fact he didn’t practice and was limited today, in my mind, knowing he’ll be a little limited on Saturday, but he can spell Damien, he can spell Anthony Barr. Jerry Johnson should be OK. He’s still a little bit sore, but he’ll be OK.

On Greg Capella:
He’s out this week. His head. He’s still got headaches. Like from the get go in spring, we have to be careful, especially with a guy that has a re-occurring problem. I’m not sure that this was a concussion, but it was an event. So we have to be careful with it.

On whether Keenan Allen is a player you have to scheme:
Sometimes you’re just preparing for a scheme and sometimes you’re preparing for a scheme and for a certain player within the scheme, and I don’t think he’s the only one. They have three really good running backs, but Keenan is a guy you better have an answer for. You can’t go in a game without a way to the best you can eliminate him on certain plays. He’s a guy that you scheme for, absolutely.

On the importance of having multiple receivers for the tempo:
It’s really important. We want to try to go fast. When we’re going fast and going the tempo we have to have a lot of players play just to spell each other a little bit. I think that’s two week sin a row we’ve had 11 (players catch a pass). We get eight, 10, 11 guys every week and spread it around. That way everyone can play fast and we can be fresh and be sharp.

On defenses not able to zero in on one particular receiver:
I think with us, I would imagine, that teams prepare for us just like we prepare for most people, which is the schemes first and individual players second. Johnathan Franklin is the guy that’s making the most noise out there. It’s hard to scheme for a running back. You have to play good, solid, sound, gap-control defense and tackle well.

On the importance of Johnathan Franklin:
I think it’s important that we have success running the football even though we’re a team that spreads it around and throw it. My general philosophy is you have to be able to run the football regardless. Johnathan and Damien (Thigpen) and Jordon (James) and those guys have to be able to make some tough yards. And we have to be able to block it up front because it’s a good defensive front we’re going up against.

On going up against guys he recruited, like Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper:
That was different last week seeing (Colorado running back) Christian (Powell) out there. I tried to find him after the game just to say hi. I think he got hurt a little bit. Bryce is a special kid. I had a great relationship with Bryce and his dad. As a matter of fact, still talk to his dad and him on occasion. When they decided on signing day or the night before they called us to say they were going to Cal, I said ‘We look forward to seeing you. Can’t wait to say hi to you, but understand that when we get on the field it’s going to be a battle.’ Bryce is a great kid, same with Harper. It’d be great to see them. Great to see them after the game and see how they’re doing.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Monday Report: UCLA coach Jim Mora on what makes Cal dangerous with updates on Zumwalt and Capella.

Opening remarks:
We had meetings this morning and we’ll have meetings this evening to start on Cal. As a staff we’ve been looking at Cal and preparing our game plan for them. They’re a team that’s dangerous. They give you problems. A lot of different things you have to prepare for. They’ve always played good defense because they’ve always had a really good defensive line. You know, going on the road two weeks on a row is a big challenge.

On what makes Cal dangerous:
They make you prepare for a lot. They do a lot of different things. So, you have limited preparation time so you really have to budget your time effectively, especially defensively. A lot of times when you face a team like Cal that gives you a lot of different looks it’s important to go back to basics on defense. And take care of your own shop. Sometimes you can get into trouble if you try to find an answer for every single thing that they do. Sometimes when you do that you come up with no answers. You have to really be guarded when you do that, and that’s a coaching issue, not a playing issue.

On the confidence boost from being 2-0 on the road:
I think it’s really important for the confidence. You go on the road and get a win it really boosts your confidence. The key is our players have just focused on the game. Not the environment, not the plane trip, not the hotel. We have a routine that starts Friday morning and we stick to it. Our players have been mature enough to avoid the distraction that could potentially be there.

On this being the first week players are in school:
I think it was really important that we started on our morning schedule last week to get them acclimated to that. It’s important that they balance and budget their time between school and football and rest and study and all the things they have to get done. It’s important as a staff we do a good job to help them budget their time. The reason we got the split day is to give them a chunk of time so they can focus on school. We get them early and we get them at the end. It worked well for them last week. If we have to make adjustments because of school we’ll do so.

On what he’s looking for from other receivers after Devin Lucien’s injury:
Jordan and even Logan Sweet, Tyler Scott and Jerry Rice Jr. those guys, their roles are going to increase a little bit. Jerry played really well the other night. He got extended playing time and did a heck of a job. Jordan Payton got extended playing time. He had that catch down the sideline where his foot was half an inch out of bounds. If he can make that play it’s a real good play for him. Jordan’s consistently getting better.

On Jordan Zumwalt:
I saw him this morning and he looked great, but nothing definitive yet. Hopefully by the end of the day or at the latest the end of tomorrow we’ll know if he’s going to be cleared or not. The swelling was gone. The would looked really good. He looked a lot better than he looked last Thursday. He still had some swelling last Thursday. His facial structure looks really close to normal. I don’t know that he has or not (tried to put on a helmet). Probably not. Probably not.

On whether Zumwalt will continue to play outside:
He’ll go back outside. I teased him this morning. I said, ‘You get healthy fast when the guy goes in your spot and gets three sacks, don’t ya?’ It’s just good for our team to have competition. It’s great to have multiple players who can do things outside. The thing that’s great about Damien is his versatility. He easily moves between inside and outside linebacker in a game. He’s very smart, so he can do both. We like Jordan right now more as an outside linebacker. That seems to be a better fit for him.

On whether Damien Holmes might be better suited at outside linebacker:
Well, he can do both. It’s probably an easier adjustment for him because he was a defensive end. He was used to looking at the ball out of his right eye, and I know that sounds really silly. But when you’re used to playing with the ball always on the right shoulder and then when you get in the middle of the defense and the ball can be on either side of you and your scope has to be wider it changes things for you. It’s not as natural. But I think he’s done a good job both inside and outside. I love the fact that he’s versatile. When you’ve got guys that play as hard as Jordan plays and as hard as Damien plays and as hard as Anthony Barr plays, you need some sort of rotation there. So, I think it’s good that those guys can play.

On Andrew Abbott being more involved:
He just made more plays. We really haven’t changed how we’ve used him, other than the Nebraska game where he played corner. But when we go to nickel sometimes he goes down and covers the slot because we bring Randall Goforth in. He just was active this week. The ball came to him a lot. He got to the ball a lot.

On Johnathan Franklin’s hand:
You teach guys to tackle the ball and he gets hit on the hand some. The same thing happened against Nebraska, but it’s nothing. He’s fine. I don’t believe he did anything but ice it after the game. He hasn’t been to treatment. He’s not on the injury report. He’s fine.

On continuing dropped passes:
You’re right. We had more drops this week than we’ve had in any games so far. We had by our count we had seven drops. I believe the most we had before that was five. So year, it’s a concern. It’s tricky. You don’t want to put so much emphasis on it that you start spooking guys. But you have to work on it.

On getting an impression watching Ellis McCarthy play guard:
Not enough happened. Not enough happened. And we still haven’t talked about what we’re going to do with regard to him this week. But he’s just a good football player. I think wherever you put him, whether it’s offense or defense he’s going to play well.He’s big. He’s physical. He’s very, very smart and he moves well. I think he can be outstanding on either side of the ball. He just has the characteristics you like in a football player.

On whether Greg Capella is going to be back this week:
I don’t think so. But I don’t want to rule him out yet, but I don’t think believe he will be.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email

Rahim Moore excited about UCLA’s success

Above: Rahim Moore is delivering big hits in the NFL as a safety with the Denver Broncos. (John Leyba/Denver Post

Jill Painter caught up with former UCLA standout Rahim Moore at the Raiders-Broncos game …

DENVER — Denver Broncos safety Rahim Moore was watching part of UCLA’s 42-14 win over Colorado and loving it.

“They’re improving,” said Moore, who played at UCLA from 2008-10 before being selected by the Broncos in the second round of the 2011 NFL draft. “I’ve seen growth. I’m happy. And I’m so happy for (Bruins running back) Johnathan Franklin.”

Moore is improving as well. He’s had his struggles and highlights and was fined $21,000 for his season-opening hit on Pittsburgh receiver Emmanuel Sanders.

“I’m progressing, and there’s good support guys here,” Moore said Sunday in Denver after the Broncos’ 37-6 victory over Oakland. “This is about all the hard work we put in in the offseason.”

Moore trains and works out in Florida in the offseason and hasn’t been back to Los Angeles in a while.

“I have to stay focused,” Moore said.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Digg Reddit Stumbleupon Tumblr Email