COACH JIM MORA: First of all, thanks to everybody for coming out today. We’re excited to be here and I’m excited to be sitting between these two fine, young men, great student‑athletes, the pillars of our program, both great players, better young men. I think they are great ambassadors for UCLA and college football in general. We’re excited about the direction of our program.
We made some progress last year, and I think these two guys would tell you we’re nowhere close to where we want to be. We have a vision, we’re headed in the right direction but we have challenges we have to overcome this year in order to become the team that we desire to be.
First and foremost in those challenges is we have a very depleted secondary and we’re going to be playing four players back there, or five or six, whatever package we’re in that really haven’t played, ever, at this level. So that will be a challenge. Our schedule is a challenge. This conference that we play in is a challenge, but I think these young men would tell you that being the competitors that they are and we are as a football team we relish those challenges. We can’t wait for those challenges, we embrace ‘em and look forward to ‘em and we’re going to rise up to ‘em. We’re excited to be here, welcome your questions, and thank you.
Q: Coach, as a new coach last season you made some risky moves, maybe because of the fact that you were new. Can we expect similar risky moves in place this season?
COACH MORA: Give me a couple of examples so I can be specific with you. Risky moves on game day?
Q: Game day, specifically, redshirt freshman quarterback?
COACH MORA: Redshirt freshman, Brett Hundley, three redshirt starting linemen, you talking about those? We’re aggressive. I have tremendous confidence in our student‑athletes and our coaches, and I think the nature of the competitor is “let’s take risk” let’s attack and go after it. That’s what these guys want to be, that’s what “AB” wants to do on defense and “X” wants to do on offense, so we’re not going to throw caution to the wind. We hope behind every decision is logic but we want to be aggressive, in nature.
Q: Coach, you’ve talked about not wanting to trade “AB” for Clowney or any other defensive player in the country. Do you think this season we’re going to start to see Anthony getting as much or more attention than Clowney, and, Anthony, are you ready for that attention?
COACH MORA: I wouldn’t trade any of our players. I wouldn’t trade “X” for any other offensive linemen in the country, and I’ve been vocal talking about how Anthony is one of the dominant players on his side of the ball. It’s fun to have those guys. I kinda forgot your question. What was the rest of it?
Q: Do you think we will start to see Anthony get much if not more‑‑
COACH MORA: Here is how Anthony and “X” are going to get the national attention that they deserve. UCLA has to win, and they have to make an impact on those wins, and when we do that they’re going to get what they have worked so hard to attain. “AB”?
ANTHONY BARR: Definitely. I think if my play warrants it, then it would be deserved, and I have no problem with that attention. This is the most attention I’ve got, ever, in my life right now. I have no problem being up here, so, yeah.
Q: Coach, beyond the most important question of the day, finally back on the shoulders after ten years, doing things by committee didn’t work. You said running will be done by committee, can Craig Lee change the situation on that?
COACH MORA: If he proves to be one of the players that we can count on to be productive, then, yes, he can.
I think that successful teams, unless you’re the Minnesota Vikings and you have Adrian Peterson, this day and age it’s about “by committee” it might be 2, 3, or 4, and for us it’s finding the right guy and inserting them into the game at the right time, matching their abilities and Noel Mazzone, our offensive coordinator, does a great job at that. We have Steve Broussard coaching at the quarterback position, and will anybody be able to replace Johnathan Franklin? No, you don’t just replace the leading rusher in UCLA history, but there is a belief that maybe one of them can become the next Johnathan Franklin, eventually.
Q: So you mentioned it earlier, you have nine straight games with no byes. What are you going to do to make sure your team doesn’t crash at the end of the season with crucial match‑ups, against Arizona State and USC?
COACH MORA: Stay healthy, stay focused and worry about the team we’re going to play not the future or the week before. We’re going to have to be a mentally tough football team. We’re going to have to be a consistent football team. That’s the main area of emphasis for us this off‑season has been beyond getting bigger and faster and stronger and more physical has been becoming a more mentally tough football team, being able to handle pressure situations, putting our players in pressure situations in practice. Forcing them to adjust on the move so that when we get to games late in the season, when maybe we’re beat up a little bit or maybe we’re in a hostile environment or maybe there is adverse weather conditions, it doesn’t affect us, it doesn’t matter to us, we don’t care. We block it out and focus on playing our best and winning that game.
Q: Anthony, can you comment on the targeting rule and the potential of it to change college football from a defensive standpoint? As a high‑octane tackler, how do you think you will have to change your technique?
ANTHONY BARR: I understand the rule, but as a defensive player it’s going to be difficult to fully adjust my game to all of that rule. So as I play I’m going to play within the rules that I’ve always played and play like I’ve always played, full speed and attacking. As if I get penalized because of it, then so be it, but I’m going to play the way I play football.
Q: Jim, do you have any update on Eddie Vanderdoes and his appeal, trying to get eligible immediately?
COACH MORA: No. He has an appeal scheduled for Monday, the 29th, in person and hopefully we will have more information after that, but right now it’s up in the air. How about a question from “X”? Offensive linemen never get any questions.
Q: Actually I wanted to ask you about your quarterback.
COACH MORA: That’s more glamorous than our guard.
Q: What is the next step, where would you like to see Brett make improvement?
COACH MORA: Brett has all the tools to be a great player. He’s not a great player yet. He has physical stature, he’s big, he’s fast, and he’s strong, and he’s physical. He can stand in the pocket and see over the line and throw the ball down the field with accuracy and velocity and touch. He can get out of the pocket and throw the ball on the move with timing and accuracy. When a play breaks down, he can run.
I think the next step for Brett and the step that comes with experience and maturity and having played the game and being put in those situations is to become a better decision maker, a more crisp decision maker. A player that understands when it’s time to throw the ball away. Sometimes the best play a quarterback can make is to throw the ball out‑of‑bounds and get to that next play even if it happens to be a punt.
I think for Brett it’s about having a feel for what’s happening around him in the pocket and knowing when it’s time to tuck the ball and run, and then when he runs he needs to learn when to slide because even though he’s 6‑4, 230 pounds and can probably run over most defensive players in the country ‑‑ not all, let’s not insult Clowney, which I probably already did by saying you were the best in the country ‑‑ he’s got to get down so he doesn’t take all those hits.
I think he’s going to make great progress. Brett is extremely bright, he’s motivated, he’s a great leader, he has a tremendous work ethic and he has everything you need to be a great football player at this level and the next.
Q: Xavier, a question from fan on Twitter. If you break down a lineman by percentage, how much is physical, cerebral and technique?
XAVIER SU’A‑FILO: That’s an awesome question. To be honest I think we have to have all of the above. I would say 33% for each of them. Being an offensive lineman in the trenches you need that physical ability, every single play you have to be moving somebody, you have to be moving, physically imposing your will on somebody, and you have to know how to do it so you don’t get penalized, and you have to know where to go. It’s sad to see offensive linemen who have all the ability but they can’t learn their plays or offensive linemen who have all the ability and have no technique, so I think it’s important to have each one of them and easily what overpowers that is effort.
You can’t ever make up for effort, and how hard you play the game. I always like to say “run blocking ‑‑ my “O” line coach told me, “run blocking is all about attitude. It’s saying my guy is better than your guy,” and you’re going to come off the line and “move ‘em” and that’s why to me ‑‑ being an offensive lineman is not a glory position because we have to produce. The offense has to produce and we have to move people and be physical to do it.
Q: Last year’s win against Nebraska seemed like a significant win because it was such a confidence builder. Talk about, was that the case? What was the confidence level in years past and how confident is this team going into the 2013 season and how that will help them?
ANTHONY BARR: I think the win against Nebraska gave us the confidence we need as a football team. I think the first victory, we were like, okay, we can do this, and when we beat Nebraska we were like, okay, we can really do that and we’re actually a good football team. We had our lull against Cal, but that Nebraska game gave us the confidence going forward throughout the rest of the season.
XAVIER SU’A‑FILO: Piggy back what Anthony said, a big game like Nebraska we try to keep the same mentality for every game and respect every opponent, but the Corn Huskers are always tough and that win let us know what talent we did have on our team and, wow, guys, we can do that, and I think Coach Mora and our staff always knew we could, and we had some players that knew we could, but it was a big deal for us as a team and as a program for us to get the win and know that we can compete with the big boys, because we are a part of them.
Q: I wanted to ask both players: You guys have played in the Championship game the last two years, and can you talk about what it feels like to turn the program around as far as LosAngeles? And you guys are probably the premiere program in LA for this year with your wins over USC.
XAVIER SU’A‑FILO: Being in the Championship game we definitely want to go back, and we can only control what UCLA can control. Those 12 miles across town they’re preparing for their season, they’re preparing for us and we’re doing the exact same thing. We just worry about UCLA, and we look forward to competing with them every year.
ANTHONY BARR: We have great respect for USC and what they do, but I think we’re on the rise, and I think we’re full of confidence and belief and like “X” said, we’re not too concerned about them and they’re not too concerned about us, and hopefully that game at the end of the year has relevance and we can play to see who the winner of the Pac‑12 South will be. So I am looking forward to that, and at the end of the day we’re focused with ourselves and our main concern is with UCLA.
Q: Coach, last year with the new divisions in the Pac‑12 you didn’t get a chance to play your alma mater, the University of Washington. November15th, is that circled on your calendar?
COACH MORA: No, August 31 is circled on my calendar.
Q: Anthony, last year was your first full season as a line backer at the college level. What do you hope to accomplish this year in terms of your development in the preseason and what can you do this year that maybe you weren’t able to do last year in your first year?
ANTHONY BARR: Well, I worked a lot this past spring on affecting the quarterback in the passing game when I’m not rushing the passer. Going forward it was natural for me, going around offensive linemen is something I felt comfortable doing, and backpedaling and dropping into a zone coverage is something I wasn’t as comfortable with.
So this past spring I spent time watching tape and watching myself from this past season and working with my position coach on getting into the right position on the spot, reading the quarterback’s eyes, understanding the zones they are trying to attack, so I feel confident in the my ability to affect the passing game as regards covering a defender.
Q: “X”, starting as a true freshman for UCLA you took time off last year to go on your mission and you came back, being named First Team All‑Pac‑12, Third team AP All‑American. What do you attribute that to?
XAVIER SU’A‑FILO: It’s been humbling, I think. I’ve just tried to work hard and control what I can control. I told Coach, just whatever I can do to help the team. I’ll play anywhere on the offensive line but I think that success that I did have is being around a great coaching staff. Some people who really care, and people who have helped us out a lot. Our strength and conditioning coach, coach Sal Alosi has helped me, and his staff, as far as getting my body back into shape and conditioning, and our whole coaching staff has helped us, and my teammates. Offensive line, to me, is all five of us or nothing; you can’t stick out. So a lot of my success and accolades that I got come because the guys around me were playing their butts off, too, and they did well, so I think I couldn’t have got those without them.
Q: Anthony, when you see a picture or video of your hit on Barkley, Matt Barkley last year, what goes through your mind?
ANTHONY BARR: It’s funny you asked. I want to know why the tackle just let me go! For whatever reason. He should be standing up here and talking to you guys, because he’s the reason why I was able to make that play. And the play call was pretty good, too. The combination of both, that’s, I think, the first thing that comes to mind when I see that.