SAN BERNARDINO — In what Jim Mora felt was UCLA’s best physical practice yet, he told officials to be sticklers.
The Bruins, of course, were dead-last in the country in penalty yardage last year.
Although he was encouraged Wednesday morning by the team committing only one penalty during the snap through 144 plays of 11-on-11 scrimmage, Mora maintained that the Bruins still have a ways to go toward limiting flags.
“The thing that we’ve got to get better at, and it’s primarily the young guys was the pre-snap, the non-aggressive penalties,” the head coach said. “We had too many false starts. We were offsides once on a third-and-10. … We had one illegal substitution on defense.
“Those are things that are going to hold a team back, unless you address them.”
He added that the main culprits have been the younger players, who are understandably still adjusting to the pace of the college game: “As you move forward, you become much less tolerant of those things. Much less.”
FAIRBAIRN FINDING ROUTINE
After a solid freshman campaign, kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn has looked nearly automatic inside of 40 yards — and fairly reliable beyond that. His main focus this offseason was maintaining his confidence and building up his mental game, a process that mostly involved watching film, looking at pictures of different field goals and visualizing his kicks.
“It’s just routine,” Fairbairn said. “Realizing that every kick’s the same kick no matter the situation. … I don’t really like to look at distances when I’m out there. That’s helpful. Just see the field goal.”
— Freshman Eddie Vanderdoes participated in defensive line drills this morning, and will likely participate in team sessions in UCLA’s evening practice. A tight back has limited the five-star prospect through most of fall camp.
— Then working to become academically cleared, freshman Craig Lee’s absence from summer workouts has pushed him down the running back depth chart. Mora said Lee isn’t in the group of five backs the team can currently count on, but didn’t rule out the four-star recruit’s ability to work his way back in.
However, facing a crowded if unspectacular backfield, the possibility that Lee redshirts his first season is becoming more likely barring injuries to other backs.
— Walk-on transfer quarterback Brendon Cross has started practicing mostly as a receiver, but Mora said the move isn’t permanent.
“A guy like him, he can have real value,” Mora said. “He can play some special teams. He can be your holder. … He can be a crossover guy, an emergency quarterback. We’re trying to move him around a little bit. He’s an athletic guy; he’s pretty tough.”
— Safety Brandon Sermons and cornerback Ishmael Adams both performed well in one-on-ones. Sermons, whose speed can sometimes make up for his other flaws, blanketed receiver Devin Lucien and nearly had an interception.
Adams sometimes struggles against bigger receivers, but is a very skilled cover corner who rarely gets burned. He intercepted Brett Hundley in the scrimmage portion of practice.