Fabian Moreau earning praise as converted cornerback

Questions still abound in UCLA’s secondary, a unit that lost all four starters and returns few upperclassmen.

The group does have talent, however, and a starting lineup is nearly solidified: at safety, Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth, who have five combined career starts; at corner, Ishmael Adams, who played two games in 2012 before season-ending shoulder surgery.

The most unlikely of the quartet is sophomore Fabian Moreau.

The Florida native had played running back for most of his life. As a senior at Western High, near Ft. Lauderdale, he ran for 889 yards and 11 touchdowns. Tacking an additional seven touchdowns and 416 yards through the air, he was named All-County by both the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Miami Herald.

But once he arrived at UCLA last fall, the staff decided to switch him to cornerback. A talented but raw athlete, he had little knowledge of cover technique and struggled with backpedaling.

“He looked like a person who had never played defense in his life,” Goforth said.

So Moreau worked. After every Bruins practice, he began staying an extra five, ten minutes to try and refine his footwork and backpedaling. Coaches noticed a change late in the 2012 season, one that saw Moreau make five tackles in 11 appearances. Toward the end of spring camp, assistant Demetrice Martin said Moreau looked comfortable at the position, finally gaining some “corner swag.”

Over the summer, he enlisted both Adams and Goforth to help him progress even more. The trio would go out to Spaulding Field after lifting sessions, practicing together for roughly half an hour. Goforth called Moreau the hardest worker he’d ever met.

Head coach Jim Mora praised him for his athletic arrogance and ability to put bad plays behind him. Moreau’s background on offense, Mora added, may still be helping: “He can find the ball in the air quickly and he can make a play on it. That’s really what it comes down to, is winning at the moment of truth. He does that.”

The real test will come on Aug. 31, when UCLA opens its season at the Rose Bowl against Nevada. Legendary Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault retired in December, but his replacement Brian Polian is keeping the program’s trademark pistol offense intact. Last year, Cody Fajardo passed for 2,786 yards and rushed for over 1,121. Only two quarterbacks in the country bested him in both marks; one was Heisman winner Johnny Manziel.

Nevertheless, Mora believes Moreau will do well. The erstwhile running back thinks so too.

“I just put it in my mindset that I’m coming in to make an impression, so that I can be one of the best corners in the nation,” Moreau said. “I’m still working hard to be that.”

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  • Bruin 34

    That’s what I like to hear kid!

  • 92104bruinfan

    It is relatively early in Mora’s coaching tenure but it appears he has a solid knack for fitting players into the position where they have the greatest chance for success individually and of course, for the team. Love reading about Moreau’s work ethic. Go Bruins!

  • UCLA Owns the Rose Bowl

    We do have a lot of young talent in the back four, but this is, without a doubt, our biggest “question mark” unit. I’m not as concerned about our running back corps (especially if Thigpen is healthy and we can work Manfro into passes out of the backfield), whereas the secondary is pretty much a blank slate. All the more reason that Barr get back soon–to put even more pressure on opposing QBs, in support of our DL, thus taking some pressure of the back four. Get healthy Anthony, and God’s speed!

    • Joe Blow

      God”s speed!

    • Bronco4Bruins

      Yes, if Thigpen is available and at full speed for Stanford and Oregon and beyond, I believe running backs will be good with a better OL. Also, I hope Craig Lee has a redshirt year, meaning the Bruin RBs stay healthy. And, concerning Anthony Barr, it might be desirable to see him sit out the opener with Nevada so he will want to go beast mode on Nebraska.

  • Justin Tan

    Tuck da frojans baby!

    • Joe Blow

      Let’s go bruins! 3 out of 10.

  • beenthere_donethat

    After so many poor years (seems like forever) finally it seems we have a coach pointing us in the right direction. I hope the AD (and future ADs) have learned the lesson not to automatically give alumni preferential treatment when hiring new coaches. For UCLA (and even USC) most for their best football and basketball coaches have come from outside.