When he wants to be, Jim Mora is as good an interview subject as any head football coach in the country: candid, witty, opinionated. There’s a reason that his transition from the NFL to college was bridged by a stint in the broadcast studio.
Then there’s the self-admitted “paranoid” side, the part that makes him loath to do anything that he doesn’t deem necessary. Take the tentative depth chart he released Monday night, one that goes four or five players deep at certain positions.
“Here’s how much credence I would put in the depth chart,” Mora said Tuesday afternoon, squeezing his right thumb against his index finger. “None.”
The Bruins’ listed heights and weights, he pointed out, weren’t even correct. He listed 13 offensive starters rather than 11, including a “big Y-receiver” position. He claimed the chart took him just 30 seconds to make — which he did only because the school’s media relations department pestered him.
But to anyone with passing knowledge of the UCLA football team, the depth chart looked more or less accurate. From quarterback Brett Hundley to right tackle Torian White to outside linebacker Aaron Wallace, almost every starter had earned his spot either during or before fall camp.
Even the few surprises weren’t just scattered names. Redshirt freshman Nate Iese, whose listed switch from Y-receiver to fullback prompted the depth-chart line of questioning, said coaches moved him there in order to utilize his athleticism and 6-foot-3 frame as soon as possible. Still learning routes after moving from defense in spring, he’ll eventually be used both as a blocker and pass-catcher depending on the package.
“I think it’s a good fit for me,” Iese said. “I like contact. I’m helping a lot with blocking coming off the edge, helping the tackles block on pass plays. It’s a lot of fun.”
The running backs order also looked spot-on, even if the competition is still tight. Junior Jordon James leads the group, while sophomore Steve Manfro and redshirt freshman Paul Perkins will step in for a healthy share of reps. Running backs coach Steve Broussard said that James No. 1 spot may only mean that he takes 40 to 50 snaps per game; the next man down the list could take 30 to 40.
All this could change day by day based on performance.
“I don’t think you guys ever heard me say ‘running back by committee,’” Broussard said. “It’s the guy who stands out and separates himself as being the guy. … It’s gonna be the guy that’s most consistent and takes advantage of those opportunities.”
RELIEF FOR JONES
Senior Malcolm Jones got his good news last Wednesday during UCLA’s senior appreciation dinner. When Mora introduced each player in front of donors at Wilson Plaza, he made it official: Jones was back on scholarship.
“He almost kind of blurted it out,” said the running back, who left the team early last season before deciding to return as a walk-on. “It was a good feeling. … I was more relieved than anything. I know I’ve been working really hard to get back on scholarship.”
Added Broussard: “He’s wanting to work hard. Doesn’t mind where he plays at. Understanding being selfless. That’s the biggest thing, and he’s been working his butt off.”
Defensive lineman Eli Ankou was carted out of practice holding a pair of crutches. His left knee was heavily wrapped. Offensive lineman Colby Cyburt also left practice with a right foot injury.