— Ellis McCarthy missed both Monday and Tuesday’s practices with a head injury. Mora said the starting left end is improving, but not yet asymptomatic. If he isn’t cleared by Saturday’s game, freshman Kylie Fitts will see increased snaps.
Running back Jordon James (ankle) is still doubtful to play against Cal. Considering how capable Paul Perkins is as well as the depth the Bruins have at tailback, I’d be very surprised if James gets any carries.
— Buried on the depth chart, junior defensive lineman Brandon Willis asked coaches for a chance to play on the other side of the trenches. He started taking some snaps at guard today, and could be used there in late-game situations or in an emergency.
“It was his idea to go over there and give it a shot,” Mora said. “He could be a two-way player for us. … He’s our Ironman.”
“The kid wants to help the team. Because really, who wants to be an offensive lineman?,” Mora joked.
— Last year’s 43-17 loss to Cal makes it fairly easy for UCLA to avoid peeking ahead on its schedule.
“They whupped us,” Mora said. “Every which way you can whup us. If anyone is looking ahead — no one in this building is. If they are, they’ve disguised it pretty well.”
He again took blame for the debacle: “I did a poor job of keeping the team focused on the task at hand. I felt it on Friday night up there. I started to feel it on Saturday. It was too late.”
— Cal’s secondary has been ravaged by injuries, the latest being starting cornerback Stefan McClure, whose surgery on Wednesday could end his season. Mora, a longtime defensive backs coach in the NFL, said the Bears will likely use one of two strategies to cope: bring pressure the entire game and force passes out quickly, or sit in a Cover 2 scheme and help the cornerbacks.
“It’s never that simple when you get to the game, but I think we’ll be able to decipher pretty quickly what their philosophy is,” Mora said. “We have to prepare for either.”
— UCLA is using officials during in-season practices for the first time since Mora arrived. The Bruins had used them during spring and fall camp, but will now do so every Tuesday and Wednesday to help reduce penalties.