Q: For basketball, the early signing period starts this Wednesday. Any update since five-star forward Kevon Looney verballed?
A: Hungarian big man Gyorgy Goloman officially signed his letter of intent today, and Looney is expected to send his in Thursday morning. Four-star 7-footer Thomas Welsh will decide between Cal, Stanford and UCLA any day now. Justise Winslow might also make a decision by Nov. 20.
Q: How big of a blow and an impact did losing left tackle Torian White and running back Jordon James have on the team and our offense?
A: Torian White’s season-ending injury was particularly significant, but the line has adjusted well with three true freshmen over the past two or three weeks. The loss of Jordon James has hurt more than anyone initially thought, though the three defenses he chewed up are now ranked 64th, 124th and 125th in the country against the run. Paul Perkins has not been as effective/consistent as I’d expected.
Q: What has happened to Malcolm Jones? He has looked good in his limited opportunities to carry the ball but now they are using defensive players over him. What happened?
A: Honestly, I think this is just a version of the “backup quarterback syndrome.” A guy shines in limited reps, and too many people start hoping he can be a savior. Could he be used more than he currently is? Sure. But as serviceable as he could potentially be in certain situations (goal line, etc.), but he’s too slow to be a featured part of this offense.
As far as being passed up by defensive players, it’s not much of an insult when that player is Myles Jack.
Q: How is the run game now? Would you say that is our O-line or running backs that need more experience/improvement?
A: It’s not awful, but that’s due both to Jack’s emergence and Brett Hundley’s increased gains (200 yards and four touchdowns in his past three games). Right now, the fault lies more with the lack of depth at tailback. Jordon James isn’t healthy enough to do things like this, and Paul Perkins is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry through conference play.
Q: What should we be expecting from Myles Jack going forward? Do you see him playing 15-20 snaps/game on offense, and still playing every snap on defense?
A: Giving him 15-20 would be way too much, though he could hit double digits while James, Thigpen and Manfro are all still limited. Jack is clearly the best back available right now, and has a strong argument for being the best on the roster. Linebackers coach Jeff Ulbrich said guys like Deon Hollins, Kenny Orjioke and Jayon Brown could get more snaps if he needs a break on defense. He obviously still has a higher ceiling as a linebacker, both at the college and pro level.
Q: Can you give an update on Priest Willis, Tahaan Goodman, Tyler Foreman and Deon Hollins? Are they redshirting or what kind of roles they have on the team now?
A: Tyler Foreman is the only one redshirting; the other three have all played, though Willis and Goodman have mostly been used on special teams. Hollins is sort of exclusively a third-down pass-rush specialist. Great acceleration, but not enough size.
Q: Jim Mora seems to be oddly nonchalant about UCLA being the second-most penalized team in FBS, after being the most penalized team last year. Why is that, and what do the Bruins need to do to fix it?
A: Mora just doesn’t care about “aggressive” penalties at all, so that’s sort of ingrained in UCLA’s style of play. He’s usually not happy with how officials call those anyway, so that’s part of it too. The Bruins flirted briefly with having refs out at practice, but abandoned that after a week or two.
While penalties aren’t good, there isn’t a strong correlation between penalties and winning: Of the 10 most-flagged teams in the country, three are ranked in the top 15 in polls (Baylor, Oregon, UCLA); of the 10 least-flagged teams, only Arizona State (21 AP/19 BCS) is ranked.
Q: Has Mora talked at all about his feelings in coaching UCLA against his alma mater for the first time? If Steve Sarkisian were to get fired, should we be worried that Mora would want to leave for the Huskies job?
A: Unsurprisingly, he said he doesn’t care about playing Washington. Just another game to him. I don’t think he would leave UCLA for the Washington job. He has the Bruins’ on the upswing, and there’s just no sense in leaving the built-in advantages of coaching in the Los Angeles area. For one thing, why force yourself to recruit into rainy weather?
Q: The administration has made it clear that basketball games will be scheduled for TV purposes, regardless of how ridiculous the time (such as 9 pm or 6 pm on a weekday). Fine, then as a fan, I feel like I’m entitled to skip attending in person if TV is priority. What do you think?
A: Entirely up to you. I don’t expect too many fans to show up until Pac-12 play starts in January. The home nonconference schedule is fairly uninspiring, though Alabama could be decent.
Q: Where’s Adrià Gasol?
A: He went back to Spain to play for CB Santfeliuenc in Liga EBA, the fourth level of the country’s basketball league system.