Linebackers past and present dominated Jim Mora’s portion of the Pac-12 teleconference earlier today.
First, the UCLA head coach fielded the usual question about sophomore Myles Jack’s potential role on offense, something that will likely be asked again and again between now and August.
“I think it’s way to early to answer that,” Mora said. “I don’t plan on minimizing that. He’s a really good football player and we want to get the ball to him as many ways as we can but we don’t want to ever take away what he means to our defense because he’s a truly special linebacker.”
Later, one about Jordan Zumwalt — whom Mora could playing either inside or outside in a 3-4 scheme, or either ‘Sam’ or ‘Will’ in a 4-3 scheme. The former UCLA wrecking ball is training for the NFL draft, and could conceivably go in the third round or down to the sixth.
“That can cause a lot of anxiety for a guy like Jordan,” Mora said. “I have no feel where he’s going to go.”
As for potential replacements in the unit, the coach listed just about everyone he’ll have available, from two-year starter Eric Kendricks to incoming freshman Kenny Young. He also mentioned redshirt sophomore Aaron Wallace, who is not currently enrolled at UCLA and did not participate in spring, but could be back if he sorts out his academics.
— Asked about redshirt freshmen who stood out during the spring, Mora listed defensive lineman Eli Ankou, receiver Eldridge Massington, and offensive linemen Poasi Moala and Kenny Lacy.
— “We need to win Pac-12 championships and Rose Bowls. We need to be in the national title picture. We need to continue to graduate our student-athletes. We’ve really just gotten started. It’s two years. That’s nothing.”
— The underlying theme of the Pac-12 teleconference was the SEC’s decision to stay with an eight-game conference schedule, even while other leagues are trending rapidly toward nine. Mora wasn’t as passionate as some of his peers, but nevertheless advocated for the “same set of rules” throughout college football.
He also said this of UCLA to end his spiel: “We try not to schedule too many patsies.”
Stanford coach David Shaw went full bore against an inequity that he thought too many people were underestimating. Not only does an eight-game conference schedule allow SEC teams to potentially slot in a weaker opponent, it gives those teams a chance to do so midseason — creating a break while many other leagues are trying not to devour themselves.
“If we’re going to go into a playoff and feed into one playoff system, we all need to play by the same rules,” Shaw said. “Play your conference. Don’t back down from playing your own conference. It’s one thing to back down from playing somebody else. But don’t back down from playing your own conference.”
Utah’s Kyle Whittingham and Washington State’s Mike Leach were more reserved, with the former theorizing that most major-conference coaches would prefer an eight-game league schedule.
Added Leach: “I can’t say it’s a bad strategy.”