Wednesday Report: UCLA coach Jim Mora

Opening mark:
A broken record. It was good work today. I like their attitude. They’ve come back form a tough one on Saturday and refocused. They seem pretty good. You saw Darius Bell make an appearance out here. He’s still real sore. He’s got some swelling above his clavicle. So he’s out for this week as I mentioned yesterday. With him it’s just a matter of how quickly he can get over being sore and ready to play again. What you’ll see is an increased role for Devin Fuller. You’ll see a little bit of an increased role role for Kenny Walker. We use Steven Manfro in there some. Joe (Fauria), obviously it’ll be tougher to spell him. He’s gonna have to take more plays, but I think he loves that. I think Torian’s bounced back well. You never know until you get to a game but he seems emotionally good. He’s been out here working on technique things that gave him a problem Saturday night. These guys pose a huge challenge to us up front because they are a very good front. They do some things that challenge you. They’re veteran and they know how to move. They’re just really quick off the ball. It’s a good challenge coming off of a tough game. I think it’s good for us at this point in our development especially for this young offensive line. It gives them a chance to go out there and fight again, and hopefully it makes us a better football team. It won’t be easy, but that’s OK.

On how difficult it is to mimic what Utah nose tackle does up front:
It’s impossible. The guys’ a great one. He’s a great one. I don’t throw that term around loosely. He’s one of the best I’ve seen. I’ve seen them all. He’s something else. He wears these tiny shoulder pads. He’s mean looking. He’s quick and he’s fast and he’s aggressive and he’s nasty. He’s something special. I’m looking forward to watching him, but hopefully we do a good job against him.

On whether he commands a double team:
As much as you can double team him. Every play you’re just not capable cuz of scheme, but as often as you can get a double on that guy you do it. The problem is No. 91 he’s darn good too. They’re gonna pull doubles off of the nose sometimes because you have to get a double on the end. What we have to do is this, we gotta go into this game with confidence. We can’t go in this game intimidated. We have to go in there believing we can win with our technique. We have to understand there’s going to be some tough downs and they’re going to make some plays on us. When they make some play son us we we have to have the resiliency to just keep coming back, and have pops of our own. Then we have to be able to capitalize and get a drive going and not turn the ball over like the other night.

On how interchangeable the receivers are:
Oh goodness. They’re all over the place. When I look at them sometimes you’ll see … like Steven Manfro for instance. You see him in the backfield, you see him in the slot, sometimes you see him out wide. Same thing with Shaq. Shaq will be out at X, he’d be at Z, at the Y position sometimes at the F position. We can move them around a lot. The thing you have to be careful with is the young guys who haven’t played a lot. A guy like Jordan Payton. If you try to move him around too much and make them learn too many things you hurt his ability to be good at any one thing. But as he gets going he’ll be able to do that. We just have to be careful. As a coach you always see all these possibilities out there, things a guy can do, but you have to be careful especially when they’re young.

On what he misses in Darius Bell:
He’s mature. He’s got a mature personality. He’s a real calm guy. So when everything is breaking loose in there he keeps it calm. He’s a good blocker. The guys really like him. He has an engaging personality. A lot of guys kind of flock to him. And then he does some good things on special teams. So, we’re going to miss him but just like when Devin Lucien went down and Jerry Johnson went down and Jordan Payton stepped up. Someone else ahs to go in and play and do a good job for us. It’s a great opportunity for someone else, but we’ll definitely miss him. It’s amazing how well he’s adapted to that position being a quarterback. He looks very natural. I love good blockers. I think good blockers show toughness. I like the way our receivers block. I get fired up in our blitz drills when Damien Thigpen steps up in there and tries to block Anthony Barr or Jordan James does it or Johnathan Franklin, to me that shows the toughness of the team.

On the importance of the defensive backs to bounce back:
Big time. Big time. We’ve gotta help them as a defense. We have to continue to get pressure. We have to do a good job in our underneath drops, we have to help them in good calls at the right situation, but they have to make plays. I think they’ll respond, I do. What I’d like to see is a higher level of consistency in the play. Not so up and down. That’s a group that with three seniors should be able to play with a level of consistency that’s higher than has maybe been shown at this point. That’s what we’re asking them to do.

On them having short memory:
I think some things linger no matter what. But you have to have what I call athletic arrogance. I don’t mean an arrogant person, but believe that you can’t be beat. I like it when a DB gets beat and they look at their shoes like their shoes let them down, or look at their hands like, ‘Who are you guys.’ The great ones do that. Now, internally they’re saying, ‘Hey man, I’ve gotta get a foot on the ground. I have to plant.’ Even if a guy beats them it’s like, ‘I can’t believe he beat me. He’ll never beat me again. Let’s go again’ like that mentality in a defensive back. I’m not talking about an outward arrogance but an internal believe in their athletic ability. You always try to devlelop with these guys, and at this age they’re still developing. We’re trying to help them get that, but in order to get that you have to have success.

On considering adjustments, personnel or schemes wise:
We always do. Whether we’re playing really well or struggling we’re always trying to create competition and get the best mix of players on the field to give us success. The last couple of weeks we’ve been getting Fabian Moreau and Marcus Rios a little bit more time at corner. That’s to create competition. Also, they need repititions. Next year these two guys (Price, Hester) will be gone and if we have the opportunity to get them in there we will.

On the challenge associated with bringing a freshman in a position like that:
Short term memory. Lack of experience. Not having seen something. As much as you prepare each week for a game you’re going to get unscouted looks. Everyone is going to game plan and there’s going to be things you haven’t seen on film that happen in a game. Having the background and knowledge, the experience to be able to adjust quickly and make the right decision to make the right play. Tha’ts always a challenge when you play a young guy. You see that on the offensive line right now. Every week they’re getting better. Every week they’re seeing more. Every week they’re creating a back log of information that they can draw upon in a game. But also every week they’re seeing new things they haven’t seen before. It’s challenging to them. It’s a good thing for their overall development. It’s just a tough thing when it’s happening. It’s the same thing with young corners, it really is.

Tuesday Report: UCLA coach Jim Mora on a physical practice and challenges for the O-Line against Utah.

Opening remark:
Just a good start to the practice week. I thought they came back today focused and ready to go. We just have to put a few more of those together and we’ll be ready to go Saturday. We’re excited to be back at home. It’s our first game with the full student body in session. That should be exciting for our kids and exciting for our fans.

On tackling more at practice:
No, not really. We really just emphasize swarming the football. We kinda changed the way we practiced a little bit in terms of reps. Just trying to get an emphasis on swarming the football defensively. It was a little more physical today but it wasn’t by design. I think it showed they’re serious and focus about rebounding from a loss.

On whether the offensive line needs simplifying:
More than simplifying the scheme it’s playing with great technique. Not getting yourself in a bad position because you use poor footwork or your hand placement isn’t good or your communication is off. Giving yourself a chance by using good technique. Just executing as we want.

On the challenge of playing a veteran defensive line:
You emphasize the fundamentals. You try not to make it too big for them. I think sometimes you can over coach in terms of emphasis on the other guy rather than emphasis on yourself. I think Adrian (Klemm) does a really good job of bringing it our fundamentals, our technique, our calls, playing the way we’re supposed to play, and not making it so much about them. I mean, they are really, really good. Like I said yesterday you watch their nose tackle play and you think you’re watching a five-year NFL veteran. That’s how good he is. We can’t worry about that. We have to take care of what we do and do it as best you can. i think that’s the way you have the best chance to succeed.

On Jake Brendel making line calls:
He’s good. He’s improved. And it helps him to have Jeff (Baca) in there because if something isn’t exactly right and he doesn’t see it exactly right, Jeff’s right next to him. And you’d be amazed. Like, a lot of times in the secondary — because those are the two places where you have the most communication, the offensive line and the secondary, and in the secondary you can see it when you watch a game. It’s hard to see what’s going on with those five guys. But the communication in the front is amazing. It’s intricate and it’s detailed and it changes all the time when you’re playing a defensive front like theirs where they do move around a little bit. As the ball is being snapped your call can be changing. So those guys have to really be in concert. When you’re a veteran offensive line that’s easy because you work together. When you’re young, in that split second if you don’t quite get it you’re beat. But having Jeff in there helps because at least we’re a little bit quicker with the calls. It’s a real challenge. It’s what it is. It’s going to help us get better.

On finding the right mix and matches in personnel at this point in the season:
I think it depends on the position. I think positions that depend on real cohesiveness like the offensive line or the secondary is pretty difficult. Probably the offensive line is the most difficult. The other positions you can kind of plug guys and get through it. But the offensive line, it’s tough. They have to work in concert on every single play. Even in the secondary, there are four or five or six individuals doing their separate thing. But on the offensive line it’s one. So that’s tough. Other positions I think you can do it.

On whether that makes it hesitant to make a move on the offensive line:
Where there has to be a move to make. But we’re playing right now with the five guys that give us the best chance to be successful as we see it. So we’re going to stick with those guys. We’re going to keep working hard to get them better and playing as one. You see improvement. Maybe it wasn’t evident in the game on Saturday night but you see it out here. What we have to do is just get it to translate more consistently to the field on Saturday.

Monday Report: UCLA Coach Jim Mora elaborates on losing to California, injuries and Utah.

NOTE: I joined Edward Lewis of the BruinSportsReport and Jacob Ruffman of the Daily Bruin for our weekly BSR Podcast. To listen, CLICK HERE

Opening remarks:
Well we had our meetings this morning. We’re looking at Utah now. Working on that game plan. They are a very good, physical football team on both sides of the ball. The guys that standout to you, really, their defense. They’re physical, they play hard. Their nose tackle is one of the best defensive linemen I’ve seen in a long, long time. He’s just a force. He plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He’s got great lateral quickness. He’s unbelivable off the snap in terms of his explosiveness. They have a defensive end and he’s the same type of guy. These are guys that are going to be forces at the next level. We have our work cut out with those guys. Offensively, it’s probably the deepest group of receivers that we’ve seen. They’re all efficient doing what they do. It’ll be a tough task. We saw how they play USC the other night: aggressive, up the field, physical defense. This will be a good challenge for us espeically up front with our young offensive line.

On whether discipline, accountability and tougheness were absent Saturday against California:
Saturday night when I looked at the film the thing that I was impressed with is we play hard, and you should play hard. That should be a given. The thing we struggled with is we made mistakes. We had a couple of breakdowns in terms of our assignment. We had a couple more penalties. We’ve had some penalties, but we had some penalties that were a little more critical that showed up. I would say that it’s inaccurate in terms of toughness. We did play with toughness. I would question the discipline just becuase of the penalties. I think penalties can be an indicator of discipline, but i don’t think we’re an undisciplined team. I just think we made some mistakes. And our guys are accountable to each other. There was nobody in that locker room afterwards that was taking it lightly. They were affected by the loss. Just like they were affected by the loss to Oregon State. I haven’t been in a locker room after a loss. When you’re dealing with a younger athlete I was interested to see how they reacted.

On going with the field goal in the fourth quarter down by 15:
Oh yeah, there was 14:31 left in the game … We wanted to get within two touchdowns. There was a lot of game left to be played. I think there was 14:31 left in the fourth quarter, that’s a time when you typically would go for a field goal.

On whether it had any impact the rest of the game:

On whether the team quit near the end of the fourth quarter:
No, absolutely not. Not a chance. The score got away from us but nobody quit. The long run we busted the defense. We made a mistake in our call, but nobody quit. Not at all.

On the costly penalties:
They affected us more Saturday. I think there’s a distinction between discipline and penalties. An undisciplined team is a team that shows up late for meetings, or practice, or doesn’t pay attention, forgets their books. Let’s the little things slip. Penalties, some of them the other day you can certainly say a lack of focus. Some of the penalties are a function of playing a good player that got one on you so you react and grab and hold. Or mabye not putting yoruself in the right position to make a blcok so you reach and you hold. I don’t know that those are discipline issues as opposed to ability issues. There are focus penalties and decision making penalties that we always have to address.

On the secondary struggling:
We didn’t play as well as we are capable of playing in the secondary on Saturday.

Why not?
Well, their quarterback got hot. We put pressure on him. He made throws. We got beat to our leverage a couple times by a good receiver in Keenan Allen. It’s competitive sports. You guys have all covered competitive sports. The other guys are good players, too, and you’ve gotta be on it on every play or you have the opportunity to get beat, and that happened the other night.

Isn’t it disappointing going up against a team whose only other win is against Southern Utah and you get beat like you did?
The film sometimes tells a different story than a score, and we knew going in this this was a very talented football team. They just haven’t been able to put it together for a game. They’ve played some pretty good teams. I think we’d all agree that USC is a good team. We’d all agree that Ohio State is a good team, and I’ve been able to see Arizona State play three or four times now on film, and I think they’re a talented football team. We got in a situation on Saturday where we were playing a football team that finally put it together. We got beat pretty soundly obviously.

Are you talented?
We have talent. Yes, we’re a talented team. We’re a very young team offensively, so we’re fighting through some growing pains. We have three freshman starting on the offensive line; we have a sophomore starting on the offensive line; we have a freshman quarterback; we have a freshman slot, and because of injury Jordan Payton went in and played a ton.I’m excited about these guys. They have a lot of talent and they’ve got the right mindset, but there’s going to be some bumps along the way when you’re playing these many young guys. I’ve been through that before. When I was coaching at San Francisco, I believe, we started a couple games seven or eight rookies on our defense. We took some lumps for a little while. They were talented guys and a number of them ended up going to Pro Bowls. As they grew together, as they played more you saw few and fewer mistakes. You saw confidence grow and became a really good defensve team. I think we’re going through a little bit of that on offense.

Six games in now how are you a different coach, how do you have to be a different coach compared to six games in in the NFL after a loss?
That’s a great question. Much more patient. Much more observant of all the other things that are going on in their lives that may affect how they played on Saturday. Not letting it become an excuse, but not crushing them for it either. Trying to help them grow up; trying to help them menevouver through some adversity and learn to be resilient. It’s a real challenge and it’s a learning experieince. It’s something I really enjoy. I’m trying to get better at every day. I’m not an old season vet when it comes to this. But I’m doing my best to help these kids learn how to overcome some of these things that happen.

On whether he felt there was adequate pressure on Cal QB Zach Maynard to help the secondary:
We had five sacks. We were credited with three, but they’ll end up giving Anthony Barr another sack and Stan McKay. We hit him numerous times. But he was 25 of 30. After games it’s typical for me to shake the hand of the head coach and then get to our locker room as fast as I can becuase I like to see our players coming off the field, win or lose, and just be standing in there when they come in and give them a hand shake. After that game after I got a chance to shake coach Tedford’s hand I made it a point to find Zach Maynard and just tell him, for me, that was an impressive performance because he got hit. When a guy like Owa hits you going full speed and knocks you down … He’s not a big guy. He’s a skinny-legged guy. He kept getting up, and going and going. I made it a point to tell him how impressed I was. He was a tough sucker.

On whether the calls were right on coverage:
Like I was telling you yesterday on our conference call … I can give you a good example. There was a call down in the red zone — and this is where I think I did a poor job — we called a blitz — and know that every call goes through my headset, and I know every call, and Lou (Spanos) and I talk constantly through the game — I saw where they had recognized the blitz. (Cal) changed the play. My instinct was to call timeout and get us in a better call, and I didn’t do it. When I was talking about failing at helping the players, that’s what I’m talking about right there, a play like that. Those moments haunt you for a long, long time, and part of your job as a coach is to help your players have success on the field by putting them in the right situation, and when you don’t do that and they look bad it’s not a good feeling. So, gotta be better at that.

Aren’t you supposed to learn from your mistakes:
Yeah, that was a long time ago. Hopefully I’ve learned from them, but you know how that is. It’s a constant battle, at least it is for me.

On whether overall the right calls were made:
The calls were good. Here’s what happened … Like I sad last night, I was surprised when I looked at film how hard we played on defense, because when you look at the score you say they must not have played hard. The guys played hard. We busted about four plays that made it bad, plus we were overcoming six turnovers. When you get a run on you like we did at the end of the game conventional wisdom you ask a question like you asked, did they quit? Because that’s what it appears to be to everyone watching it on TV, sitting it the stands, they must have quit, but the reality is we busted the coverage. We didn’t have anybody in two gaps, we rotated the wrong way. So it looks bad, but we didn’t quit.

On Johnathan Franklin having only 15 carries:
He got dinged up. He got a quad and calf contusion so in the second half he was pretty limited in the number of plays we can get, plus his hand was bruised. So he was fighting through it and we were moving him in and out. Jordan James was doing some good things for us. Damien Thigpen didn’t get as involved as he usually does. But a lot of the second half production with Johnathan had to do with being baned up and playing from behind throwing the ball more down field, things like that.

On whether he’s OK:
He should be. He might miss practice tomorrow. It’s the time of the season when you’re a running back when you start feeling hits.

On whether Devin Fuller will remain at wide receiver:
He is. We’re going to use Devin more and more. With Darius’ situation being uncertain right now he’ll get some time at that Y position. Talked to him and talked to his dad about his future. When we get to spring he’ll go back and compete at quarterback. But he’s a really good athelete. He can do some speical things with his hands on the ball. On scout team w’ell put him at receiver sometimes or even at running back, put him at the position where their most explosive player is, and he showed up in practice. Talked to him and his dad about taking the redshirt off and getting him some plays. Our goal is to get him 20 plays a game. And now with Darius (Bell) and with Devin (Lucien), he’s going to factor in there more. We’re excited about what he can do. He’s been assured that he’ll get a chance to go back and compete at quarterback in the spring.

Are you worried you’re out of the national championship picture now?
(Laughs) We’re just worried about Utah now man. This is a huge challenge.

On Utah:
I thought they looked pretty good defensively. They get after it, and when you watch the film, that front is impressive. I had heard about (the nose tackle) but I had never seen him play. I saw him play on TV and when I turned on the film you want to turn it off ater 10 plays. He was a force. So we have to figure out how to deal with him.

On being a toucdown favorite:
I’ve never been one to pay attention to the line.

On when he’ll turn to someone else for longer field goals:
That’s a good question. The problem is I don’t know that we have anyone for longer field goals. Once again, I’m trying to help this kid develop by putting him in a position where he can succeed and not fail. You asked about the field goal in the fourth quarter, if I would question one of my calls for a field goal it would be the 43-yarder because he hasn’t necessarily shown in competition that he’s ready to do that. Right when he missed that I said to myself, ‘You’re a dummy. Just go for it. Get this kid some chip shots as he grows up.’ He’s gonna be a great kicker because he works at it. He’s got the right mindset. Jeff Locke is helping him come along and I’m just trying not to screw him up. I think he’s going to be a really good one. But to answer your question I don’t know that we have a better option.

What about Jeff Locke, who hit two 40-plus field goals last year against Texas?
He just doesn’t seem to be as comfortable doing that. Maybe I’ll talk to him about it though.

On whether he’s thinking about changing the offensive line:
I think it’s important you’re always looking to upgrade your team and create competition and push guys to push the best they can be. So if we can find a better combination then we’ll find it. I think that this is a pretty good combination. Very young, a lot of room for growth, struggles sometimes, but it’s a group I’m excited to watch develop. But we’re going to try to win the game we’re playing. We’re not going to sacrifice a game for experience. And I don’t think we have. We’re playing the young guys because they’re our best options right now. I don’t think it’ll be fair to a guy like Jeff Baca to say, ‘Well we’re going to develop these young guys at the expense of his senior season.’ We’re not doing that. These are our best options right now, and we like them. A lot. And they’re going to be really good players. They’re just young. And with youth sometimes comes mistakes. And if they come at the wrong time they kill you. But we can’t use it as an excuse either. They have to grow up and we have to help them.