Steve Sarkisian: USC has underperformed against UCLA

In two stints as an USC assistant coach, Steve Sarkisian saw the Trojans win six rivalry games with just one loss. As the program’s head coach, he’s 0-for-1 against UCLA — part of the Bruins’ three-win streak.

Asked about the factors that have tilted the rivalry to Westwood, Sarkisian traced the roots to Rick Neuheisel. Despite the his lackluster on-field record, the former UCLA head coach pulled in three top-15 recruiting classes from 2008-10. That gave Jim Mora some of the tools he needed to put the Bruins back atop Los Angeles football.

“They’ve recruited really well,” Sarkisian said on Friday. “I want to make sure I give Rick credit here too, because Rick brought in some really talented players: Brett Hundley, Owa (Odighizuwa), all these guys.

“I know Rick didn’t get to see it through, and Jim came in and continued upon that, recruiting good players. I think they’ve performed really well. The quarterback play with Brett really helped them. I think the first time around, their quarterback play struggled some.” Continue reading

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Pac-12 roundup: Everything on UCLA and the start of media days

Columnist Vinny Bonsignore and I recapped the first day of Pac-12 Media Days in the video above, talking about USC’s spot in the media poll and UCLA’s quarterback battle.

Here’s all our coverage from Thursday:
» UCLA players aren’t happy to be picked third in the Pac-12 South, but it might rekindle their underdog spirit.
» In deciding when to name a starting quarterback, Jim Mora is weighing competition versus synergy.
» UCLA offensive lineman Scott Quessenberry will redshirt the 2015 season after offseason shoulder surgeries.
» The Bruins’ loss to Stanford last year is one that still comes up in the defensive locker room.
» Notes from elsewhere in the Pac-12, including Colorado lineman Stephane Nembot’s journey from Cameroon.
» The Pac-12 is still waiting on DirecTV, even after AT&T’s acquisition of the satellite provider.

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Jim Mora: Asiantii Woulard’s transfer wasn’t a surprise

UCLA head coach Jim Mora speaks during Pac-12 Football Media Days at Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank on Thursday, July 30, 2015. (Photo by Sarah Reingewirtz/Pasadena Star-News)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora speaks during Pac-12 Football Media Days at Warner Bros. Studio in Burbank on Thursday, July 30, 2015. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff)

Asiantii Woulard’s decision to transfer out of UCLA thinned out the Bruins’ quarterback rotation, but it also wasn’t a stunner.

“I had a feeling it was coming,” head coach Jim Mora said Thursday. “Some of the indicators that I got from him, and really kind of the way the spring went. There were some family issues. He wanted to get closer to home. He was struggling a little bit. I hope he does well.”

The former four-star recruit asked out of Westwood back in June, opting to go back to his home state and enroll at the University of South Florida. He is currently seeking a waiver to play immediately as a redshirt sophomore.

Mora said that while UCLA could have used Woulard in the still-undecided quarterback race, his departure also makes it easier for coaches to divide practice reps between Josh Rosen, Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafaul.

Some more notes from the UCLA’s portion of Pac-12 Media Days:

» Mora said there will be no additional punishment for five-star running back Soso Jamabo, who was arrested this summer for fleeing police — but never indicted. The Plano, Texas native enrolled along with the rest of the 2015 signing class, and will be ready when UCLA starts training camp in August.

» Asked about the status of cornerback Justin Combs, Mora said that there have been no changes to UCLA’s roster. The Los Angeles city attorney’s office is still deciding whether or not to press charges against Sean “Diddy” Combs for his alleged kettlebell fight at UCLA last month.

» Fourth-year starting center Jake Brendel only had good things to say about Rosen, who is widely expected by both fans and media to win the starting spot as a true freshman. Continue reading

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UCLA still waiting to name a starting quarterback

UCLA head coach Jim Mora speaks to reporters during NCAA college Pac-12 Football Media Days, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Burbank, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora speaks to reporters during NCAA college Pac-12 Football Media Days, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Burbank, Calif. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

At this point, just about everyone is tired of asking questions about UCLA’s starting quarterback. And rest assured, Jim Mora is tired of fielding those questions.

So when Mora accidentally let slip that Virginia would be blitzing a guy who has “never taken a snap” — well, reporters latched onto that like piranhas. Of the Bruins’ three quarterbacks, only five-star recruit Josh Rosen has never stepped on the field in a college game.

The UCLA head coach insisted afterward that it was simply an honest faux pas — that he’d meant to say a quarterback who has “never started a game.” As always, he insisted that the competition between Rosen, returning backup Jerry Neuheisel, and former walk-on Mike Fafaul (now on scholarship) is still alive.

“What I am after is competition,” Mora said. “Competition brings out the best in everybody. It’s trying to balance wanting that great competition, and wanting to have that synergy that’s so important on offense. That’s where it gets a little tricky. Hopefully we do a good job of that.”

“I would like to decide sooner rather than later,” he added later, “but I can’t force it to happen.” Continue reading

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