Rick Neuheisel: UCLA football held back by lack of nutrition facility

Jim Thompson / SportsBronze.com

Jim Thompson / SportsBronze.com

After UCLA’s season-ending loss to Nebraska on Saturday in the Foster Farms Bowl, Jim Mora stressed the Bruins’ need to self-reflect — to analyze everything from its practice structure to strength and conditioning.

“You just tear it apart,” he said.

The fourth-year head coach particularly harped on UCLA’s need to get bigger and stronger, so as to not get “pushed around” by power teams such as the Huskers and Stanford. His predecessor doesn’t think that will come easy.

On SiriusXM College Sports Nation today, former Bruin coach Rick Neuheisel said that the fact that the program still doesn’t have a dedicated nutrition facility will hamper its efforts to maintain size throughout the course of the season.

“UCLA is built now to handle spread offenses,” Neuheisel said. “They are three-down front, they are going to accordion out and play the Oregons and Arizona States and Arizonas. But the size issues are still going to be there for UCLA. And it gets back to the one thing that was widely out of whack for my program there as compared to the program across town, USC, which is the nutrition.”

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Jim Mora: UCLA backup QB Jerry Neuheisel is ‘something special’

UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel (11) is heading into his final game as a Bruin, but could stay with the team in a different capacity. (John Valenzuela/Staff)

UCLA quarterback Jerry Neuheisel (11) is heading into his final game as a Bruin, but could stay with the team in a different capacity. (John Valenzuela/Staff)

The Foster Farms Bowl will be the last game for Jerry Neuheisel, ending a UCLA career that he punctuated with one of the most thrilling comebacks in recent Bruin history.

His next step after Saturday, however, remains uncertain. The backup quarterback has made clear his aspirations to become a coach. Head coach Jim Mora hinted last month that the redshirt junior could become a UCLA graduate assistant, but said this week that the two have only engaged in “preliminary discussions.”

He did take the opportunity to laud Neuheisel’s dedication to the Bruins, pointing out that he is closing his career the same way he began it in 2012: as UCLA’s scout team offensive player of the year.

“Jerry’s awesome,” Mora said. “Jerry is something special. He’s one of my favorite people in the world after only knowing him for four years. How can you not love the guy? Continue reading

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UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone present at practices

UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is still questionable to coach in the Foster Farms Bowl on Saturday, but his health seems to have improved since his hospitalization last week.

Mazzone is currently in San Francisco with the rest of the team and has been present at the Bruins’ practices.

“He’s not feeling great, but you know Noel — he coaches ball,” head coach Jim Mora said Tuesday. “He loves that game environment. I don’t know. I believe he’ll be at the game. I’m not quite sure what his role will be yet.

“The important thing here — that’s a serious medical condition that he has — is we make sure that he’s safe.”

The 58-year-old Mazzone had been hospitalized with a blood clot in his lung, according to Bruin Report Online, but reappeared at UCLA’s practice last Thursday. Mora declined to go into the specifics of UCLA’s contingency plan if Mazzone cannot coach, but expressed confidence that the Bruins will be prepared to face Nebraska even if his assistant has to remain at the hotel.

“I think that’s one of the benefits of having a staff that’s been together, that’s had continuity,” Mora said. “It allows you to be able to adjust quickly when things like this happen.”

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UCLA linebacker Aaron Wallace to play in East-West Shrine Game

UCLA linebacker Aaron Wallace as accepted an invitation to play in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 23, giving him another chance to showcase his development as a senior.

Wallace had been a career reserve until this season, one in which he turned himself into the Bruins’ most productive pass rusher. He enters Saturday’s Foster Farms Bowl against Nebraska with a team-high seven sacks, a total that also ties him for third in the Pac-12 with Utah’s Kylie Fitts and Washington’s Travis Feeney. All but 1.5 of those sacks have come in the last six games.

On Tuesday, head coach Jim Mora described Wallace as arguably the team’s most improved and underrated player.

“He’s very quietly having a very good season,” Mora said. “You look at him and you go “That’s an NFL linebacker right there.” I think he’s got a future playing football. I really do.”

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound linebacker had originally been slated to play in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which will feature receiver Devin Fuller. UCLA center Jake Brendel is also slated to play in the East-West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, Fla., though Mora said the senior lineman is an alternate for the Senior Bowl.

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