Defense under Tom Bradley focuses on stopping run

Defensive lineman Eli Ankou, left, and linebacker Jayon Brown work on their selfie game after practice on Tuesday. The two are two leaders on the UCLA defense this season. Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze/SCNG

Defensive lineman Eli Ankou, left, and linebacker Jayon Brown work on their selfie game after practice on Tuesday. The two are two leaders on the UCLA defense this season. Photo by Brad Graverson/The Daily Breeze/SCNG

Tom Bradley returns for his second year as UCLA defensive coordinator and a main concern for him and head coach Jim Mora will be solidifying the rushing defense.

The defense lined up mostly in a 4-3 formation during Tuesday’s practice and the shift could go a long way toward solving UCLA’s inconsistent performances against the run last year. However, Mora, linebacker Jayon Brown and defensive tackle Eli Ankou maintained that the changes are minor. Ankou called it “window dressing.”

“You go point A to point B,” he said. “You just play the game. I wouldn’t say it’s much different.” Continue reading

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Spring practice day 1: Offense sloppy in first scrimmages

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talks to the media after the first day of spring practice. (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

UCLA head coach Jim Mora talks to the media after the first day of spring practice. (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

One day down, 14 more to go. Here are a few observations and notes to pass along from the first day of spring practice.

Read the notebook from the first day of camp, focusing on Jim Mora’s aversion to the “pro-style” label.

Watch/listen to post practice interviews here

— A prominent storyline of the spring will be how the offense progresses under new offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. Whether the scheme is that much different than what Noel Mazzone had can be debated, but Jim Mora is adamant that it’s not as different as everyone’s making it out to be. The changes include a different snap count and an increased amount of time you’ll see Josh Rosen under center. The snap count changes made for an ugly first period of scrimmaging as there were likely more false starts than completed passes.

— Indeed there will be tight ends and fullbacks in this offense. At least one tight end was in almost every set. Nate Iese seems to be a top option right now, as the former fullback lined up with the No. 1 offense during the scrimmage periods. Giovanni Gentosi also lined up at tight end. Cameron Griffin and Ainuu Taua took snaps at full back.

— Mora said there were 20 snaps of a 3-4 defensive front during practice and downplayed the hubbub about making a big change to a 4-3 defense. He said the team played about 50 percent of its snaps with four down linemen last year, so it’s not a look the Bruins are unfamiliar with, he stressed. However, linebacker Jayon Brown said after practice that the team is focusing on the 4-3 front more in an effort to be better against the run.

— Freshman wide receiver Theo Howard had likely the catch of the day, making a great adjustment in the air to catch a back-shoulder pass over a defender.

— Eight other freshmen are on the spring camp roster: Linebackers Breland Brandt, Mique Juarez and Lokeni Toailoa, receivers Demetric Felton and Theo Howard, quarterback Matt Lynch, kicker JJ Molson, defensive lineman Nick Terry, defensive back Leni Toailoa.

Juarez worked into the second string linebacking unit, playing as an outside linebacker. He dropped into coverage and came off the edge. Mora said the North Torrance High alumnus did not look out of place, which is a good thing for an 18-year-old who just started college within the last 36 hours.

Molson connected on all four of his field goals.

— The first string offensive line looked like this (from left to right): Conor McDermott, Kenny Lacy, Scott Quessenberry, Poasi Moala, Kolton Miller

— DB Fabian Moreu, DB John Johnson, DL Eddie Vanderdoes, WR Mossi Johnson and OL Tevita Halalilo were all limited in practice as they’re working back from injuries. They worked out individually on the side of the field.

Tell me what you’re most curious about in practice and I’ll try to keep my best eye on it for the coming days.

Up next: Day 2 of practice, Thursday, 7 a.m., intramural field

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VIDEO: Jim Mora, Josh Rosen talk first day of spring practice

UCLA opened spring practice today. As you would expect on the first day, it was sloppy at times, especially during the 11-on-11 scrimmage periods, but there are 14 more practices to iron out those mistakes. Here are some post-practice comments from head coach Jim Mora, quarterback Josh Rosen, linebacker Jayon Brown, offensive lineman Conor McDermott and defensive lineman Eli Ankou.

Head coach Jim Mora

QB Josh Rosen


DL Eli Ankou


LB Jayon Brown


OL Conor McDermott

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UCLA Pro Day: Linebacker Myles Jack is ‘capable of greatness’

Here’s a roundup from today’s UCLA Pro Day, starting with the two stories set to run in tomorrow’s LANG newspapers …

» Myles Jack wasn’t at 100 percent on Tuesday, but Jim Mora said the linebacker is “capable of greatness.”
» Mora said he could envision 11 Bruins being drafted, which would nearly double UCLA’s record in the seven-round draft era.

And video interviews from …

LB/RB/DB Myles Jack:

Defensive tackle Kenny Clark:

Continue reading

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Rick Neuheisel lashes out at Jim Mora’s criticism of his UCLA teams

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn't happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams "soft." (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

Former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel wasn’t happy with Jim Mora calling his old Bruin teams “soft.” (Keith Birmingham/Staff)

On Tuesday, Jim Mora decided to explain the genesis of how he turned around the UCLA football program.

Appearing on The Herd with Colin Cowherd on FOX Sports 1, the Bruins’ current head coach described his first interview with athletic director Dan Guerrero back in December 2011.

“I’m thinking, ‘What do I say here?'” Mora said. “Do I tell him the truth or something like it’s a great school and we can be great? I said, ‘I think you’re soft. I think the football team is soft.’ Dan said, ‘That’s what I think, and we need to toughen it up.'”

This is not an entirely new story. Both Mora, who just completed his fourth season with the Bruins, and several players have told some version of it in the past — usually by describing the program’s culture in broader strokes rather than recalling a specific exchange. This iteration, however, was enough to set off former UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel.

On Wednesday, the 55-year-old lashed out at Mora during his own radio show on SiriusXM.

“All he did was go and paint the walls black and wear black on the sideline, and thinks that that’s tough,” Neuheisel said. “I’ve been in the locker room. There’s all sorts of stuff about Sun Tzu, and The Art of War, and pain and all that kind of stuff. He takes the team to Navy SEAL training. Congratulations. I’m glad you had the money to do it. But don’t talk about toughness with my football team. I’ll go to war with anyone.” Continue reading

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