After UCLA’s third day of training camp, offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talks about Brett Hundley, the quarterbacks’ new yellow practice jerseys, the running back competition, and more.
UCLA’s offensive line continues to get dinged up.
Graduate transfer Malcolm Bunche left Wednesday’s morning practice early with an undisclosed injury, giving most of the first-team reps at right tackle to redshirt freshman Kenny Lacy. Starting right guard Alex Redmond has seen increasingly fewer contact reps with his left hand still wrapped in a cast; early enrollee NaJee Toran looks like the clear No. 2 behind him.
Guard John Lopez was also absent from practice, forcing even more juggling through the unit.
“It’s hard, and they’re going to make mistakes,” offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said. “But in the long run, it makes them understand how all five fit together.”
– Mazzone talked a bit about the development of redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard, who will most likely claim the backup quarterback spot over Jerry Neuheisel by the start of the season. Neuheisel actually looks much more composed and mistake-free than he did even nine months ago, but Woulard’s upside is so much higher. Continue reading
– Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talked more about quarterback Brett Hundley’s development over the past few months. Mazzone said Hundley is familiar enough with the playbook that he sometimes looks away from the sideline after just one hand signal.
– UCLA continues to run a lot of nickel defense, with safety Tahaan Goodman usually coming in as the fifth defensive back. The former four-star recruit played mostly special teams as a true freshman last season, and ended up with 12 tackles and two pass breakups.
When he gets on the field, rising senior Anthony Jefferson slides down to cornerback. Continue reading
Today’s notebook focuses again on UCLA’s trio of freshman linemen, whom offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone gave a B-/C+ grade.
– As he’s done all weeek, UCLA head coach Jim Mora continued lauding the virtues of El Paso and the Sun Bowl.
“What I’ve really enjoyed about the Sun Bowl is the events,” he said. “I’ll tell you why: a lot of bowl games — not that I’ve been to a lot — is you go to events and you kind of separate. They’ve done a great job at the Sun Bowl of creating events where you come together. Our team has gotten to spend a whole lot of time together.” Continue reading
First, the stories that appear in today’s edition of the Los Angeles Daily News:
– UCLA breaks its four-game losing streak in Tucson with a superlative two-way effort from freshman Myles Jack.
– Columnist Vinny Bonsignore, with a look at quarterback Brett Hundley’s performance.
More notes and quotes from the wild 31-26 win at Arizona Stadium, which kept the Bruins in control of their own postseason destiny:
– A lot has been and will be written about Jack, so for now, let’s stick with a roundup of comments from coaches and teammates.
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez had high praise too: “The guy is a great athlete, a great player. He’ll be a first-round pick as a linebacker. We tried to recruit him as a running back.” Continue reading
UCLA has used as many as five true freshmen on offense at once this season, which hasn’t made it easy on offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone’s pysche.
“The only thing more stressful to me than during a game, watching all my 18 year olds running around, is when I sent my beautiful 18-year-old daughter to college by herself,” he said. “That’s the only thing that was more stressful.”
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talked about running back Damien Thigpen’s potential to stretch out opposing defenses — with the ability to turn a 4-yard run into 20 yards.
Also used as a slot receiver and returner while Johnathan Franklin became UCLA’s all-time leading rusher, Thigpen has a chance now to become more of a featured back.
“(Last year), we sneaked Thiggy around the field to get the ball to him,” Mazzone said. “Now, he’s a guy who can step in and be more of a focal point in the running game.
“Instead of the side dish, he can maybe be the true entree.”
Despite letting Colorado stick around for the better part of the first half, UCLA finally started taking some shots downfield for its third conference win.
Our coverage from Saturday night’s 45-23 decision, running in the Sunday edition of the Los Angeles Daily News and other LANG papers:
– My story on Brett Hundley’s good-not-great showing against Colorado.
– Vinny Bonsignore called the Colorado game a trap for UCLA, one it wiggled out of following hyped-up visits to Stanford and Oregon.
– Jill Painter pointed out UCLA’s seven first-half penalties, leading Jim Mora to indirectly call her a “Debbie Downer.”
– A notebook on UCLA’s success in using true freshmen, including Cameron Judge’s big forced fumble.
With two three-and-outs to start the game, UCLA offensive coordinator did little to quiet his critics. On its first six plays, the Bruins ran five times, with just one rush of over two yards.
“After the first two series, I was looking at my Uber app on my phone to see if they could get an SUV to come pick me up,” he said.
Finally, he said, he gave up on trying to establish the run game and let Brett Hundley air it out. He threw a 76-yard touchdown to Devin Fuller.