As Coach Mora talked about after practice, much of Saturday’s practice involved getting the younger guys some work, and the intention is to do the same next Saturday before getting into bowl preparation in earnest the following Monday. It was very much a camp atmosphere.
Practice started off with the Oklahoma Drill, with most of the young players participating. Randall Goforth had one big hit during the period, on what looked like Melvin Emesibe.
Devin Lucien, who is making his way back from a collarbone injury, was in red and participated in most of practice. Dietrich Riley was also in red, but didn’t do much contact work.
The first play of the scrimmage was a fairly inauspicious one, with Brett Hundley throwing a pick to Tevin McDonald. McDonald actually made a nice play on the ball, jumping in front of the receiver to snag the pass.
Nate Iese played some Y, and caught a number of passes in red zone drills. He is very athletic, and, along with Kenny Orjioke, is enough of an athlete that he’s not necessarily nailed to the outside linebacker spot.
In some fun at the end, Conor McDermott, who won MVP honors in the freshman Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving, lined up across from defensive back Tre Hale and caught a touchdown pass.
Talking with Anthony Barr and Xavier Su’a-Filo afterward, Barr said that, if he had to decide right now, he’d stay at UCLA and Su’a-Filo said that he was definitely staying. Mora said that he and the coaching staff will gather information and also use their experience to help all eligible players make decisions on the NFL. He also said that he doesn’t think anyone will leave early.
Collin Keoshian, a junior college linebacker/running back for Glendale College, was at practice and spoke with some of the coaches.
JM: it was fun for these guys to get back out here again today and get some work. I was pleased with their energy, their enthusiasm. We had a young guys scrimmage there at the end where I thought was really productive. This is a great time to get some those guys, that don't get a lot of playing time and spend a lot of time on the service teams, some really good work. So that's one of the objectives of today's practice. It’ll be one of the objectives of the next practice which is a week from day, next Saturday, and then we’ll really get into Baylor pretty heavy after that. So other than that, this is it.
Q: how much stuff have you guys done so far just looking at Baylor?
JM: We’ve broken down the films for our computer breakdowns but that's about it. We’ve been recruiting. This week, this past week, and this next week are pretty heavy in the recruiting, and so we’ve got to spent some time on the road and then in between that, we’ll get on Baylor.
Q: Little easier taking that 9-4 record and taking it for a spin in the recruiting world?
JM: Yeah, you know you feel like there's an excitement out there about what we’re doing. And I don’t know if it's the record so much as they’ve seen us playing on TV, and these kids seem to like the style that we’re playing with, and the energy, and enthusiasm. I think they recognize that there's good things going on here.
Q: do you have a certain strategy when planning out these practices that they give you?
JM: yeah, I mean we want to take… we went Tuesday and Thursday. You’re allowed 15 days on the field so we went last Tuesday and Thursday [December 4, 6, respectively] early in the morning. We did what we called “skills and drills.” And it was really just getting back out here. We didn’t have pads on. It was really some 7-on-7 and 1-on-1. And then, like I said, this Saturday today [Dec. 8] and next Saturday [Dec. 15] is kind of what I call a generic practice. It’s just UCLA versus UCLA. And then what we’ll do is spend the four days, the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th and those will be tough hard practices for Baylor. We’ll put in our game plan. We’ll do all the things we typically do in a normal game week, and then when we get down to San Diego, it's just kind of polishing and tightening things up for us. Because there’s so many things going on down there. There's a lot of distractions. We wanted to get the game plan in while we’re here. It’s kind of what you do for a Super Bowl when it’s a 2-week Super Bowl window. So that’s what we’re modeling it after.
Q: how much film on Baylor have the guys had at this point?
JM: the players? None. They may have on their own, but we haven’t asked them to look at any yet. I think it’s important that they get away for a few days and just recover a little bit, refresh, and… what's important this week is finals. Finals start Monday. And we want them to finish strong. They’ve been doing well in school, and it’s important that they get the time to focus on their studies. I mean a hundred percent on their studies. So that's what we’re going to do.
Q: do you get the sense that they’re over the disappointment of not making the Rose Bowl… excited about this [upcoming] game?
JM: yeah, I got that sense. I did. They had a lot of energy today. You know what’s about this age group? They just love playing ball. There was a lot of disappointment about not making the Rose Bowl but they like hanging out together and playing ball together, and so we’ll go make the best of it.
Q: what have you seen out of Baylor? What’s your first impression of them and their passing game?
JM: I haven’t seen anything. The last Baylor game I saw was when they beat the University of Washington in the Alamo Bowl and scored about a thousand points. So I don't know that I want to look at them yet, you know? Trying to have a couple good days here before I go look at them. But I met their coach down in San Diego on Wednesday, and he’s a really good guy. And I think it will be a great matchup.
Q: have you started talking to any of your players who might be eligible to leave early for draft stuff?
JM: yeah, we’ve talked to them all, and we’ll continue to talk to them. You know, it’s a process. But what we want to try to do is give them the best advice possible for them. Keeping in mind that we would like them all to stay him, but we have to give them the best advice for them.
Q: the kind of thing that you’re going to use your NFL contacts to get some information for them?
JM: yes, and get them the information that they need. Mel Kiper, he doesn't make a draft pick. He can put out his top 15 and his first two rounds. Guys in NFL, they don’t look at Mel Kiper’s pick when they’re deciding who they want to pick. So what you have to do is you try to help the players divorce themselves from some of the stuff that they read from these draft experts who are not in a draft room. Mel Kiper does a great job, but he doesn't make the pick. And I use Mel because he's the most famous of them all. I’m not picking on Mel. It's just that process. So we just have to help them make the right decision.
Q: Indianapolis took his advice last year.
JM: wasn’t it Mel Kiper and the old GM [Bill Tobin, general manager] at Indy that got into it on the air one time? Mel does a great job but, you know, these kids have to realize that he's not the guy… and Mel and guys like Mel don't make the picks. The GM's and the coaches make the picks. We have to give them real information. And that's what we’ll do.
Q: and you guys never changed a pick after reading what Mel Kiper says?
JM: we used his information. There's a lot of great draft books out there, but no. You make the pick based on what you see, so…
Q: Coach, does it feel different being on this side of the table?
JM: it’s a lot different. It’s a 180-degrees different. And I like the fact that I have the experience that I have in NFL to be able to help these kids as they go forward. And it’s not only the ones that are trying to decide if they’re going to come out in the draft, but it’s the ones that are seniors, that have used up their eligibility. I’m trying to help them process the information of finding an agent. I’ve dealt with every agent there is. We’ll be very involved in helping them prepare for the All-Star games, prepare for the combine, prepare for the workouts. And I think the fact that our staff and Coach [Sal] Alosi have vast experience doing that is really an advantage for these kids.
Q: do you have like a rule or suggestion… like if they’re projected a first rounder, you tell them to go or…
JM: no. The NFL will do a draft evaluation for them. I just will talk to them based upon my experience. Which is 25+ years of doing it, and what pro guys are looking for in a player and what level of development they need to be at. And there’s a lot of factors that go into it. So hopefully they all stay. My gut feeling is that they’ll all stay.
Q: what’s your advice for Anthony Barr, given that he’s so young at his position?
JM: yeah, I haven’t had a chance to speak to Anthony in depth so until I do, I’ll keep that to myself. But I’d like him to come back but once again, we want to do what’s best for him.
Q: for Anthony, have you ever seen anything like that where someone is just off the board and now he’s top 15, top 10?
JM: According to who? And that's what’s legitimate is that you say that and because, you know, that's what you see and that’s the only thing you have privy to so you don’t want a guy making a decision based on that. Like I said, Mel Kiper and all these other guys, their boards are vastly different than the real boards. And the real boards haven’t even been put together yet. They're just starting to gather the information that they need to make the decisions in terms of who they’re going to draft.
But, no. I haven't seen anybody do what he's done. I hope all our guys come back because I think this is a special team that we’re creating, and I want them all to have an opportunity to experience success at this level at the highest level. And I think we’re capable of that as we go forward. You know, in my experience, college football is so fun. NFL football is fun, but it’s a business. And when these guys step out of this arena and go to the next level, it changes dramatically in terms of their approach to the game. And, you know, when a lot of money is staring you in the face, it's hard to sometimes comprehend that, but it is true. And fortunately, guys like myself and coach [Jeff] Ulbrich and Adrian [Klemm] and the rest of us that have been in the NFL, can explain that to them and still let them know that we have their best interest in mind. We’re not trying to convince them to go one way or the other. We’re just going to present the truth to them. So it’s a unique staff in that way. There's no staff in the NCAA that can say that.
Q: by what time do the underclassmen have to make up their mind to go pro or…
JM: I don’t know. Do you guys know? I think I read like the 17th or something.
Q: It’s after the bowls.
JM: But obviously we want them all to come back. Because like I said, I think we’re building something really special, and I want them to be a part of it. Plus, the college experience. It’s different now. When you’re walking around campus as opposed to going into a building… It’s really different.
Q: the media is nicer too.
JM: no comment.
Alright? Next Saturday, same time. It’ll be much like it was today. So it’ll be kind of fun.