UCLA went without pads on Thursday due to some depth concerns, Brett Hundley struggled with many of…
VIDEO: Mora on Thursday
JM: we're down a whole lot of guys. We had more guys today over there with Coach [Sal Alosi - Strength & Conditioning Coordinator], riding a bike than we did out on the field. So we took the pads off. That wasn't the initial plan, but we wanted to get work done. And we did some more situational work. We did two minute. We did move the ball at the end which we got coming out. We got short yardage. We got third and long. We got goal line. We got red zone. So kind of a different type of practice. Still productive, but now I want to come out here Saturday and have a great practice. I felt like, in order for us to do that with the limited numbers we have, we just needed to shorten it a little bit. We needed to take the pads off so that's what we did. The thing that we have to get better at, and it's what I told the players, is that the mindset that when the pads come off, the intensity can't drop. And the concentration level can't drop. And I think that's just part of becoming a more mature football team and more mature football players. It's one thing that, you know, when you get to the next level you never, or hardly ever, practice in pads, and I'm used to the mentality that we can take the pads off and still go, go, go. These kids haven't learned how to do that yet so part of the process is just teaching them how to do that. So we're working through that, but we got good work in today. It was… it's tough when you're down offensive linemen, and you're down defensive linemen, and you're down defensive backs, but I commend them for working hard.
Q: did you get… you were talking about you wanted to see a little better start to the day. Did you get that? That you were…
JM: yeah, well we started differently because we started with the two-minute. Yeah, it was good. The thing about a two-minute drive, or really any competitive situation, you're looking for a better start. If one side does well, sometimes people think that that means the other side didn't do well. I just want to see competition, you know. I saw competition right out of the gate, but it has to get better and it will get better, and it can get better, and I think they understand it needs to get better. And we need to be a better football team practicing without full gear on, you know. So you can out there and get your work in without beating the dog out of each other.
Q: do you think the lower intensity has something to do with, you know, not tackling? Kind of taking something off of that?
JM: yeah, probably. But I think part of growing up, as a football team, is being able to come out here and still switch it on when you don't have the pads on, you know. I think that there's something to that. I think that good football teams need to be able to come out here without the pads on and switch it on and go aggressively but know when to pull up. I also think that's part of maturing, you know. These guys are still… you know, they're still growing up and so we just have to continue to teach them, and they'll get it and they are getting it.
Q: did you get feedback on [Brandon] Tuliaupupu?
JM: he tore his ACL unfortunately. So they're going to let the swelling go down a little bit, and then he's going to have reconstructive surgery. It's really unfortunate, and… boy, he was doing a really good job for us too. You know, the competition between him and [Seali'i] Epenesa was outstanding. I think it probably makes it all the more important that Ellis [McCarthy] come back strong and that we can put him in at nose. Kenny Clark [Kenneth Clark]is going to come in here, and he's going to figure in. He's a good player. He's going to have to play for us as a freshman. But it's just unfortunate and that's really our first major injury of the spring. You know, we've had sprains and pulls. This is the first major one and hopefully it's the last. You know, you hate to see it. It was a noncontact injury. He just turned to run and his knee gave out. So I really feel bad for him because he's worked his butt off.
Q: will you be moving anybody else at nose or will it just be kind of Clark?
JM: right now, we got Seali'i Epenesa. Seali'i Epenesa. And we'll have Ellis, and we'll have Kenny. We worked Eli [Ankou] in there a little bit today. You know, he's kind of got that body type. He's big and he's thick and he's strong and he can anchor. But right now, that's it. Three or four guys once we get Kenny in.
Q: Eldridge [Massington] said on Twitter last night that he had a setback of some sort. Is that…
JM: I think that it's… He is so anxious to play, and he… I think that he did some things on his own where he pushed himself a little too hard, you know. And he just wants to play. He wants to be great. What he has to do is he has to trust Coach Alosi and trust our athletic trainers to bring him along at the right pace. They've got experience with this stuff. This is his first torn ACL. So I talked Coach Alosi a lot about it before practice or during practice, and he thinks that, you know, he had a little bit of a setback just because he pushed it, but nothing serious. And we just need to get him running correctly and being able to have strength in his knee where he can cut. I'm not worried about it. I'd love to have him out here, but I'm not worried about it. He's still getting all the meeting time. He's still getting the mental reps so it'll put him ahead once we get to fall.
Q: how about Isaiah Bowens? He's the inside linebacker coming off that ACL last year. His progression at this point?
JM: it's been tough. But he's worked through it. He doesn't have full extension yet, but he's out there working. We keep him out of the team stuff for the most part. But each day gets a little bit better. His movement gets better. You see his quickness come back. The thing you like about Isaiah is his toughness. He's a tough sucker, man. I mean, he's got a nasty streak when he's on the football field. And so we need him to come back, and I think we're doing the right thing the way we're progressing him back. And if he can be full speed at camp and having gotten all the individual and the stuff… the noncontact stuff through spring, I think that'll be really good for us.
Q: how much does protecting Brett [Hundley] better this year has to do with Brett's decision-making compared to the offensive line's play? Is it kind of even?
JM: both. Yeah, I think it's equal. I think that he has to learn when to run or when to get rid of it. And it seems to me, I mean, you guys have watched every practice. Like he's a lot more decisive in the pocket. It appears to me that way. When I watch the film, I see a much more decisive player, but we've got to do better job of protecting than we did last year and we should. You know, we're going to be… you know, besides Jeff Baca, we've got everybody returning. Now, some of those freshmen maybe figure in and maybe they don't. So we should be better that way. I still think our running backs need to step up and become better pass protectors, you know. Johnathan Franklin was a great, great pass protector. And that's a part of your job. I expect us to be better because Brett's going to be a better decision-maker. And we're just going to function better as an offensive line and running backs.
Q: so it's as much him protecting himself as the [audio difficulties]
JM: yeah, but that's the way it is for every quarterback. Knowing when to give up on a play.
Q: how have you seen him handle days like today where he wasn't really throwing the ball as well as he could? How has he handled it differently than a year ago?
JM: he hasn't changed a whole lot in that… the one thing that always impressed me about Brett and one of the reasons that we felt like he should be the starter last year, is it he doesn't get rattled, you know. He'll have a bad series, or he'll make it a bad mistake. You know, throwing an interception in the two-minute or take a sack. And I'm reverting back to last spring, and he learns from it, and he comes back. So I haven't seen him ever really get down on himself. I expect him to, you know, to come back and… he's one of those guys that if he has a bad play, it's not like, "hey, take me out and let me gather myself." It's like, "man, put me back in. I want to go again. I want to go again." I love that about him.
Q: we saw him refuse to come out there.
JM: did he? I didn't notice that.
Q: is that what you kind of expect out of him though?
JM: yeah, I love that about him, you know. As long as, you know, he's still doing what we ask him to do. But you love to see that fight in him. He's a stud, man. He's going to be a great player for us.
Q: yeah, we saw that in the spring. That's why we named him the #1 quarterback starter.
JM: you guys…. Before I decided? Yeah.
Q: you see the transition a lot better in his progressions as well. His decision-making and making that…
JM: looks like it, huh? There were times last year he'd get into the pocket in games and he'd drop back and it wasn't there and he looked like… well, he'd look down at his feet or he'd look at the rush and now his eyes are up more and he's "boom, boom, boom"and he's working… I totally agree with you and that's what should happen. And it should just keep getting better and better. Did you like that? "Boom, boom, boom?"
Q: "Boom, boom, boom." How do you spell that?
JM: alright, thanks a lot.
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