UCLA put the pads back on for Saturday's practice, and the team responded with better energy and…
VIDEO: Mora on Saturday
JM: it was a great practice today though. It was, as you saw, we hit every situation that we could think of. Now, there's always going to be things that come up in games that you haven't thought of, but we did, you know, mayday field goal, backed up, we did overtime, we did coming out, we did red zone, short yardage, goal line, we did Hail Mary's. We did "attack," you know, when you're getting on the ball and attacking. You know, we tried to hit the whole gamut of things that can happen through a season or that did happen to us last season so I thought it was good. And what I really appreciated from the guys is that, we are so short on the offensive line, and we are so shorthanded on the defensive line and the secondary, and they just keep pushing, you know. And that's when make progress. When you push through the barriers, and I thought they pushed through another barrier today so I'm excited about that. We've got four practices left, and we've got a ton of work we got to get done. It's not going to be easy. I told them it's just going to keep get harder.
And then we have the spring… okay, officially, we're not going to call it the "spring game" anymore. We're going to call it the "spring spectacular," okay? And here's why. With our dwindling numbers, what we're going to do… rather than have like a 100-play game, we're going to come out and we're going to do our warm-up and we're going to come out of the tunnel, we're going to have a little pride alley for the fans that are there. We're going to do some one-on-one. Some pass rush. Some red zone seven-on-seven. And then we'll have two halves of scrimmage of move the ball. So we'll probably… instead of having a hundred plays, we'll probably have 60 plays of "live".
So it'll be a little shorter scrimmage portion than last year, but much more fan-interactive. The other thing that's going to be really cool is at halftime, we're going to have some contests. Some fan-interactive contests. So we're going to bring two males and two females for each of these events. 24 people total. And they're going to do… run a 40 for prizes. Prizes could be tickets to games, autographed stuff… Who knows, maybe traveling on a team plane to… we won't say Nebraska. We'll go somewhere else. Utah or something. We're going to do "catch a punt." We're going to do "catch a kickoff." We're going to do "catch a long bomb from Brett." We're going to do a field-goal kicking contest. And we're going to do a quarterback challenge where it's an accuracy deal. So our cheerleaders are going to perform. The cheer squad. The band's going to be there. And then, I think the greatest part, the two greatest parts, is afterwards, we invite all the fans on the field for autographs, and then they're going to shoot fireworks off from inside the Rose Bowl so like right above us. It's going to be really cool. So how'd I do? I sound like Bob Barker there, huh? "The Price is Right." So anyway…
Q: you said on Twitter, you want to try to get 50,000 fans. Is that the goal you're kind of working on?
JM: no, the goal just became 51,001 when I saw that Kentucky had 51,000. I heard Texas A&M had 45,000.
Q: Kentucky football. Really?
JM: I read that Kentucky had 51,000 at their spring game. Texas A&M, 45. Now, I heard Nebraska had 60 or 61. But if we can get 50, that'd be awesome. You know what? I'm going to go with some passive aggressiveness. "We can't do it. We can't do it."
Q: how does that figure into inflation? Because there's actually stuff to do here in Southern California.
JM: there is. I know. But what could be more fun than coming out to the Rose Bowl, on a Saturday night, Saturday afternoon, hanging out with the Bruins, getting to come down, shake hands, meet people. You have a chance to win prizes. Show your athletic prowess and watch fireworks. I mean, to me, it doesn't get any better.
Q: it's the "spring spectacular."
JM: it is the spring spectacular.
Q: do you count 25 as 50 multiplied by two because there's no beach in Nebraska?
JM: no. We've got distractions out here. But you know, our fan support's been amazing since I've been here. I don't know what it was like. I don't care. It doesn't matter. All I know is it's been fantastic since we've been here and it's exciting so… any football questions?
Q: yeah, Simon Goines?
JM: he's okay. He's okay. He'll be alright.
Q: just heat?
JM: no. His back cramped up a little bit and he's okay. He needs to push through those things. And he will. So, it's just part of growing up, you know. You got to recognize, as all coaches say, "pain and injury." We're never going to put a kid out here that's injured, but they've got to be able to fight through some pain and I think with Simon, it was just a little bit more pain-related than anything.
Q: how important is him staying healthy, especially, not even just given the numbers but the fact, you know, he might be your most experienced tackler?
JM: well, he and Torian [White] certainly are. Torian's had a fantastic spring, by the way. You know, I think it's important for Simon to stay healthy because there's some dudes that are coming in that are going to push to get on that field so if he's not healthy, he might not be on that field. I'd like him to be on that field because I think his experience is critical, but if he can't be on the field and someone passes him up then that's the way it goes.
Q: Keenan [Graham] [audio difficulties]
JM: Keenan? Yeah, I'm glad to have him back out here, you know. And playing at defensive end. That's more his natural… you guys know that. You saw him more than I did. That's more his natural spot. We tried to turn him into a linebacker last year. Had him play some fullback. Some things like that. But he's probably more natural as a defensive end. He's got strong hands. He's explosive so…
Q: what have you seen out of Taylor [Lagace] in that minibacker spot?
JM: I like it. I think that… he does a good job during… you know, the plan was to have Stan McKay in there doing it as well, but with the injuries in the secondary, you know, Stan's had to move back to safety. But Taylor, he's picking it up. You know, he likes contact. He understands zone play. He can cover backs man-to-man. You can move him out and he can, you know, bump and knock a receiver around a little bit. He's doing a great job. He's making strong… a lot of progress. Kenny Orjioke's making a lot of progress. I see Jeremy Castro making progress. I see a lot of our young guys starting to kind of break through to the next level.
Q: how important is that minibacker spot for the defense, you know, just given how fast everyone is in the PAC-12?
JM: it's critical. You know, with all the spread teams you play. They spread you out, but they still run the football. And so, you have to have a guy in there that can be stout against the run, but move in space and it's not an easy thing to find or an easy thing to ask a guy to do it, but I think Taylor has those qualities.
Q: is it getting even more important? I mean, is there going to be a point where every team has to have one?
JM: probably. Yeah, probably. Probably. And then you'll start to see it happen more and more at the NFL level as well as this game, you know, starts to progress its way to the next level with regards to the things we do schematically. The things you have to defend offensively.
Q: speaking about "stout," Eli Ankou is looking pretty good at that nose guard position there.
JM: yeah, I didn't get... you know, you saw him more than I did. I'm usually watching the big picture. But I'll go watch the film, but I, you know, Angus [McClure - Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator] said, "Hey, Eli Ankou looked pretty good in there." He's built like a nose guard. So are you. I had to do.
Q: no, I'm just built to be nosy.
Q: well, he's really strong too.
JM: well, yeah, he put 100 pounds, you know, around his waist and did five pull-ups. So… no, he is strong. He's got brute strength. He's got like old man strength. Just "strong." Just can pick up trees and stuff. So…
Q: is he the strongest guy on the team?
JM: no. No. There's a lot of guys that are strong out here. You know, you'd have to ask Coach [Sal Alosi - Strength & Conditioning Coordinator] who's the strongest one is, and I challenge you to try to have him answer. Alright? Thanks, man. Appreciate everyone coming out.
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