In the aftermath of his first losing season at UCLA, Coach Jim Mora and his staff evaluated every detail of their program.
Everything was up for scrutiny, he said, from the way the team dresses to the food it eats. Heading into his sixth season in Westwood, Mora’s deep-dive into the state of his program left him feeling encouraged for the future.
“Everybody’s really taken ownership for where we went and where we want to get,” he said. “The culture’s different. … Our players have completely embraced it and so that gives you a sense of enthusiasm.”
Here are five things the Bruins must accomplish during training camp to keep the enthusiasm going:
GET IN LINE
Josh Rosen needs protecting, the running backs need blocking and UCLA needs its offensive line.
Developing consistency and depth on the offensive line are paramount in UCLA’s effort to jump-start its struggling offense. Mora called the unit his biggest concern after UCLA rushed for 84.2 yards per game in 2016.
Sunny Odogwu eased Mora’s concerns slightly as the 6-foot-8 grad transfer from Miami (Fla.) gives the Bruins an experienced right tackle. With both tackle positions and center solidified, offensive line coach Hank Fraley must sort through a three-man competition for the guard spots. Najee Toran, Andre James and Kenny Lacy all have starting experience and will battle for two starting roles.
HOLD ON TO THE BALL
The dessert menu at Pac-12 Media Days included customized donut flavors for all 12 teams. UCLA’s, in a twist of painful poetry, was topped with Butterfingers candies. An intentional choice or not, the little candy crumbles stirred memories of the many dropped passes that plagued UCLA receivers last year.
New wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty renewed focus on technique and concentration during spring camp, hoping to cure UCLA’s case of the drops. Then the Bruins showed some stage fright with seven drops during the team’s Spring Game. Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said he wasn’t concerned about the drops because they came from seven players, but the Bruins don’t want drops to become a team-wide epidemic again.
PREPARE FOR BACKUP
After 2016, UCLA is intimately familiar with the need for a good backup quarterback. If disaster strikes again at quarterback, the Bruins will likely turn to redshirt freshman Devon Modster.
The Tesoro High graduate is starting to come out of his shell, Mora said last week. He improved as a passer during spring practice, making the…