Gears turn, closing the glass garage doors on the gleaming Wasserman Football Center. UCLA football players, dressed in their redesigned blue-and-gold uniforms, loiter on the brand new turf field before filing onto risers for the annual team picture.
With a $65 million football-specific facility on campus and uniforms from a record-breaking $280 million apparel deal, this next era of UCLA football looks different on the surface. As they prepare to christen the Wasserman Center with training camp Wednesday, the Bruins want to make the results different too.
“The new buildings and jerseys don’t mean anything if we don’t go out there and win games,” wide receiver Darren Andrews said.
Winning is not something UCLA did often last year. The Bruins endured their first losing season under head coach Jim Mora, going 4-8 for their worst finish since 2010.
This came after they were a preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 South. Their starting quarterback started the year on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He ended it on the sideline with a surgically repaired shoulder.
When the Bruins open the 2017 season Sept. 3 against Texas A&M at the Rose Bowl, 11 months will have passed since quarterback Josh Rosen played in a competitive game. The junior is ready, said safety Jaleel Wadood, who is also a former high school teammate of Rosen’s.
“More ready than I think he’s ever been,” Wadood continued.
Rosen, who participated fully in UCLA’s spring practices in April, played a large hand in preparing his teammates for a bounce-back season. He was one of the driving forces behind the team’s 25 player-run practices this summer.
The sessions were roughly an hour each. Upperclassmen ran the show, filling the roles of both player and coach, for their respective position groups. Andrews led the receivers. Kenny Young kept a watchful eye on the linebackers. Wadood and Adarius Pickett strengthened the secondary.
Together, they orchestrated a full practice with individual drills, one-on-ones, team periods and seven-on-seven.
The player-run practices brought the team together, strengthening the bonds of brotherhood necessary to traverse a treacherous Pac-12 schedule. The offense, learning its third system in three seasons, dug into new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s four-inch-thick playbook.
Rosen said there’s a “different energy in the locker room,” from the coaching staff, which includes four new faces, to the players.
“We’re supremely confident…