UCLA football opened up the new football year in a familiar place, returning to the campus of Cal State University, San Bernardino for the first practice of its fall training camp.
The Bruins have done the same each of the last two years under coach Jim Mora, who praised the conditions Monday, but added that he would’ve liked it to have been warmer. The high was 93 degrees Fahrenheit.
“It’s great to be back here because we can just focus on football. We can eliminate as many distractions as possible, we can get to know each other better so we can push each other through a little bit of discomfort,” Mora said. “So it’s not just necessarily about the weather but it’s about eliminating distractions, coming together for a couple weeks and really getting to know each other.”
Redshirt junior quarterback Brett Hundley, also in his third visit to San Bernardino, said that he likes the traditional change of scenery and the opportunity for the group to come together as a team.
“It just starts our foundation for the team and sort of gets us rolling in the right direction,” Hundley said. “Being able to come out here and get away from social media, get away from girlfriends … and just enjoy each other’s company, it just helps the team bond.”
While expectations for No. 7 UCLA are through the roof entering the season, Hundley added that he doesn’t think outside opinions affect how the team prepares in San Bernardino.
“We understand that expectations are just outside things,” Hundley said. “Just like two years ago when there wasn’t this many expectations we still had the same mindset to be able to work and earn our respect.”
Though the Bruins are looking to keep things largely the same as years past in San Bernadino, things could not be more different from 365 days ago for sophomore linebacker Myles Jack.
“Last year I was here fighting for a spot, now I’m kinda looked at like a leader,” Jack said. “Guys are asking me what to do here what to do here in different plays and different schemes. So that was really a change from last year when I was asking and looking around and wide-eyed and everything.”
UCLA is hoping that Jack’s increased comfortability in San Bernardino will translate to increased productivity in the Rose Bowl and elsewhere, come game day. Mora said that the team plans to use Jack in a variety of ways, particularly in pass rush.
“I feel like things have slowed down, I kinda understand the angles and what I need to do in certain situations more,” Jack said. “I can definitely feel, just with different schemes, I’m going to get my chance to get after the quarterback so I’m definitely excited for that.”
Not the right fit
Mora announced Monday that defensive end Kylie Fitts decided to transfer from UCLA. The sophomore appeared in six games for the Bruins last season, seeing time as a reserve lineman and on special teams.
The once-USC commit would’ve likely seen limited playing time again this season as sophomore Eddie Vanderdoes and redshirt senior Owamagbe Odighizuwa are currently penciled in to start at the two defensive end positions.
Mora said that while losing Fitts affects the team’s depth along the defensive front, he believes redshirt sophomore Eli Ankou and freshmen Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, the latter whom Mora called “explosive,” can be productive at the position.
News and notes
Freshmen wide receiver Jordan Lasley, outside linebacker Dwight Williams and quarterback Aaron Sharp will miss the entirety of fall camp and the Bruins opening game at Virginia after they “did not live up to the standards we are looking for through the summer months,” according to Mora.
He added that the trio is not suspended from the team, and will rejoin the squad Aug. 31.
Wide receiver Darren Andrews is out for the year and will redshirt. The sophomore had microfracture surgery on his knee in the offseason.
Junior tackle Simon Goines has been cleared to play, but the plan is to work him in slow. Mora said that Goines, who has been the starting tackle each of the last two years, will work through some individual drills before getting into teamwork. He did not go through drills Monday, but did dress.
Freshman wide receiver Mossi Johnson injured his left shoulder after landing on it following a collision in seven-on-seven passing drills. Johnson, who is battling for time as the team’s slot receiver after a strong Spring camp, underwent X-rays following practice.
Sophomores Jalen Ortiz and Charles Dawson have switched positions and numbers. Ortiz lined up at cornerback wearing No. 8, while Dawson worked at slot receiver, wearing No. 18.
Taylor Lagace has moved from linebacker to fullback. Mora said that the redshirt sophomore “looked really good there” and that the coaching staff is trying to find a way to get him on the field.
The team is also working redshirt freshman defensive back Tyler Foreman at linebacker in the team’s nickel package.