The question was whether Bolu Olorunfunmi had watched DeShaun Foster’s college film, but the junior running back responded by dropping even deeper knowledge about the Bruins’ new running backs coach.
“I’ve seen high school film – I know he holds the California state record for rushing,” Olorunfunmi said of Foster. “I don’t want to seem like a fanboy, but I know a lot about him.”
Foster’s return to UCLA, after one season as the running backs coach at Texas Tech, has inspired an increased sense of confidence that the Bruins can rebound from a year in which they ranked second-to-last in the nation in rushing.
“I love his demeanor and he’s an excellent coach,” coach Jim Mora said of Foster. “He’s able to take learning points and describe it in ways that they understand it as running backs.”
Foster spent three seasons as part of the UCLA staff from 2013-15, working as a volunteer assistant and then as the director of player development and high school relations, playing a key role in recruiting many of the backs now on the Bruins’ roster.
That, on top of the fact that Foster excelled as a player at UCLA before spending seven years in the NFL, has helped him quickly earn the trust of the Bruin backs.
“To have a Bruin legend teach us, I feel very fortunate,” Olorunfunmi said. “He’s part of the reason why I’m here. … It’s a great feeling to have him coaching me, with the kind of experience he has in the NFL and his days here.”
It helps, too, that Foster has implemented a flexible coaching style while working with the running backs, asking them what they like to do and finding a way to suit those preferences.
Foster is demanding but not demeaning when coaching his players, Mora said.
“I think that’s a really important quality in a coach,” Mora said. “You can be as demanding as heck, as long as you’re not demeaning in your language.”
Though the Bruins’ rushing attack was considered underwhelming last year, Foster said he was glad to be back at UCLA.
“It’s an opportunity I couldn’t pass on,” Foster said. “Any time you get an opportunity to coach back at your alma mater that you played at, you should be excited.”
Foster said he thought UCLA’s rushing struggles were made more glaring by the fact that the Bruins had run the ball well throughout previous years.
“Maybe if we weren’t running the ball as well as we were in the past, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal,” Foster said. “But being so successful like we have been with Johnathan Franklin, Paul (Perkins), Jordan James (and) the other guys that have been in the program, we’ve just got to get back to what we’re used to doing.”