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Football coach Jim Mora defends controversial motivational tactics

Coach Jim Mora defended the way in which he motivates players on Thursday, saying that it’s his job to toughen them up. His open criticism of incoming freshman quarterback Josh Rosen made waves on social media earlier in the week. (Owen Emerson/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By camayak

Aug. 20, 2015 5:54 p.m.

SAN BERNARDINO — Going to a college football practice can be jarring for someone who’s never been there before.

There are verbal attacks and taunts hurled across the field – a lot of them. Sometimes, even the coaches will chip in on the taunting.

That’s exactly what UCLA coach Jim Mora did in Wednesday morning’s open, padded practice. But instead of directing his taunts toward a group of players, he directed them at one.

That player was incoming freshman quarterback Josh Rosen, UCLA’s most prized recruit in years. Mora’s words to Rosen caused a little bit of a stir in the social media world afterward, and they made headlines nationally.

On Thursday afternoon, Mora commented publicly on his verbal treatment of Rosen at Wednesday morning’s practice.

“It blows me away that people would criticize me. Obviously, they’ve never been to a practice,” Mora said. “It’s just coaching. I think it’s ridiculous, quite frankly, that anyone makes anything of it.”

Mora said his remarks toward Rosen had an ulterior, positive motive – to prepare Rosen for the pressure he will face on game day.

“Out here (in practice) it’s about me toughening them physically, mentally and emotionally to be in front of that Rose Bowl (crowd) of 85,000 fans,” Mora said. “On game day, what you see me do is support those guys and be there for them.”

The opening game against Virginia is still over two weeks away for the Bruins, but, in Thursday’s practice, Mora was still in their ears.

The offense, in particular, was the subject of Mora’s rancor Thursday.

During a passing drill at the beginning of practice, Mora felt that his wide receivers were just going through the motions on their routes. He let them hear about it, raising his voice and telling them to start the drill again.

“You guys act like this (stuff) doesn’t matter,” Mora yelled to his players, with a group of about 50 spectators and media members watching.

From that point forward, the receivers ran crisp routes in the drill and Mora’s vocal volume steadily decreased.

“Am I an asshole? Yeah, I’m an asshole, sorry for my language,” Mora said. “But I’m an asshole because that’s my job to make sure they get the most out of what God gave them and protect what they work for.”

Recap of 11-on-11s: Defense takes control

The offense’s sluggish start in passing drills was an indication of what was to come during 11-on-11s.

Rosen threw a tipped-ball interception on the first play of the scrimmage, and didn’t record a completion until his fifth pass – a 10-yard touchdown pass to rising redshirt senior receiver Tyler Scott. The UCLA offense ended the practice with three interceptions, with one thrown by each of the three quarterbacks who played – Rosen, rising redshirt junior Jerry Neuheisel and rising redshirt junior Mike Fafaul.

A developing narrative in this fall training camp is the UCLA defense’s dominance in 11-on-11s. In Wednesday morning’s padded practice, the Bruin defensive backs had four interceptions in a matter of 10 minutes.

It should be noted, however, that the UCLA offense has been without two of its top starting linemen – rising redshirt junior Conor McDermott and rising redshirt senior center Jake Brendel. Both McDermott and Brendel have missed the 11-on-11 portion in the last two practice because of injuries they sustained Monday.

Injury report

Brendel, who has been nursing a calf injury, was dressed in practice on Thursday, but was rehabbing on the sidelines with rising redshirt freshman wide receiver Aaron Sharp, who is also recovering from an injury.

Rising junior defensive end Takkarist McKinley and incoming freshman offensive lineman Tevita Halalilo were both absent from practice due to head injuries they sustained earlier in the week. Mora said neither of them had serious concussion symptoms, and that they should be back to practice Monday.

McDermott wasn’t at Thursday’s practice either, but Mora said he will be back Monday after suffering a slight knee injury earlier this week.

Compiled by Matthew Joye, Bruin Sports senior staff.

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