Bruins look to fill void left by Larimore
As it is virtually impossible to replace a player of Patrick
Larimore's importance both on and off the field, UCLA head coach Jim Mora has
been getting a look at several alternatives while preaching a message of
communication and assertiveness.
Larimore, a senior linebacker who suffered his second concussion since the
beginning of spring practices during a drill last week that did not include
full pads, has retired from playing but will return to the team at some point
as a clubhouse leader and, if all goes well, as an inspiration to the players
around him. He was a team captain and defensive most valuable player while
leading the team with 81 tackles in 2011.
"We're going to miss him," Mora said. "I probably can't say it
any better than I said it yesterday — the guy is just the heart and soul of
In terms of re-arranging personnel, redshirt senior Damien Holmes will be
shifted from outside to inside linebacker following a spring in which he had
already moved to linebacker from defensive end, where he had logged 39 games
and 20 starts over the past three seasons.
Holmes, listed between 6-feet-2 and 6-feet-4 and between 250 and 260 pounds,
had already received several looks as an inside linebacker during spring
"It's a similar thing with training camp. It's something that I'm
comfortable with," he said.
Eric Kendricks, who has also has moved from the outside, will line up alongside
Holmes as an inside linebacker. He has been held out of practice since late
last week with a sore hamstring, as reported by Chris
Foster of the Los Angeles Times, but should emerge as a reliable member
of new defensive coordinator Lou Spanos' 3-4 defense. Junior Jordan Zumwalt
will remain as an outside linebacker as part of a unit that will need to
improve a run defense that ranked 96th nationally and 11th in the Pac-12 last
year and will not have the fortune of returning its on-field and emotional
leader in Larimore.
In one of his messages to his linebacking core during camp, Mora has imparted
the importance of communication to a group in which Holmes is the lone senior
expected to be a part of the rotation.
"Those guys are the middle of the defense," Mora said. "They're
the core of your defense, and their communication goes forward and it goes
backwards. They've got to be on the same page. They've got to set the front.
They've got to communicate the coverages. They've got to communicate all the
adjustments, and so they really have to do a tremendous job of being on the
same page and making calls, making them, decisively, making them emphatically,
making them so everybody can hear."
He's also counting on Larimore to provide his own verbal encouragement, even if
he won't be able to put on his pads and contribute on the field.
"I think that defensively we've got a good nucleus of guys that have
leadership ability, and we'll miss Patrick, but Patrick will fill that void a
little bit too when he comes back," Mora said. "He will. If he's in
the meeting, or if he's on the field during practice, or if he's on the sidelines
during a game, there's still going to be a level of accountability to who he is
and what he represents. I think that'll be felt amongst our team."
It will hopefully replace the absence left by one of the team's most vocal and
"On the field is one thing, but from a leadership standpoint, that's a
hard void to fill. I see a guy like Damien Holmes, who's been around here a
while, and is one of our harder workers. The players really respect him. I see
him being a guy that partially fills that void," Mora said of the team's
vocal leadership. "I think a guy like Tevin McDonald, Andrew Abbott, they
partially fill that void. The one thing we don't want any of those guys to be
is something that they're not. They have to do it their own way. They're not going
to be Patrick, and we don't want them to try to be Patrick. They have to be
It's something that comes naturally for Holmes.
"It doesn't really change," he said of his vocal assertiveness.
"I like to think that I've been vocal, even with [Larimore]," Holmes
said. "The thing about our defense is that so many guys are talking. It's
not necessarily one. Yes, Mike is going to give the call. But everyone's
talking. Everyone's got to be vocal. So I think as long as you just keep that
up, it'll be fine."