Mora challenges Bruins during practice
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA coach Jim Mora calls his football team "fantastic."
He openly admits how much he loves this group, but during Saturday's first practice in pads of the spring, Mora wasn't pleased.
"He challenged us right to our faces in the middle of practice," linebacker Patrick Larimore said. "We were sloppy and we needed that and I think we did a good job responding."
The urgency wasn't there. Although, the team was in pads, the practice lacked the physicality displayed on Spaulding Field during Tuesday and Thursday practices.
With center Greg Capella out nursing a calf injury, backups Tre Hale and Jake Brendel stepped in. The center to quarterback exchange was as bad as it's been all week as the Bruins wrapped up their first week of spring drills.
Execution and effort were heavily on the mind of Mora.
Midway through practice as the sun blazed on Spaulding Field on a hot, Saturday morning, Mora stopped the first-team period and huddled the entire team together to explain to them his displeasure.
"We have to develop a sense of urgency in everything that we do," Mora said following Saturday's practice. "It‘s a little hotter out here today. It's our third practice. The pads go on and you start to understand the length of the practice and what's coming next and so at times, guys pace themselves, and we can't ever pace ourselves. We have to go. We have to go every single play.
"We can't allow guys to pace themselves. That can't be part of the culture."
The lull displayed at practice on Saturday comes with the territory of players being in pads for the first day, according to Mora. It's something he knew he may have to deal with entering Saturday.
"Every first practice in my entire career in pads has always started a little slower than I want," Mora said. "Conventional wisdom will tell you that they're going to come out and they're just going to start blasting each other from the get go and I very rarely found that to be true but it picks up as you go."
When the Bruins later convened for a team period, which featured crowd noise, Mora's point was well received.
And the effort was more to his liking.
"Coach brought us up (and) he let us know that that's not going to be tolerated," quarterback Richard Brehaut said.
Added Mora: "My job is to set a standard. My job is to never let that standard dip and if it does, it's my job to get it pushed back up again. If I don't do those things than I'm failing the players. I'm failing the coaching staff. I'm failing the UCLA fans. I'm failing this university."
It's all a part of the culture change Mora has brought with him.
"If we want to be great and have a tough identity, than we need to accept the challenge," Larimore said.
Mora knows everybody won't accept the challenge.
"This isn't for everybody," he said. "If it's for everybody, it ain't hard enough. There's going to be a fail rate, and if it's not, I'm not pushing them hard enough."
C Capella (calf), Y Joseph Fauria (hamstring), RB Jordon James (hamstring), WR Ricky Marvray (back) did not practice on Saturday …Y Darius Bell continued to impress with his pass catching ability … RB Dalton Hilliard ran the ball well in his first action in pads since moving over from the defensive backfield. Hilliard had 1,840 all-purpose yards, including 599 rushing yard as a senior at Punahou High School in Honolulu as a senior in 2008 ... During team periods, Brehaut and Brett Hundley received the bulk of the reps at quarterback as the coaches continue to evaluate the position.