UCLA notes: Bruins look to improve during bye week

It’s a question that UCLA head coach Jim Mora has been asked hundreds of times now: Does having a bye during the second week of the season harm the Bruins?

Mora, for what probably seemed like the millionth time, said no.

“Having a week between Nebraska and Nevada allowed our football team to focus solely on Nevada,” Mora said. “Even though it’s a little unorthodox to have a bye after your first game, I think it’s going to benefit us.”

It’s a week to work on fundamentals and the inefficiencies exposed during the 58-20 route of Nevada in last Saturday’s season opener. During game weeks, practices and meetings are filled with game plans, schemes, new plays and opponent plays to study, often times to the detriment of fundamentals.

“When you get a week like this, you get a chance to really go back and improve on things that are really independent of the opponent,” Mora said.

All things considered, it’s kind of a quiet week around Westwood. The team will have Friday-Sunday off while the coaches go recruit and Mora watches his kids’ games. The 18th-ranked Bruins will begin full preparations Monday, for the Sept. 14, game at No. 22 Nebraska.

Kids these days…

According to Mora, kids these days are wired much differently than in the past. Gadgets, social media and a general lack of current events knowledge are all things he is learning to adjust to as he is now dealing with young adults as opposed to grown men.

“These kids today, they don’t watch TV, if they get on the internet it’s to Skype with their buddies or play a video game, watch a movie or get on Twitter or Facebook or something,” Mora said.
“They don’t watch the news. I’m sorry, but they don’t watch the news, they don’t read the paper.”

However, their short attention spans can be beneficial as it allows them to tune out the hype.

“They don’t listen to it,” Mora said. “We don’t really talk about anything. For us, it’s just about trying to be better than we were the day before.”

Speaking of kids…

UCLA picked up a 2014 commitment over the weekend when cornerback Adarius Pickett announced via Twitter that he had committed to the Bruins. The El Cerrito High product is currently ranked as one of the top players in the state and is a consensus four-star prospect. The defensive backfield is quickly being rebuilt but with the playmaking of freshmen like Tahaan Goodman and additions like Pickett, it won’t be a long overhaul.

Black Friday comes early

Adidas unveiled the all-black uniforms the Bruins’ will sport during the Nov. 15, Friday night game against Washington at the Rose Bowl.

Mora’s take on the unis? They’re fine as long as the team is adhering to his strict standards. 

“Adidas will tell you that there wasn’t a team in America that wore their uniforms better than us last season,” Mora said. “My philosophy is this: A team looks good when they all look the same. That’s how you’re supposed to wear your uniform and that’s why it’s called a uniform – uniform means it looks the same.”

Injury updates

Running back Damien Thigpen (knee) was allowed to take the red no-contact jersey off during Thursday’s practice. Thigpen went to Mora earlier this week and asked if he could finally practice for the first time since tearing his ACL against USC and was told to keep on for one more practice.

Mora is hopeful for a return by Oct. 3, for the Bruins’ Thursday night game at Utah.

“I don’t think that’s too far-fetched,” Mora said. “We have to see how it goes.”

Cornerback Marcus Rios, who recently overcame a bout with aspergillosis, a life-threatening infection, hopes to be back for the same game as well.

Freshman cornerback Priest Willis will return for the Nebraska game after suffering a sore shoulder.