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May 14, 2012

Monday's Mail

Editor's note: Every Monday BSR Publisher Edward Lewis will answer some questions from fans about the Bruins in this weekly mailbag. Send questions to edwardflewis@yahoo.com, @EdwardLewisBSR on Twitter, post questions on the message board or put questions on BSR's Facebook page.

JuanCarlos2131: What did you think of how UCLA ran its spring practice? How does it compare to SDSU when Brady Hoke was the coach?

I didn't realize it at the time, but Hoke was and is truly a special coach. There are a lot of respected journalists and coaches out there who think he's going to win a national championship within the next few years at Michigan. So with that disclaimer out of the way, I'll give you my comparison of his camp versus Mora's.

The two head coaches are actually very similar in coaching style and the way they run practices. They both are very hands on - Hoke chose to work with the defensive linemen, Mora chooses to work a lot with the defensive backs. They both have the propensity to blow up during a practice - Mora's best rant came just three days into spring ball. And they both are no-nonsense guys - no walking on the field, buckle up your helmet at all times, quick tempo, a lot of hitting, etc.

The only difference, and this is a big one to me, is the way they treat injured players. Hoke had a strength and conditioning coach named Aaron Wellman, who's with him at Michigan now too, who just destroyed injured guys who weren't able to fully go in practices. They would be bench pressing truck tires, dragging braided ropes with sandbags tied to the end of them the complete length of the football field, running up and down the sideline carrying sleds with weights on them - it was quite frankly more brutal than practice itself. Over here at camp Mora, injured players rode stationary bikes or did Pilates exercises in the shade. To me, making players realize the difference between being hurt and being injured was a huge factor in turning around a soft program. Now does that mean Mora's not doing a good job because injured guys appear to be getting a free pass on the sideline? Not at all. It's just Hoke used to credit Wellman and his program for making players tougher. I'd like to see a little of that emphasized here as well.

But overall, the similarities are certainly there, and I think this staff is actually a better recruiting staff than the one Hoke assembled at SDSU and eventually took to Michigan. Either way, it certainly appears to be a big upgrade over Rick Neuheisel at the moment.


Brian: If you were controlling the rankings or UCLA's board of recruits, who should the Bruins be targeting? Who should be a big priority?


Well UCLA is already prioritizing and going after a lot of my favorite recruits. Throughout the past few weeks, we've learned UCLA highly covets offensive linemen Nico Falah, Christian Morris, Scott Quessenberry and Khaliel Rodgers, receivers Francis Owusu, Julius Wilson and Sebastian Larue, and defensive backs Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis. All of those players I really, really like.

The hard part about answering a question like this is the Bruins are already really in with so many top 250 recruits, who are so obviously good, that there isn't a whole lot of room for UCLA to recruit sleepers. But hypothetically if there were, guys I like that are currently flying under the radar include Charles Okonkwo and Bryce Bobo; and Craig Lee and the Robinson twins (Tyree and Tyrell) don't get the respect they deserve either.



Derek: Hands down, player that impressed you the most this spring was?

Devin Lucien. I talked with his old 1925 7-on-7 team's coach last week, NFL great Keyshawn Johnson, and he had nothing but kind words to say about Lucien that I wholeheartedly agreed with. Lucien is so smooth and has such natural hands, and if you saw him at the spring scrimmage, you know he has that yards after catch ability as well. He's the complete package at receiver, and he has a chip on his shoulder after being forced to redshirt last year. Give me a UCLA draft today, and I think he's my first pick.


upsmann20: Was Coach Demetrice Martin the main reason Joe Mathis committed early to UW? If so, does Martin get Mathis to UCLA? Does Mathis have the grades for UCLA?

From all the reports and quotes that I've read on Mathis, it sounds like Martin leaving Washington was the reason he decommitted from there in the first place. But now that he still has UW in his top three (along with Nebraska and Michigan), and no UCLA in there, I'm assuming there was a little more to that equation than just Martin.

But right now it all appears moot. The keys to Mathis appear to go through Goodman and Willis, who are currently assembling a package deal that includes those three plus a bunch of other players. So where Goodman and Willis end up, theoretically, that's where Mathis goes too.

To your point about grades, I've actually heard that too. I've heard he certainly needs to put in some more work in the classroom to make it. But he's a really, really good player, and UCLA could certainly use him if he starts taking the classroom a little more seriously.


2dodgerfan4: Why are the coaches seemingly hung up on Jordan Zumwalt as an OLB when he played so well at inside LB last year (especially the bowl game)? I really think he and Eric Kendricks should be the starters with Patrick Larimore as the No. 1 backup. Any input?

This might surprise some people, but I wholeheartedly agree with this assessment. Keep in mind, I've only watched this team for a month and a half and seen a few replays of their 2011 games on TV recently, but Zumwalt just doesn't have that pass-rushing knack that I'd love to have from my 3-4 OLBs. Keenan Graham and Damien Holmes certainly appear to have that, at least more so than Zumwalt.

And I completely agree with your Larimore sentiment as well. I think he could be a liability in coverage, whereas the smoother and leaner Zumwalt appears to fit much better there. I would much rather see Holmes and Graham on the outside with a rotation of Zumwalt, Kendricks and Larimore inside. Maybe UCLA had plans to experiment with that anyway, but both Zumwalt and Larimore missed huge chunks of this spring. I guess we'll find out here in a few months if they were looking into that.



Check out more answers to your UCLA questions on Bruin Tracks!




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