By Chris Foster
4:42 PM PDT, September 26, 2013
UCLA doesn't have a game Saturday, so Bruins coaches are using the extra time to recruit.
It helps taking a 3-0 record out on the recruiting trail.
"People take a little more notice when you're having success," Coach Jim Mora said.
There's another statistic high school seniors may be interested in: UCLA has played 16 first-year freshmen thus far this season, one shy of the school record set in 1977. That includes two starters — guard Alex Redmond and linebacker Myles Jack.
"It played a pretty big part in my decision," said UCLA freshman linebacker Deon Hollins Jr., who has played extensively this season. "Of course, no one wants to set down and just be idle."
Hollins said UCLA coaches pointed out how many first-year freshmen played.
Mora and his staff have leaned on freshmen their first two seasons. The Bruins used 14 last season, extending a trend that started long before Mora came to Westwood. UCLA used two freshmen in 2007, 11 in 2008, 10 in 2009 and 10 in 2011.
The Bruins had the luxury of need. Their depth was pitiful the last six seasons, so freshmen had to play. If quality depth improves in the coming years, it remains to be seen how many freshmen play.
Mora said that playing freshmen helped in recruiting, but added, "We don't make any promises. We never say, 'You're going to play.' " He also said he approaches it with an NFL coach's eye.
"In the NFL, you look at 'Will he help us win or not?' " Mora said. "If he can, then you play him."
The one true freshman guaranteed a job before he arrived this season is getting little work.
Sean Covington has punted only three times this season. Navy, with one, is the only Football Bowl Subdivision team that has punted less than UCLA.
"It's crazy," Covington said. "I have never done so little in my life. But that's a good thing for us."
UCLA defensive lineman Cassius Marsh used the pre-practice warmup to catch passes Thursday.
A guy's got to keep his skills sharp.
Marsh was used as a tight end in goal-line situations and caught a four-yard touchdown pass against California last season.
"I catch balls before practice, warm up with the receivers," Marsh said. "It gets my legs moving."
After practice, Marsh has at times joined receiver Shaquelle Evans catching footballs fired by a Jugs machine.
"If the time comes, I'll be ready," Marsh said.
Offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone is always looking for new personnel. "Some of those defensive guys will come jump in drills with us," Mazzone said. "We throw them a little candy, a little sugar. They are always bugging me, 'When are you putting this in …?'
"Cassius is such a good athlete. It's not hard to keep him ready."
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