Bruins finish training camp with a surer sense of self

Bruins finish training camp with a surer sense of self
UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley says the Bruins are entering the season with a higher level of confidence compared to last year. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA bid adieu to San Bernardino on Saturday, finishing training camp and heading back to Westwood.

It's a different journey than a year ago.


The Bruins were unsure of the future, with a new coach and staff, after two weeks at Cal State San Bernardino in 2012. But the payoff was a 9-5 season, including a victory over USC.

This year, the Bruins return home a strong sense of purpose.

"Last year, we didn't know what to expect going into that first game," quarterback Brett Hundley said. "We went into the season blind. This year, we know what we're getting into."

Hundley calls it a foundation, and said that cracking it will be a chore for opponents.

"We have a different swag to us, a different confidence level," Hundley said. "Just having that individual swag, that team swag, that team ego, helps us so much. We know we have to push things to the limit."

The 11 days in a much cooler San Bernardino environment — as opposed to the kiln-like conditions in 2012 — allowed the Bruins to mold some depth by tapping a talented freshman class.

"There is certainty about who our starters are and what they are capable of doing," Coach Jim Mora said. "The uncertainty lies in the depth. What we saw the last the two weeks was a really good freshman class. Now we just got to get them up to speed."

Last season's destination is not the return trip Hundley would prefer.

"We started out 9-2 and finished 9-5," Hundley said. "That's not us."

There's a catch

Ask Hundley who his favorite receiver is and see the diplomat emerge.

"Don't ask me that," Hundley said. "I liked them all. They all bring something unique."

It's his job to learn those intricacies, including Shaquelle Evans' crisp routes, Devin Fuller's big-play potential and Jordan Payton's ability to use his big body to shield off defenders.

"It's about the quarterback knowing his receivers," Hundley said. "You have to have that me-to-you connection. It lets me know what their strengths are, what their weaknesses are and we go from there."


That involves getting to know a lot more receivers this season.

"I see some depth finally," Mora said. "I see speed, size, athleticism. Guys like Shaq and Devin Lucien seem to make an eye-catching catch every day. It's good to see some consistency out of the position. You see Jordan Payton always doing the right thing at the right time."

Evans said that "route running" is the biggest improvement.

"Getting off the line against press coverage is a lot better this season," Evans said. "That's from being more physical in our routes."

Big load

From the strange-but-true grab bag: a linebacker returning kickoffs.

Myles Jack, a 6-foot-1, 225-pound linebacker, was in the kickoff return rotation Saturday. This was not part of last-day-of-camp shenanigans.

"How would you like to be running down field trying to tackle that?" Mora said.

Jack was a running back, as well as a linebacker, at Bellevue (Wash.) High School. In track, he was part of the state champion 400- and 1,600-meter relay teams.

So, a Jack of all trades?

"He could be a really good running back for us," Mora said. "But we know we can't overwork him."

So he's a linebacker … for now. Look for Jack to be used on the offense in certain situations.

All tuned up

Classic rock has been a staple during training, played at arena decibels.

Given the choice between Led Zeppelin, The Who and Bruce Springsteen, Mora said, "You can play Led Zeppelin for me any day and I'll as happy as heck."

Mora may need a new Boss.

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes