There is something different about UCLA linebacker Aaron Wallace this spring.
“[Defensive coordinator] Tom Bradley asked him how he was doing the other day and Aaron said, ‘It’s going great,’” Coach Jim Mora said.
“It was the enthusiasm,” Mora said. “I had never seen that. He seems to like football again.”
It wasn’t so much Wallace disliked football before. But now there is a sense that, with one season left, there is no time to waste.
There have been changes, with the hiring of Bradley and the promotion of Scott White from a staff member to linebacker coach. And there is opportunity. If there is a concern for the Bruins on defense, it’s at outside linebacker.
Wallace could be a fit there.
“I’m just having fun again,” Wallace said. “Me and Scott have a good relationship. He’s been here for a while. The transition was easy for me.”
The next transition Wallace would like to make is into the role of starter.
Myles Jack is expected to see more time at inside linebacker this fall. Deon Hollins, who started 12 games last season, appears to have one outside spot locked down. The other side is up for grabs.
Wallace, Cameron Griffin and Cameron Judge have been getting looks this spring. Kenny Orjioke, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last fall, has been limited this spring, but is expected to be ready for training camp. Freshman Keisean Lucier-South arrives this summer.
Bradley said that Wallace “is getting more comfortable. We ask him to do a lot of stuff. He has adjusted very well.”
Wallace knows the edges he needs to smooth.
“I have a pretty good pass rush, and I’m pretty good against the run,” Wallace said. “I think I need to work on my coverage a little bit. I haven’t been used too much. I definitely think there is a role out there for me.”
Wallace won a starting spot before the 2013 season, and held it for one game. Then Jack burst onto the scene. A year ago, Wallace started one game but spent the rest of the season as a backup to Hollins.
He entered this spring with a purpose.
“I think I have buckled down and focused on playing football,” Wallace said. “I’m having a good spring. This is the last go-round. I got some work on special teams and defense throughout my career, but I feel like this has got to be the year to move forward.”