It was cooler for UCLA’s football team at Cal State San Bernardino Wednesday — if you’re talking about the weather.
Tempers, on the other hand, simmered, boiled, then exploded.
Near the end of the evening practice, Coach Jim Mora threw the Bruins off the practice field after a tirade about effort, discipline and mediocre football. Pushed over the edge, Mora essentially threw the players over the wall. He blistered the team for a few minutes, then barked that bed check was at 10:45 p.m. and practice at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Mora then greeted the media, saying, “Good practice,” drawing laughs. He tried to skirt the subject.
“It’s just training camp, something I’m not really going to talk about in public,” Mora said.
Yet no one who watched the practice needed an explanation.
The situation had been volatile for half an hour, with minor scrapes erupting during individual drills. Linebacker Damien Holmes took a swing at fullback Luke Gane, though he did not connect, during a blocking drill.
The chippy played carried into team drills, in which a couple of scuffles broke out. At one point, there was some jawing and offensive players started to leave the sideline after receiver Darius Bell scored a touchdown and flipped the ball to a defender, creating a tense moment.
Last season, the Bruins were involved in a bench-clearing brawl against Arizona during a 48-12 loss.
This time, Mora reached his limit before things could escalate. He called the team to a huddle, let loose a harsh and extremely colorful rant for a couple of minutes and sent the players off the field.
Asked what he can’t tolerate in practice, Mora said, “Lack of effort, lack of focus, lack of discipline.”
Asked if he had seen any of that Wednesday, Mora said, “You see it every day.”
Before another question could be asked, Mora said, “I’m not going to talk about it, because I’m not going to let you write about it. You can keep asking me if you want. I’m not going to answer.”
He then went on discussing the minutiae of training camp.
The Bruins appear to be in better shape at safety. All it took was a little tinkering with the roster.
Andrew Abbott was moved from cornerback to safety in spring. Anthony Jefferson shifted over from cornerback last week.
“Coaches always talk to me about my versatility, how I hit and how I’m able to cover,” Jefferson said after Wednesday morning’s practice. “I want to play anywhere that gets me to the field the quickest.”
Said defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin: “He was heavy [hitter] in our tackling drills. We wanted to see what he would be like playing a little deeper [where he] could get a head of steam.”
The move from cornerback to safety is like going from “standing in the sand at the beach” to “being in the middle of the ocean,” Martin said.
Abbott and Jefferson give the Bruins more game experience. They join returning safeties Dalton Hilliard and Tevin McDonald.
Having two former cornerbacks at safety is a plus, Martin said.
“It puts us in a prime position to have a guy who can slide down and cover those fast and shifty slot recovers,” Martin said. “We won’t have to go to nickel. When you face those fast-paced offenses, sometimes you might send in a guy. We can be sound and survive.”