Xavier Su’a-Filo returns to find new UCLA football landscape


This is not the UCLA football program Xavier Su’a-Filo left.

The offensive tackle went off to his Mormon mission in 2009, leaving behind a team that finished with a 7-6 record after winning the EagleBank Bowl. Coach Rick Neuheisel appeared to have the program pointed in the right direction.

Su’a-Filo returned to find Neuheisel fired and the future in the hands of Coach Jim Mora, who met with the team on the first day of classes Monday.

“It’s a little sad,” said Su’a-Filo, who started 13 games as a freshman in 2009. “Guys I came in with and I was close to are gone.”

Su’a-Filo’s first day back in Los Angeles was Saturday, and he was already reconnecting with those who are still at UCLA.


“The program is definitely different,” Su’a-Filo said. “I don’t really know Coach Mora, but I have always been blessed with being able to adjust to coaches. Whatever Coach Mora has planned, I’m excited.”

What Mora has planned started Monday, when it was announced that tight end Raymond Nelson and defensive tackle Wesley Flowers were dismissed for violating team rules and that defensive back Randall Carroll was academically ineligible and had left school.

Of the 21 players in UCLA’s 2009 recruiting class, Carroll is the eighth who is no longer a Bruin.

Su’a-Filo is so important to UCLA that Mora and assistant coaches Adrian Klemm and Angus McClure traveled to his home in Utah for a visit on Dec. 20 — the day after he returned from his mission.

Su’a-Filo spent two years in Tallahassee, Fla., and in southern Alabama, “attending to people’s needs and helping them find the Gospel, sharing the message.” He had up to an hour of workout time each day, but even though he still weighs about 310 pounds, he said, “I have lost some strength.”

However, Su’a-Filo also said the time away helped him “be more focused and really diligent in my work. That’ll help me in football, where some days it’s a grind, especially in practice.”

Staff changes

Mora rescinded an offer to Inoke Breckterfield to remain as the Bruins’ defensive line coach after Eric Yarber was brought on staff as receivers coach.

Yarber’s hire put UCLA at the NCAA limit of nine assistant coaches, and since Mora still has to hire a defensive coordinator, someone had to go.

“We just made some changes that will make us stronger as a staff,” Mora said.

As for rescinding his offer to Breckterfield, Mora said, “I talked with him and I’ve offered him an opportunity to stay in the capacity of football operations that will be defined when he decides what he’s going to do. We had a chance to hire Yarber, who is one of the best receiver coaches around. We had to shift some things.”

Breckterfield spent one season as the Bruins’ defensive line coach. UCLA announced on Dec. 15 that he would be retained.

McClure, the special teams and assistant offensive coach last season, was introduced Monday as the Bruins’ defensive line coach.

UCLA also announced that Sal Alosi has been hired as strength and conditioning coach. Alosi is best known as the New York Jets coach who from the sideline threw a knee into Miami Dolphins special teams player Nolan Carroll as he headed up the sideline on punt coverage during a December 2010 game.

The Jets suspended Alosi indefinitely for his actions, and he later resigned. He also was fined $25,000 by the NFL, which fined the Jets $100,000.