UCLA football is faced with expected and unexpected at training camp
UCLA ended up starting its season where it left off ... in San Diego.
Only this time, the Bruins had to face the Seals and not get pummeled by the Bears.
On Wednesday, UCLA held its first training camp practice at Cal State San Bernardino. It came on the heels of a surprise two-day trip to San Diego to work out with the Navy Seals, which proved to be physically and mentally challenging.
However, as tough as it was, it wasn’t close to the 49-26 beating Baylor administered in the Bridgepoint Holiday Bowl in December.
On the ride from San Diego to San Bernardino on Tuesday, Coach Jim Mora said, “I was thinking there was no way I could have felt worse than I did leaving San Diego last year.”
UCLA finished the 2012 season with a 9-5 record and won the Pac-12 South Division, but lost its last three games.
“Some may say we had a good season, but that wasn’t the way we wanted to finish,” quarterback Brett Hundley said. “We did a couple things, but not everything. We have to have higher expectations for ourselves. No one is going to think of us as national champion contenders, so we have to think of ourselves that way.”
Hundley is the centerpiece to how much the UCLA program grew in a year. The Bruins have entered camp with a starting quarterback, a rarity in the last decade.
That was one of many unknowns a year ago.
The Bruins had a new coach, new assistants, new offensive and defensive schemes. Training camp was an indoctrination to how Mora wanted the team to approach things, and it was expressed in a loud and clear voice at times.
They faced oppressive heat, with the temperature topping 100 degrees all but one day.
The first day of practice Wednesday was a picnic by comparison. Even the weather appeared ready to cooperate. Temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s.
And Mora didn’t have to bark until more than an hour into practice.
“He yelled a lot last year,” linebacker Jordan Zumwalt said. “It was his first year and he had to make his presence know.”
Mora’s post-practice assessment was “we look like a good football team.”
It was a far cry from the heavy-handed approach to straightening out a program that had issues — the “over the wall” tradition of ditching practice was the first to go.
There was less of a jagged edge to practice Wednesday, even when mistakes occurred.
“One thing we worked on was having players take care of things so coaches didn’t have to,” Hundley said. “The guys who were here last year know how things are supposed to work. We jump on the young guys when they aren’t doing what they need to do.”
Last year, Hundley said, “everyone was like a deer in the headlights, running around without heads.”
This year, Zumwalt walked into the dormitories and, “the smell, everything, reminded you of last year. We know what’s to come and how to push through it.”
The unexpected came with the trip south Sunday.
“I got on the bus thinking we were heading to San Bernardino,” Hundley said. “I woke up and Navy Seals were telling us to get off the bus.”
Mora said training camp needed a wrinkle.
“Last year was a real powerful experience for our kids and they had a set of expectations of what it was going to be like this year,” Mora said. “I wanted to change it a little bit. I wanted to give a new challenge.”
The work, Zumwalt said, “was hard. My legs are still sore.” But the experience, Hundley said, will be beneficial.
“They put us through anything and everything,” Hundley said. “Some of the stuff wasn’t physical. It was mental. They pushed us through limits where we have to go.”
Mora said the coaches “were there every second, tied to the hip.”
“They sat back and watched,” Hundley said. “They did a couple things, not everything.”
Mora said the training had the desired effect.
“I, personally, didn’t want to come back to San Bernardino and have it be just like it was,” Mora said.
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