UCLA morning practice isn't perfect, but it is loud and clear

Chaos was intended, UCLA Coach Jim Mora said.

So everything went according to plan during Saturday morning's practice.

There was an edge. Rock music played at a decibel level that once was said to force Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega to surrender to the U.S. military.

Penalty flags fluttered through the air frequently.

And Mora had a tirade, one that was a seven on his scale.

"One of our objectives in practice is to put pressure on ourselves, on each other and on the team," Mora said. "We had Def Leppard playing and I think I even heard Deep Purple. We were trying to get them in a high-intensity, chaotic environment so when we get to game day, we can handle the pressure."

So the volume went up, for both the music and the coach.

Referees were brought in to work the practice. Defensive players jumped offside seven times, and Mora made it clear that he was unhappy … loud and clear.

Mora barked at assistant coaches, then at players and then at linebacker Anthony Barr, who had woofed at Mora.

All part of the practice blueprint, he claimed.

"Sometimes, I go out and get after them to see how they react," Mora said.

Linebacker Myles Jack and guard Ben Wysocki reacted badly. Jack jumped Wysocki post-play. Both were booted from practice, with a staff member sent along to ensure a rematch didn't break out in the locker room.

"We're going down the field and an offensive lineman does a cheap shot," Mora said. "We're trying to win the game. They would have both been ejected from a game, so I ejected them."

Mora said that penalties were a thorn last season. His fix-it solution will be to have referees attend more practices before the season opener against Nevada on Aug. 31.

A calm finally settled in post-practice, with Mora having a referee give a 25-minute lecture on the neutral zone.

"It's not always going to look perfect out there, but that's OK as long as we're making progress," Mora said. "I thought we made progress."

Happy returns?

Shaquelle Evans, Ishmael Adams, Devin Fuller, Randall Goforth and Damien Thigpen all worked out as punt returners Saturday. It's an area Mora hopes will improve significantly.

UCLA averaged 9.2 yards on punt returns last season, which ranked 52nd nationally.

"Part of it was we didn't settle on a returner last year," Mora said. "We had some mishaps early in the season. I think we can average 12 to 15 yards."

Evans is itching for the assignment.

"We can make it easier on the offense by getting good field position," Evans said. "The punt unit has slow guys once you get by the gunners. You make the first guy miss and you're off to the races."

UCLA has not had a punt returned for a touchdown since Maurice Jones-Drew took three back in 2005.

"I'm looking to break that streak," Evans said. "That's been too long."


Defensive end Ian Taubler left the morning practice after taking a hit to the head. Mora said it was too soon to know whether it was a concussion.

Defensive back John Johnson separated his right shoulder after getting tangled up with Evans. He returned for the evening practice but was limited.

Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt did not participate in the evening practice after suffering what Mora called cramps in his hamstring area.


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