Monday was the beginning for UCLA. The first day of training camp. The first step toward the season.
Linebacker Myles Jack knows where he wants it all to end.
"I just want to win a championship," said Jack, a junior linebacker. "I think it's time. Don't get me wrong. I believe in my heart that we should have gone to the [national title] game my freshman and sophomore year, but if there is time, this is the time."
Time is fleeting, and nothing is guaranteed. But Jack sees the talent that went through workouts at Cal State San Bernardino on a warm Monday afternoon and said he knows the opportunity is there.
The Bruins return 18 starters. There are 45 scholarship players with two or more years of experience. Coach Jim Mora has now brought in four recruiting classes.
True, the Bruins have to settle on a quarterback, but Jack said, "As far as my class goes, we all have experience and talent. The class below us and the class above us are the same. And we've all played."
It leads him to the conclusion, "It's time."
That talent has pushed UCLA close the past three seasons. The Bruins won the Pac-12 South division in 2012 and finished 10-3 each of the last two seasons. But a conference title — something the Bruins haven't achieved since 1998 — has been elusive.
It has left strong desires.
"We continue to work, but specifically there's not anything I want to say," senior receiver Jordan Payton said. "Obviously we want to win the South. We want to win the Pac-12."
A year ago, many picked the Bruins to do just that, but losses to Utah and Stanford prevented it. Arizona won the South and Oregon won the Pac-12 title. The Ducks beat Florida State in the Rose Bowl, then lost to Ohio State in the national championship game.
Being a spectator hurt, Jack said.
"Watching Oregon play Florida State last year, I was jealous," Jack said. "I was envious of them. Watching that game, I was like, 'Man, that could have been us.' If we had taken care of our business against Utah. If we had really taken care of our business against Stanford. Don't get me wrong, they were great teams, but if we had taken care of our business, we could have been in that position."
The business on the first day of camp brought issues.
Tackle Simon Goines, who missed last season after ankle surgery, will not be in training camp due to a medical condition that Mora said is still being diagnosed. Freshman Chris Clark, considered the top high school tight end in the nation last fall, has had mononucleosis for two weeks and will be slowed in camp. Running back Craig Lee was absent while attending to academics.
The Bruins were a far cry from Mora's first season, in appearance and ability, even if the day ended with a loud and colorful dressing down from Mora. Still, he said later, "I was generally pleased."
The tongue lashing seemed to jibe with player expectations.
"Today could have been considered a decent practice," Payton said. "But we understand that every meeting we have to take this thing to the next level. We preach and harp on focusing on the process. We have to take it this much further."
How far that is hinges on a decision at quarterback. The competition centers on freshman Josh Rosen and junior Jerry Neuheisel. Monday was too soon for accurate assessment, though a perfectly thrown deep pass from Rosen to Eldridge Massington demonstrated his high-end skills.
Mora said coaches won't go through a checklist each day, but emphasized that what was being sought was a quarterback who "has a presence in the meeting room, a presence during walk throughs, a presence in the locker room, a presence on the field."
And . . .
"Someone who can move from play to play with the ability to put a good play or bad play behind them," Mora said " Obviously he has to understand the scheme and be consistent. Someone who can take care of the football and makes great decisions. Somebody who has the trust and confidence of teammates."
That won't be a problem, Jack said.
"If we have to carry the quarterback position, which I don't think we will need to, I feel like we're a solid enough team," Jack said. "It there is a difficult transition, we can help him along the way. If he makes mistakes, we're a good enough team to make up for that."
But in the end, "good enough" as a team won't be good enough, according to Jack, who said, "I feel like we're so talented, it would be wasted if we didn't . . ."
Jack paused, and considered where to take that.
"I don't know," he said. "I just feel like we're too talented."