The Bruins, not wanting to be pushed around, pack on some pounds
There were a handful of themes that kept popping up when UCLA players talked about what they did this summer.
Everyone worked harder in the weight room. Most added at least a few pounds of muscle. Some were the strongest and fastest they had ever been.
The sheer mass of the linemen was evident during the first week of training camp whenever they peeled off their jerseys and plopped into oversized ice tubs. Their effort was displayed in Instagram videos posted by strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi that showed players grunting their way through repetitions.
The impetus for the summer of strain came last season, when the Bruins were often manhandled by more physical teams. Coach Jim Mora made getting bigger and stronger a focus after a bowl loss to Nebraska in which his players were repeatedly pummeled.
“Just to be able to handle the Stanfords, the big-time pounding teams, being physical every single play,” Bruins linebacker Kenny Young said of the team’s motivation.
Some, like Young, didn’t overdo it when it came to packing on pounds. Young said he added about five pounds because he didn’t want to lose the ability to rocket from sideline to sideline.
“For me, I always like to feel loose,” Young said. “When the ball’s thrown deep, I want to be able to run and make the tackle first.”
The team upped its weightlifting sessions to four times per week and its running to five times per week. Players also drank more protein shakes, center Scott Quessenberry said, with some guzzling multiple shakes a day based on their dietary needs.
“It’s not bad weight or anything,” Ankou said. “I mean, I’m feeling good moving around.”
Mora said he was pleased with the results of the conditioning, noting his linemen had added bulk while retaining explosiveness. Several running backs and cornerbacks also said they had made noticeable gains in strength and endurance.
Receiver Kenneth Walker III power cleaned 300 pounds, almost twice his weight. Offensive tackle Kolton Miller’s squat of nearly 600 pounds generated buzz around the team even though it wasn’t close to a school record.
“You hear other lineman getting like 700 pounds,” Miller said, “but I think being 6 [foot] 9 and doing 600 pounds, I think that’s something.”
Miller was one of about 10 players to make Golden Bruin, meaning he had reached all of his weightlifting targets. Next comes the heavy lifting of the season.
“This summer was a very difficult summer for me as well as the rest of my teammates,” tailback Soso Jamabo said. “But it was good work and needed. It’s going to help us.”
UCLA didn’t practice Sunday, having reached the midpoint of training camp. The Bruins will resume practice Monday in San Bernardino, where the forecast high temperature is 106 degrees. It doesn’t get much cooler the rest of the week, with the highs projected to be 104 on Tuesday, 102 on Wednesday, 99 on Thursday, 97 on Friday and 93 on Saturday.
“Really?” Mora said, clapping his hands when apprised of the triple-digit temperatures early in the week. “Awesome!”
Mora wasn’t being facetious. He wants his players to experience sauna-like conditions to prepare for what awaits next month in College Station, Texas, during their season opener against Texas A&M.
What he doesn’t want is players becoming overcome by dehydration or heat exhaustion. That’s why the Bruins will have more frequent water breaks as well as cold tubs and on-site paramedics.
The team will hold three sets of two a days — with practices starting at 8:30 a.m. and 5:45 p.m. — as well as two mid-afternoon practices before breaking camp following a 12:30 p.m. practice on Saturday.
“We want it to be intense,” Mora said.
Mora said he liked the Bruins having completed the first half of training camp in Westwood because it’s removed the drudgery of two weeks in the heat, which forced players to conserve energy.
“Now we can go out there for six days, have nine intense practices and say, ‘There’s nothing to save yourself for, let’s just go and then we’re coming back to UCLA,’” Mora said. “So from a mental standpoint, emotionally, I think it’s really going to help us.”
Mora said it was too early to say whether the Bruins would continue to hold part of their training camp in San Bernardino in future seasons. The Wasserman Football Center on campus is scheduled for completion by the end of next summer and two practice fields will also be installed.
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