One aspect of UCLA Coach Jim Mora’s job might make him feel like he’s still in the NFL.
The Bruins enjoy about three weeks each season when their only worry is the game. There are no classes, late-night study sessions or jostling with other students for three-ring binders at the campus bookstore.
UCLA has made the most of the extra prep work, going 13-1 during pre-fall quarter games in four seasons under Mora. The Bruins have gone 15-1 during the same span in August and September, with the only loss coming against Oregon State in the fourth game of 2012.
The academic calendar doesn’t become a factor this season until UCLA starts classes on Sept. 22.
“We need to push school back to like January,” Mora quipped Monday.
Those who study UCLA’s schedule will note that three of its toughest games — on the road against Texas A&M and Brigham Young and at home against Stanford — fall in September. And two of the three opponents will have long started school by the time the Bruins receive their course syllabi.
Texas A&M, UCLA’s opponent in its season opener Saturday in College Station, Texas, started classes Monday. The same goes for Nevada Las Vegas, which plays the Bruins on Sept. 10 at the Rose Bowl, and Brigham Young, which plays host to UCLA on Sept. 17.
Bruins linebacker Kenny Young said he used his extra spare time to study the playbook and meet with coaches and teammates, among other activities.
“There’s no class or rushing to get to class,” Young said. “You have practice for about two hours and guys can just focus on football and focus on A&M. For the next two or three games, it’ll be like that.”
The flip side is that UCLA might be at a disadvantage in its Pac-12 Conference opener. Stanford, which plays the Bruins on Sept. 24 at the Rose Bowl, is also on the quarter system. The Cardinal don’t start classes until Sept. 26 — four days later than the Bruins.
UCLA seemed to have it backward at practice Monday. Its top players scurried about without uniform numbers in relative anonymity while the scout teamers wore the numbers of the Texas A&M starters they tried to mimic.
Freshman quarterbacks Devon Modster and Matt Lynch wore the No. 8 of Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight. Mora said several players filled the role of Texas A&M defensive end Myles Garrett, widely projected as a top pick in the 2017 NFL draft.
“We just try to bring them in waves,” Mora said of his young defensive ends, “and we’re lining them up a little bit offside to get that extra jump.”
Mora said defensive end Deon Hollins and fullback Cameron Griffin, both recovering from concussions, are considered doubtful to play against Texas A&M. . . . Linebacker Mique Juarez, who has missed more than two weeks of practice with an excused absence, will sit out the game against the Aggies. “He’s dealing with some personal issues,” Mora said, “and he’s getting the help he needs to get through it and he’s doing well and that’s all I can tell you about that.” . . . Tight end Austin Roberts (concussion) wore a red noncontact jersey in practice and could participate fully Tuesday if he suffers no setbacks, Mora said.