UCLA players get much needed R&R after practice is canceled

Bruins running back Bolu Olorunfunmi has been among the camp standouts.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA opted for rest and recovery on what was scheduled to be its final day of training camp, abruptly canceling practice Sunday evening. That completed a yearlong transition from two-a-days to one-a-days to no-a-days.

Bruins coach Jim Mora decided to give his players back-to-back days off after they had completed 17 camp practices over 18 days. Most sessions lasted at least 2 1/2 hours, with many pushing three hours.

The long practices appeared to be wearing on players in recent days. Tailback Bolu Olorunfunmi and receiver Darren Andrews struggled to control their emotions during angry outbursts and chippy exchanges between teammates increased in frequency.

“Really, it’s just us competing hard,” defensive back Octavius Spencer said Saturday when asked about the rise in irritability. “That’s what the coaches ask of us, so we just go out there and just compete every day, try to work our tails off and get ready for the first game.”


UCLA is scheduled to resume practice Tuesday afternoon, when it will presumably begin shifting its focus to its season opener against Texas A&M on Sept. 3 at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins held their camp in relatively cool conditions, with a breeze regularly caressing their new on-campus practice fields and temperatures hovering mostly in the 70s and 80s. Players slept in an adjacent luxury hotel before making a two-minute walk to their lavish new training facility.

“It’s nice,” defensive end Jacob Tuioti-Mariner said of the environment. “I like having a queen-size bed.”

San Bernardino, it wasn’t.

Temperatures never reached triple digits like they regularly did in UCLA’s former campsite and there were no two-a-day practices, though the latter change was mandated by the NCAA. The Bruins found other ways to keep the intensity level high.

“It’s definitely different, but we make up for it,” defensive tackle Matt Dickerson said when asked to compare the camps. “Whether it’s in the weight room or on the field, we’re going to fill in that gap.”

Camp standouts included a visibly slimmer Olorunfunmi, who shared the bulk of the first-string carries with Soso Jamabo. Receiver Christian Pabico made a strong case to go from walk-on to starter while becoming one of quarterback Josh Rosen’s preferred targets.

True freshman Jaelan Phillips was a star pass rusher early in camp and true freshman cornerback Darnay Holmes routinely flashed his ability to make big plays on defense, as a kick returner and rushing off the edge to contest field goals.

Redshirt freshman Michael Alves appears to be a potential starter at right guard after joining the first-string offensive line over the final week of camp. That line may have some quality depth for the first time in a few years with Miami graduate transfer Sunny Odogwu and former Bruins starters Kenny Lacy, Poasi Moala and Josh Wariboko-Alali having finished camp as part of the second team.

“Big props to them,” Tuioti-Mariner said when asked about the development of the offensive line. “It’s amazing to see how much they’re progressing.”

The close of camp also might mean the end of the mustache fullback Giovanni Gentosi has grown for fun since practices started Aug. 2.

“I don’t usually have this,” Gentosi said with a smile when asked about the facial hair.

The team seemed split on whether Gentosi should retain his whiskers. Some players told him to keep it, but there was one notable exception in offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch.

“I don’t think coach Fisch is a big fan of it,” Gentosi acknowledged. “He told me to shave it.”

Twitter: @latbbolch