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UCLA Sports

UCLA has its best first day of camp of the Jim Mora era

Josh Rosen
UCLA sophomore quarterback Josh Rosen (3) plans to take a more refined approach this season.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Like a wayward pass thrown into double coverage, Josh Rosen knows the way he has conveyed some messages needs refinement. It’s all about the delivery.

The UCLA quarterback vowed to use a softer touch Monday after a summer in which his coach asked him whether he wanted to be like flamboyant flameout Johnny Manziel or saintly superstar Peyton Manning.

“I haven’t changed the way I think, but I’ve changed the way I act,” Rosen said after the Bruins concluded their first day of training camp in Westwood. “I have to be a little more mature. I have the same thoughts, but I have to be able to convey them a little more efficiently, a little bit better, a little less offensive because I understand I am a role model to kids and I have to kind of clean up that act.”

Rosen acknowledged regretting the bandana he wore over a hat that profanely disparaged Donald Trump in April while playing a round of golf on the presidential candidate’s course in Rancho Palos Verdes.

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He said the message had triggered a response from Trump’s camp.

“They said a bunch of things,” Rosen said. “My only regret with that is once again how I delivered the message. I shouldn’t have used any sort of profanity, but like I said, I’m not changing the way I think, I’m changing the way how I deliver my message. That was my one big regret is using the ‘F’ word.”

Rosen’s headstrong approach and equally flashy talent landed the sophomore on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, which depicted him as the thinking man’s frat boy. The story mentioned a shelf inside his new apartment lined with 68 empty beer bottles — none of which the 19-year-old Rosen said he downed — as well as more flattering anecdotes such as his raising money for less affluent high school teammates to afford road trips.

Rosen said he had not read the article but viewed its presence as an affirmation of sorts.

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“I can’t wait to go see it,” Rosen said. “These little things along the road are little cherries that encourage you and kind of say you’re kind of on the right track.”

No one has questioned Rosen’s results on the field, where he was the Pac-12 Conference’s offensive freshman of the year and a primary reason the Bruins are picked to win the Pac-12 South Division this fall. Rosen doesn’t want to stop there, saying Monday he wanted to win the national title. What makes him think the Bruins are good enough?

“Because I think we are,” he said matter-of-factly.

Rosen continued his mastery of UCLA’s new offense as it opened camp on campus under cool, overcast conditions, a welcome departure from the searing heat of San Bernardino, where the team will practice next week.

“Everybody’s happy because you can come to practice and you don’t have the sun beating on you for two hours,” junior defensive back Jaleel Wadood said. “You get a little breeze here and there.”

Players are also enjoying some team-building activities. They watched “Remember the Titans” on a practice field Sunday and were scheduled to play dodge-ball Monday.

UCLA started camp four days after rival USC — even though both teams open the season Sept. 3 — because of NCAA rules related to schools on the quarter system, Coach Jim Mora said. The Bruins will still be allowed the same number of practices as the Trojans before their opener, making up the difference with a series of two-a-days later in camp.

There was the usual first-day disarray. Quarterback Mike Fafaul fumbled a snap exchange and a defensive coach ordered his linemen to rerun a drill because he felt it lacked intensity.

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Highlights abounded during what Mora described as “about a good first day of practice as we’ve had since I’ve been here,” which the coach said was largely a function of having Rosen and the core of the Bruins’ defense back from last season. Freshman receiver Theo Howard hauled in a long pass from quarterback Matt Lynch and sophomore linebacker Josh Woods intercepted a tipped pass.

There were some brutal collisions even with players limited to shorts and jerseys without shoulder pads. Sophomore fullback Ainuu Taua bowled over freshman defensive back Keyon Riley and kept running even after Taua’s helmet came off.

“I think he got on track and he maybe couldn’t get off track at 294” pounds, Mora said of Taua. “But I know the team enjoyed it.”

Quick hits

Freshman receiver Cordell Broadus, the son of rapper Snoop Dogg, quit the team for a second consecutive season before the start of training camp, Mora said. “He’s going to pursue other passions in his life,” Mora said, “and we encourage that.” … Freshman receiver Demetric Felton is probably out for the season because of a shoulder injury suffered in spring practice. … Freshman defensive lineman Marcus Moore isn’t expected to participate in camp activities for at least a week because of a back issue. ... Freshman offensive lineman Paco Perez is still recovering from a procedure to repair knee cartilage and will not practice for a few days. … UCLA was ranked No. 24 in the first Amway coaches poll.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch


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