UCLA’s Jim Mora puts this practice where his mouth is

UCLA Coach Jim Mora speaks with players Anthony Jefferson, center, and Fabian Moreau during the first half of a game against Oregon in October. Mora says Moreau is developing into a "sure fire" first-round draft pick.
(Don Ryan / Associated Press)

UCLA Coach Jim Mora has stressed “don’t listen to the noise” as the way for the Bruins to stay focused. A sign with that phrase hangs in the locker room.

But what do you do when it’s Mora making the noise?

It has been clear to anyone with eyes that Fabien Moreau has developed into a strong cornerback. The only pass play to beat him during practice Saturday was a low, short throw that receiver Devin Lucien needed to dive to catch.

Mora needed little nudging to launch into a campaign speech the second he was asked about Moreau.

“He is built like you want a corner to be built,” Mora said. “He has long arms, he’s a little bowlegged, he’s strong, he’s physical, he can play the ball …”


… Sell popcorn? …

” ... He has the demeanor every corner has to have,” Mora continued. “The last play disappears in his mind. If he got beat or made a great play, that play is over and move on to the next play …”

… And his future? …

“The way he is developing, that’s a sure-fire first-round pick,” Mora said. “I’d pick him in the first round and I’ve coached some pretty good corners.”

Moreau, though, doesn’t listen to the noise.

“I’m just worried about the next practice,” he said.

Moreau came to UCLA as a running back. He was converted to cornerback a month before the Bruins opened the 2012 season, playing 11 games as a reserve.

Last season, he moved in as a starter and grew as the season progressed. He continues to grow, physically and mentally. He has put on 20 pounds since arriving at UCLA with a stick-like 180-pound frame.

“I’ve learned how to use my strength and be patient with my hands and feet,” Moreau said. “My footwork is getting a little better.”

The expectations are too.

“If he has the kind of year that I think he is capable, he’s an All-American,” Mora said. “In the films I’ve watched, I haven’t seen a guy who can be as good as Fabien. I know that’s high cotton there.”


High cotton?

“I sound like I’m Steve Spurrier,” Mora said. “You never know what’s going to come out of this mouth.”

Tricks of trade

Former UCLA punter Jeff Locke returned to UCLA recently with professional advice for the Bruins’ special-team players.

Locke, now with the Minnesota Vikings, is also a holder and gave Jerry Neuheisel a tip: Lean the ball forward.

“In high school, you lean the ball back because kickers don’t have as strong of legs,” said Neuheisel, who holds for UCLA kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn. “They do in college.”

The significance of leaning the ball forward is simple.

“It improves the target,” Fairbairn said. “You see more of the sweet spot.”

It seems to have helped. Fairbairn’s accuracy and range have improved considerably, at least during practice. He hit a 52-yarder, only to have it waved off because of a false start. Fairbairn barely missed from 57 yards on the next try.

Details, details

The Bruins scrimmaged live Saturday, even during their special-team work.

“We got to become a situational, smart football team, and the only way that you do it is to practice it,” Mora said.

That was clear from the start Saturday. The Bruins practiced getting their kickoff team onto the field, which required everyone on the sidelines to give a signal. A few failed to wave their arms properly, prompting Mora to dress down the entire team.

“Do it right or find somewhere else to play!” he barked.

Players did it right on the next try.

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes