Football Training Camp
UCLA finished 4-8 last season, but some of the heat is already off the Bruins.
They will no longer hold a portion of their fall training camp in sweaty San Bernardino, Coach Jim Mora said Saturday, opting to stay exclusively on campus to utilize the new Wasserman Football Center and its two adjacent practice fields.
Players will lodge in the nearby Luskin Conference Center, allowing them to duplicate the bonding benefits of being in the desert without the accompanying 100-degree heat. Mora said he was confident that his team could also mimic the toughness instilled by grinding out practices in San Bernardino.
“We’d been there five years, ” Mora said, “and I would say that in our estimation that the effect that it had kind of wore off. And we weren’t getting the benefit, we weren’t getting the returns that we had before.”
The Bruins had spent two weeks in San Bernardino during Mora’s first four seasons before scaling back to one week last season, with Mora acknowledging at the time that such a lengthy stay in the desert had become somewhat of a burden. Now that weight has been lifted completely.
Some things won’t change, Mora said.
“We will still create a training camp-like atmosphere, ” Mora said. “It won’t be like our guys are getting in their cars and walking down to In-N-Out or something like that. They will be in a contained environment, but I think it will be really great for team chemistry and being able to concentrate for those two weeks.”
Players will spend much of their time in the $75-million Wasserman Football Center, scheduled to open this summer. Mora said locker rooms and cold tubs had been installed and media rooms were almost complete. Several rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the practice fields.
“The views that it has are just incredible, ” Mora said. “I don’t know how you can put value on it. I think in every single way, it elevates this program. We bring recruits in, and we show them the building, many of them say — and many of these recruits have been to the finest facilities in the country — they say this is as good as any of them.”
The only potential drawback to holding training camp on campus will be the fan experience because there will be none; the new practice fields were not built to accommodate a throng of spectators.
“This is the last time really any fans will be able to come out and watch practice, ” Mora said. “There won’t be that ability when we’re inside those walls, so hopefully people come out this spring.”
Receiver Mossi Johnson played exclusively at defensive back Saturday, though Mora said he would work out on both sides of the ball in hopes of finding a way to get him onto the field. That could include being a two-way player, Mora said.
Brandon Burton, who primarily played special teams last season, could fill a hybrid role as a linebacker and defensive back, Mora said. Jake Burton (no relation) has moved from the defensive line to offensive tackle because of his length as someone who’s listed as 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds.
“He told me he’s been told his whole life he looks like an offensive tackle, ” Mora said. “He’s got long arms, he’s almost 6-6. Just the way he moves, he moves like a tackle.”
Mora said cornerback Johnny Johnson had left the team after the first two days of spring practice to focus on graduating and playing elsewhere as a graduate transfer. “He’s not dissatisfied or anything like that, it’s really a career move for him, ” Mora said. “It’s important for him to get his master’s somewhere and so he’s going to do that.” … Mora said offensive linemen Zach Bateman and Alex Akingbulu were recovering from unspecified injuries.