UCLA ready to start clean after last season

UCLA head football coach Jim Mora talks to the press during the first day of the PAC-12 football media days at the Ray Dolby Ballroom in Hollywood on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal
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When asked about last season’s 4-8 record at Pac-12 Media Days in late July, UCLA coach Jim Mora was self-deprecating but optimistic.

“You have to look at everything you do, the way you meet, the way you practice, to your schemes, to how you coach, to the words you use, the culture in the building, how you let them recover. And you just pull it all apart,” Mora said.

“You try to put it back together in a way that will give you a chance to succeed in the future.”

Putting everything back together entails an offensive coaching overhaul for the Bruins. Jedd Fisch (offensive coordinator), Jimmie Dougherty (passing game coordinator/receivers), Hank Fraley (offensive line) and DeShaun Foster (running backs) are all new faces on this year’s coaching staff.

That group is met with seven returning offensive starters, including leading rusher Soso Jamabo and top receiver Darren Andrews.

MORE: Pac-12 coaches reflect on elimination of two-a-day practices

Four starters return to an offensive line that will rely on the experience of guys like Scott Quessenberry, a redshirt senior.

“Any time you change coordinators and line coaches, it’s tough,” Quessenberry said. “But I think this offseason we’ve done a great job. … We really dialed in the playbook and we’re really excited. I don’t think there’s going to be a growing pain period, I think we’re ready to go.”

Josh Rosen is back for his third year at quarterback for UCLA. He’s currently sixth all-time in terms of passing yards, completions and total offense for the program, despite ending last season early due to a shoulder injury.

“I think that he’s progressed tremendously,” Mora said. “I think it’s a huge credit to Josh Rosen in the way that he’s matured and the way he’s approached this offseason.”

The defense returns six starters, a group headlined by Kenny Young, a linebacker who was second on the team last season with 90 tackles. He’s also an honor-roll student who was on the debate team last year.

Jaleel Wadood, who notched 76 tackles last season to rank third on the team, returns at safety. Mora also said he’s not afraid to play rookies like defensive back Darnay Holmes (Calabasas High) and d-lineman Jaelan Phillips (Redlands East Valley High).

“It was crazy because in spring ball … our defensive back coach pulled him in with the one’s and the first couple of plays, he was doing things that you don’t see very often,” Young said. “He has impressed me this past spring ball.”

The Bruins begin the season against Texas A&M on Sunday, Sept. 3 at 4:30 p.m. in the Rose Bowl. The game will be televised on FOX.

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