UCLA coach Jim Mora will get his first live looks at his new team when spring practice begins April 3, and he said he's not going to hold much back in terms of letting the players loose during the 15 sessions in April and May.
"I would expect that this will be a very physical spring," Mora said. "A very physical spring."
Mora, who took over for Rick Neuheisel in December, intends to go live as often as allowed by NCAA rules so that he can establish a toughness among the team while also using the live action to find out about the character of the team he inherited.
"I think it’s important that we come in and establish a level of physical toughness that you only get by going through some tough times by banging on each other a little bit," Mora said. "I need to find out, our coaches need to find out, the players need to find out who’s in and who’s not in. Who’s willing to make the commitment physically, emotionally and all of those things to be great and who’s kind of wavering."
Mora said he hopes to build a new mindset and identity for a Bruins squad that has gone 21-29 over the last four seasons. His plan is to run about 90 plays a day of full team and 7-on-7 drills so that he has as much data as possible. Those sessions will be as physical as possible, he said, though not recklessly so.
"It’s not going to be a bloodbath or anything," Mora said. "But it needs to be hard, it needs to be demanding, it needs to be tough. That’s the only way you find out about guys and I don’t want to wait until the fall to find out. I want to find out as quick as we can find out. And they need to know what the expectation level is going to be."
Quarterbacks will never be live, Mora said, even in the spring game, but everyone else will go full throttle as often as possible. He said he expects most players will buy in, but expects there will be a handful that won't and that will serve as his form of football Darwinism.
"Those that won’t probably need to find another place to play football," he said. "And those that embrace it, those are the guys that you want. Those are the guys that you want to go play football with on Saturday. I think you owe it to those guys that embrace it the way you want it embraced to eliminate the guys who aren’t all in."
Spring practices will run every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from April 3 until May 3 at Spaulding Field and the spring game will be May 5 at the Rose Bowl. The practice sessions are open to the public, and judging by what Mora is saying, they might be worth watching.
"Guys are about to get hit in the mouth a little bit," Mora said. "We put the pads on and there is going to be some adversity. We’ll just see how we react."