UCLA's Holmes switches positions, again

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. -- Damien Holmes is on the move.


With the news that middle linebacker Patrick Larimore -- UCLA's 2011 defensive captain -- opted to take a medical retirement, the coaching staff looked to Holmes to once again switch positions and plug a hole.

After moving from defensive end to outside linebacker in UCLA's new 3-4 scheme during spring drills, Holmes has now been moved to the middle linebacker position. He has 20 starts over the past two seasons, so the experience is there. But all 20 have been at defensive end.

"With the coaching staff we have, I trust their judgment," Holmes said. "If they believe I can do it then I believe I can do it. I think I've gotten comfortable as a linebacker through training camp so I'm excited."

The move not only marks yet another significant shift in technique and mentality, but it also involves a deeper knowledge of the defense. As a middle linebacker, Holmes will be helping align the defensive front and making calls to the secondary.

"The only thing I'm focused on is getting the calls out there, being aggressive, staying low and flying around," he said. "I've always prided myself on is having a motor. Whether that's at D-end or inside linebacker or outside linebacker, that's what I want people to know me as."

Just a few days into his new gig, Holmes said he's adjusting quickly. Instinct helps.

"Outside, you have to hold an edge and you are only worried really about one side," he said. "Inside you have the whole field. As far as leverage goes, as far as the point of attack, I think it's different. Also, you get a different perspective being over the ball. Linemen are coming at you and have to shed them. There is definitely a difference. At the end of the day, it's football. It's getting to the ball and making a play. There is only so much that's different."

Practice notes

Growing up: After a sluggish start to Tuesday's late-morning practice, the Bruins picked up the pace in a goal-line drill, which head coach Jim Mora took as evidence that his team is growing up: "I think that’s the sign of a team that’s maturing. It’s hard to come out here every day and just pound on each other the way we do and sometimes it gets sloppy. But the teams that aren’t making progress, the sloppiness continues. The teams that are making progress -- like I believe our team is making progress -- they find a way to pull it together and that’s what they did today."

Holding out hope: Mora said he had big plans for freshman offensive lineman Simon Goines, but concussion/dehydration issues have kept him off the practice field for a good chunk of camp. But he's not ready to declare the 6-foot-7, 324-pounder from Keller, Texas, a redshirt yet: "I think it's too early to say that. It's obviously a possibility. He's close to being back. If he can come back and show some real progress then we'd like to continue to try to factor him in."

The next 'Y' guy: No one is going to knock Joseph Fauria off his spot as starting "Y" receiver -- which is essentially a hybrid tight end. But Mora has been impressed with freshman Ian Taubler, a 6-4, 250-pound tight end from Fresno, Calif.: "Ian looks good. Blocks well, you can stretch him out ... he's a matchup problem. I think he's going to be a guy that could contribute early. Ian could be one of those guys. I like him in all phases, blocking, running routes and catching the ball."

Live, but not live: After a spirited spring session with plenty of hitting, Mora has been keeping fall camp to what he calls "thud" sessions: "The risk that you take when you don't go live is in that first game there are some missed tackles. The risk that you take if you go live is you get somebody hurt this close to the season. I think if we do a good job of focusing through the end of the play -- not necessarily taking a guy down -- we're going to get the best of both worlds.

"When you say live to a football player, it’s hard to say 'Hey, live, but don’t cut-block. Live, but don’t tackle low. Live, but don’t take a shot on your teammate.' Your mindset changes when you say live."