Jeff Baca is a jack of all trades. He can play anywhere you need him to play along the offensive line as he showed this spring for the UCLA Bruins.
Bacas versatile, which is a good thing. The fact that he had to show off his versatility isnt. It was based on necessity.
If the Bruins coaching staff could have it their way, Baca would be inserted firmly at right guard, the position hes listed at the top of in the UCLA Football Post-Spring Depth Chart, which was released by head coach Jim Mora on Monday.
Bacas insertion is easier scribed on paper than executed on the field.
There are holes on the offensive line, primarily at left guard and right tackle. Wade Yandall and Alexandru Ceachir are the top two options at left guard. Yandall has missed the majority of spring with a head injury and his return for Fall Camp is uncertain. Ceachir as well as redshirt freshman Torian White, who is listed as the starting right tackle, both have a lot of preparation to do before being ready to play on Saturdays.
Theyre both skilled guys but theyre both very raw. Theyre still learning technique, Mora said of Ceachir and White. Theyre still learning how to play with good pad level and how to move their feet, where to put their hands, and how to communicate how to work in concert with the guy next to them. So theres a process that you have you go through. And the process is you got to take snaps, you got to get reps. You got to fail a little bit in order to learn and so those guys are going through that.
That being said, if theyre our best option come the fall then theyre going to go out and theyre going to play and were going to expect them to perform.
Which means Baca may continue to be written in at right guard in pencil. This gives all the more reason for Mora to not put much stock into the newly released depth chart.
In my mind there is no depth chart, Mora said. This depth chart is a fluid as water.
No position group is as liquefied as the quarterbacks, which are listed numerically on the depth chart.
Theyre going to have to wait until August 16th when Mora may have to force himself to make a decision.
At that point, even if were feeling like we are right now where no ones just grabbed it, were going to say OK, well, who do we feel is going to give us the best chance to win football games this year? And thats who were going to pick, Mora said. Weve got to be consistent at that position. We have to have a guy pulling the trigger thats going to make good decisions, thats not going to put his ballclub in a position to fail but always give us a chance to win.
That doesnt mean that hes got to win it for us, but they have to put us in a position to win.
The head coach is encouraged by his quarterbacks and wont stop offering praise, even for the fourth guy in the battle, Jerry Neuheisel. The new head coach speaking about the son of the old head coach said the son has a future at this level.
As he sifts through information over the next couple of months, Mora says he has a leader in Kevin Prince and the guys rally around him. The head coach has a quarterback in Brett Hundley who is poised (and) makes throws in the clutch time, and in Richard Brehaut who has some moxy (behind center) and a little bit of athletic arrogance.
All, just a few of the things he likes about what each brings to the table.
Also drawing a favorable reaction is knowing that Brehauts locked in. Hes giving up baseball and putting all of his eggs into the starting quarterback basket.
I think its significant that Richard has decided to really commit for the next couple of months to football, Mora said. I think he feels good about the way he performed this spring and he should. He did a nice job.
The huge concern on the other side of the ball is depth at inside linebacker.
The Bruins were without their top two inside linebackers, Patrick Larimore (head) and Eric Kendricks (shoulder), during Saturdays spring game. Injuries at that position are very common.
If (Larimore and Kendricks) can stay healthy and play 14 games, every snap on defense, than were going to be fine but (at) that position its tough to do that. Theres a lot of contact, youre (sorting) through a lot of trash, Mora said. You need to have depth at that position and right now, quite frankly, we dont have much depth (at inside linebacker).
Helping in that regard is Damien Holmes ability to become versatile in a short period of time. Holmes, who switched from defensive end to outside linebacker, also showed the ability to play inside as well. That may be the most realistic solution giving the depth the Bruins do have available at outside linebacker, which could come in handy next fall.
Mora also noted incoming freshman Aaron Porter as a player that can come in and help at inside linebacker.
While the quarterback position and lack of depth at certain areas will certainly be on his mind, all things considered, Mora likes the football team he has as he takes one step closer to the season debut at Rice on August 30th.
I like their willingness to conform to what were trying to become. I like the look in their eye but Im not satisfied by any means with where we are, Mora said. Weve got a ton of work to do. Were not even close yet but were on the right path.
The trail heads toward Fall Camp which is set to open in Early August.