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UCLA interim Coach Mike Johnson will leave after bowl game

UCLA FOOTBALL

He says he has yet to hear news from new Coach Jim L. Mora, but he says he sees 'the writing on the wall' with talk of Noel Mazzone coming in as offensive coordinator.

December 16, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA interim coach Mike Johnson, shown here while with the San Francisco 49ers in 2010, will leave the Bruins after their bowl game against Illinois at the end of the month.
UCLA interim coach Mike Johnson, shown here while with the San Francisco… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )

Mike Johnson, UCLA's interim coach, has yet to be told by new head Coach Jim L. Mora, but he said he will be moving on.

Mora is set to bring in former Arizona State assistant Noel Mazzone as UCLA's offensive coordinator. Johnson was the Bruins' offensive coordinator for one season.

"Jim and I had a good conversation, but we didn't even talk about whether I was coming back," Johnson said. "You've got to see the writing on wall. They hire Noel Mazzone and make him the offensive coordinator, you got to see that.

"Jim and I have been around a long time. He doesn't have to tell me, 'No you're not going to be part of the staff.' "

Johnson said he has had talks with "a couple people" about the head coach job at Akron, his alma mater. He is under contract with UCLA for $390,000 for the 2012 season.

Wayne State Coach Paul Winters, whose team plays Pittsburg State for the NCAA Division II title Saturday, is also a candidate for the job.

Johnson will coach the Bruins in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl on Dec. 31.

"I wish everybody the best," Johnson said. "I'm going to do my job here until the 31st. I'm going to coach these guys. We're going to show up and play hard."

Not so easy

Tyler Gonzalez, the Bruins' soccer-manager-turned-kicker, was going to have an easy quarter as he finished up his UCLA degree this fall.

"I came back to complete two classes and work for the soccer team," Gonzalez said. "I was trying ride the wave and I ended up putting in some work."

Gonzalez was plucked from the soccer program, where he was the team manager, after Burins' kicker Kip Smith suffered a hip flexor injury. Gonzalez made seven of 10 field goals and scored 40 points in eight games.

"Even though we lost the Pac-12 [Conference] championship game, that was my favorite memory," Gonzalez said. "All the fireworks going off during the national anthem; I remember going to Angel games and there would be fireworks during the national anthem. This time I was on the field. That was really cool."

Less cool were all the fireworks that occurred during the season, climaxing with Coach Rick Neuheisel's firing.

"I guess I learned that, whatever you do, your job is never secure," Gonzalez said. "From the top to the bottom, no matter what your position, you never know when your last day will be."

Prince sits

Kevin Prince took the day off Friday to rest a sore knee. He also did not participate in the team's paintball excursion on their day off Thursday.

"The original plan was to practice today and sit" Saturday, Prince said Friday. "Coach Johnson wanted to go a different way."

As for the knee, Prince said, "it's been a long season. With me getting banged up and all the running I've been doing, I needed a little rest."

Prince said he would return to practice Saturday.

Franklin's decision

Running back Johnathan Franklin is still pondering whether to declare for the NFL draft after the season.

"I have thought about it; it's in the back of my mind every day," said Franklin, a junior. "Right now I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm just preparing to play this game."

Franklin needs 53 yards to become the first UCLA player to rush for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons since DeShaun Foster in 2000 and 2001.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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