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UCLA defense has a new look ... well, several new looks

August 19, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • Dalton Hilliard, a 198-pound safety, has been playing multiple positions in practice.
Dalton Hilliard, a 198-pound safety, has been playing multiple positions… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

What has been clear through two-plus weeks of training camp is that the Bruins’ defense is going to do the unexpected.

Dalton Hilliard, a 198-pound safety, more or less playing an inside linebacker spot? Sure.

“We're just moving him around a little bit,” Coach Jim Mora said.

There has been a lot of that. Whether it’s the smorgasbord of defensive fronts or the eclectic nickel-and-dime packages, it sometimes seems as if defensive coordinator Lou Spanos is pulling defensive looks out of a hat.

“If all heck breaks lose, and you said, ‘What is UCLA going to play?’ we will be in a 3-4 defense,” Mora said. But, he added, “you’re going to see a lot of mixing and matching.”

That has led to moving players around.

“Our feeling is we’re going to see a lot of different offenses, so we have to be flexible,” Mora said.

The Bruins allowed 417 total yards and 31 points per game last season.

That led to changes in personnel. Anthony Barr moved Y-back from offense to linebacker, and terrorized the offense the first two days of training camp before breaking the ring finger on his left hand.

He returned to practice, with a cast that is heavily wrapped, and has continued to bother those on the offense whom he played with last season.

“There are no friends on the field,” Barr said. “I had to prove to myself that I could play this position. I had never played it before.”

He has learned that “tackling is not much different from blocking.”

The personnel shifts have continued. Freshman Fabian Moreau moved from receiver to cornerback late last week. He intercepted two passes during Sunday morning’s practice, returning one for a touchdown.

Mora said Moreau “looks like a lot more natural” at cornerback and “seems to be enjoying it. We’ll continue that experiment for a while.”

The secondary is constantly shifting, with safeties getting time at cornerback and cornerbacks taking reps at safety.

“It’s better to have guys understand concepts rather than just learn jobs,” Mora said.

Other morning practice notes:

--Guards Jeff Baca, Greg Capella and Alberto Cid all remain out with concussions. Mora was unsure when they might return, though he said Capella seemed closest.

--It was a rough morning for quarterback Richard Brehaut, who had three passes intercepted, one on a tipped ball.

--Quarterback Brett Hundley had the offensive play of the morning, drifting to his right to avoid pressure, then lofting a perfect 30-yard touchdown pass to Steven Manfro.

--The Bruins did kickoff return work in the morning. Manfro, Jordon James, Damien Thigpen and Jordon James all looked like naturals returning kicks.

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