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UCLA trying to ditch over-the-wall tradition

The Bruins' senior football players say no one plans to skip practice as they prepare for the Dec. 27 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl against Baylor.

December 08, 2012|By Chris Foster, Los Angeles Times
  • UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria celebrates the Bruins 38-28 win over USC at the Rose Bowl.
UCLA tight end Joseph Fauria celebrates the Bruins 38-28 win over USC at… (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles…)

You may hear the phrase "off the wall" around the UCLA practice field the next couple weeks … receiver Joseph Fauria, with his eclectic personality, is still around.

What you won't hear is "over the wall."

The Bruins held their first practice for the Dec. 27 Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl against Baylor on Saturday. This, traditionally, has been the opportunity to ditch practice by going over the wall or, in actuality, rushing out the gate.

No one is taking a powder this season, seniors said.

"The term 'over the wall' is deleted from our vocabulary," senior linebacker Dalton Hilliard said. "Those words are no longer in the dictionary. There is no way in heck we'd ever do that."

The ditch day, the most well-known UCLA football tradition, has been problematic to coaches in the past. Players have skipped out either during bowl-game preparations or during spring practice.

When the "tradition" happened in spring of 2008, an assistant coach at the time said, "Yeah, they have a lot of traditions here, like all the national championships listed on the wall."

Coach Jim Mora's turn at ending the practice came a year ago. Players skipped out of preparations for the Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl. Mora, who had yet to take over day-to-day control of the team, reacted strongly publicly, and in private.

"The first day he met with us, he said, 'If you go over the wall, just go home,'" senior defensive end Datone Jones said.

The message was clear.

"Someone told me, 'There's a new sheriff in town,' and I was, 'That's exactly right,'" Hilliard said. "When a coach says what Coach Mora said, it resonates."

Hilliard said the seniors talked about the over-the-wall tradition before the season and they were adamant that it end.

"There is no reason; practice is fun now," Hilliard said.

Besides, Jones said, "it would be disrespectful to the coaches after all the work they have put in."

Hilliard said that there could be a day where the seniors act as coaches. But that was awaiting approval.

"That's up to Coach Mora to decide," Hilliard said.

UCLA has finals this week and will resume practice next Saturday.

McCarthy out

Defensive end Ellis McCarthy's season ended last week, when he underwent surgery on his right knee. He will miss the bowl game.

McCarthy, a freshman, was considered the top prospect in the Bruins' 2012 recruiting class. He was ranked second nationally as a defensive tackle by Scout.com as a senior at Monrovia High School last season. But his freshman season at UCLA has been difficult.

He underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee before training camp, which delayed his development. McCarthy appeared in nine games this season but played sparingly the last five weeks.

McCarthy will be ready for spring practice.

Reinforcements

Hilliard (separated shoulder) and wide receiver Devin Lucien (broken collarbone) will be available for the bowl game. Both went through individual drills Saturday.

Hilliard missed the last game against Stanford. Lucien has missed the last eight games.

Quick hits

Mora said that preparation for Baylor will begin in earnest Dec. 17. That gives the Bruins 10 days to get ready for the game. The bruins arrive in San Diego on Dec. 22. "There are so many distractions, we want to get the game plan ready when we get there," Mora said. "It's kind of like what you do with a Super Bowl. That's what we've modeled it after." … Bruins coaches will spend the next week on the recruiting trail. … Running back Johnathan Franklin and quarterback Brett Hundley visited Mattel Children's Hospital after practice Saturday.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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