UCLA notebook: Holmes is home at OLB

April, 20, 2012
4/20/12
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LOS ANGELES -- Damien Holmes came out of this whole position change thing looking pretty selfless. Truth be told, it's what he was hoping for all along.

When the UCLA defensive end heard that the Bruins were planning to switch from a 4-3 scheme to a 3-4 under Lou Spanos, his imagination began to run wild with thoughts of jumping hook-to-curl routes and pick-sixes. At 6-foot-4 and a leaner 260 pounds, he would be a perfect outside linebacker, he thought to himself.

[+] EnlargeDamien Holmes
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDamien Holmes on switching to OLB: "It's so fun. You get more responsibility and you get to show off a little more of what you have as a player."
“Once I knew there was going to be an emphasis on the 3-4, I decided in my mind I wanted to do the switch,” Holmes said. “Going up to the coaches’ office, I was going to talk to them about it and express how I was feeling. It turned out that’s the day they told me about the switch.”

It ended up being a mutual decision -- and likely one that will benefit a rush defense that ranked 11th in the conference last year and gave up slightly more than 190 yards per game.

"I’m loving the switch," Holmes said. "It’s so fun. You get more responsibility and you get to show off a little more of what you have as a player. I love that I can rush one play and then drop into coverage on the next play. It’s been a lot of fun."

Spanos stressed that UCLA won't be "pigeonholed" into a the 3-4 and that they'll be multiple. That's what makes a dynamic player like Holmes so valuable. He can set the edge standing up, rush with his hand on the ground or drop back into coverage.

"He's versatile and he'll do both in our scheme," Spanos said. "He has a nice balance. Very smart, very instinctive. Hardworking. Takes to coaching. He's doing a very good job for us."

In other news:

  • Librado Barocio -- a walk-on cornerback -- is out indefinitely after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament, head coach Jim Mora said after practice on Thursday. The non-contact injury occurred on Tuesday when the sophomore planted his foot during a coverage drill.
"It's really unfortunate when anyone gets hurt," Mora said. "But a kid like that, he dies out here every day to be great. And you hate to see that."

  • Running back Johnathan Franklin, who has struggled with fumbling demons throughout his career, said he's taken some more drastic steps this year to ensure ball protection. Aside from the 5-10 minutes of ball security drills at practice, Franklin now either walks around campus with a football -- daring teammates to try to get it -- or he's constantly flexing a tennis ball to improve his grip.
"Ball security is really something I'm focused on this spring," he said. "I'm just working on keeping it high and tight."

  • Thursday was not a watershed day for the quarterbacks -- all of whom either made bad decisions or threw interceptions during the live session. And the fact that the defense is playing well is making it that much tougher for Mora & Co. to gauge the QBs.
"It's a little difficult for our quarterbacks because our front seven is playing tenacious football," Mora said. "They are pinning their ears back and coming after it. So, you love it, but at the same time you need to see the quarterbacks."

Does that mean he'll tell the defense to back off so he can get a better look at the QBs?

"I will never tell those guys to back off," he said. "That's against my nature. I'm a defensive guy. I'll tell them to heat it up a little more."

  • Mora said that Saturday's scrimmage will be more like a "modified" scrimmage, citing all of the injuries. Rather, they'll do some situational scrimmaging -- such as an overtime period.
"For us to come out and run a 91-play scrimmage right now wouldn't be prudent just with the guys that we have missing," Mora said.

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