Sports

Showcase game to cap feel-good spring for UCLA football team

UCLA coach Jim Mora wants to 'put on a good show' at Saturday's Spring Showcase. ALEX GALLARDO AP

LOS ANGELES – There will be a game at StubHub Center on Saturday night – one with two teams, four 12-minute quarters and a running clock. There will be no special teams returns or hitting the quarterback.

But it will be an actual game, nonetheless, the kind that Coach Jim Mora and his Pac-12 hopeful UCLA football team hoped to put on – just enough to whet the appetites of those hungry for what potentially lies ahead in the fall.

UCLA’s third Spring Showcase of the Mora era won’t be the kind of game that sheds much light on the few position battles still raging in the Bruins camp. Mora has admitted as much. Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Brett Hundley will likely run only a series or two before taking over as play-caller. Not long after that, he’ll retreat to autograph duties. If it could, UCLA might cover him in bubble wrap.

“I want to put on a good show,” Mora said Thursday, and perhaps that’s the most fitting way of putting it, given that this year’s iteration – a far cry from last year’s free, drill-filled scrimmage – will cost fans $10 at the door.

The heavy lifting this spring – however little there was to be done – has already been accomplished. Evaluations have been made. Mora insists this is his team’s best spring yet, and it’s hard not to be cognizant of the ramping-up around the program.

“It’s been a really physical, productive spring,” Mora said. “We’ve gotten a ton accomplished. A lot of guys have made the type of progress that we need them to make.”

That leaves the showcase as more of a luxury for fans than an actual proving ground. Injuries have been relatively light this April, with only a few minor ailments affecting UCLA. Plus, few other teams in the nation boast as many returning starters as the Bruins do (19, not counting a few other rotation regulars).

The offensive line already looks improved. The secondary, underestimated a year ago, appears to be one of UCLA’s greatest strengths on defense. The wide receivers are better than ever.

In fact, UCLA’s upward climb this spring has been so gruelingly steady that it has become an almost monotonous one. There were no dramatic quarterback competitions or fierce position battles. The biggest question mark is at running back – where a committee is likely to continue – and backup quarterback – which might prove to be Saturday’s main event with Hundley signing more autographs than throwing passes.

Still, the progress – especially in terms of UCLA’s depth – is evident.

“We see how much growth we’ve had and where we can go,” Hundley said.

On Saturday in Carson, that won’t exactly take them to new, unforeseen heights. But, with a roster set to compete for a Pac-12 title in the fall, putting on “a show” might be well within its grasp.

Contact the writer: rkartje@ocregister.com

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