Saturday, July 13, 2024

UCLA football goes inside the numbers to get in peak condition

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UCLA receiver Titus Mokiao-Atimalala was eating five meals a day during the offseason.

All the chicken and fish – plus plenty of water – were part of a coordinated effort with nutritionist Ross Shumway and director of football performance Keith Belton to have him gain weight and get faster. Now entrenched in fall camp, Mokiao-Atimalala and others are reaping the benefits.

“We track a lot of analytics,” Bruins receiver Josiah Norwood said. “Obviously with Coach Kelly, he’s an analytical guy. Numbers and stuff like that. We’re almost doubling, tripling, our numbers from last year, so it’s been really impactful.”

The coaching staff keeps track of miles per hour and max velocity, as well as the number of high-speed reps a player takes in a practice. They use that data to push players to do more or dial back their conditioning workload.

Running was a major component of the offseason training. In addition to providing useful analytical data, it created healthy competition between players to see who’s fastest.

“You’ve gotta be able to run in this sport,” head coach Chip Kelly said. “It’s not just in the weight room the whole time. It’s which team can get to Point A to Point B faster than the other. Are you going to arrive there to make the tackle before them? Or are you going to arrive before them to outrun the tackle?”

Kelly said he’s noticed a visible difference in physical appearance in many of his players. For example, defensive back Devin Kirkwood has filled out to more than 200 pounds thanks to the conditioning and nutrition work.

Recovery and stretching are part of the regiment, but some players are dedicating time outside of scheduled training to it. Garrett DiGiorgio said Kelly shared video of San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle going through a restorative yoga practice, which encouraged him to give it a try.

“Coach Kelly brought us in before we started camp and really talked to me about stretching and doing yoga every day,” DiGiorgio said. “And I really have been taking the next step in taking a better look at my body and taking care of my body and I really feel it.”

Amid all the running, diet plans and stretching, some players’ behaviors just can’t be changed.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m still there on Tuesdays for pizookies,” Mokiao-Atimalala said, smiling. “Most of the receivers go out there and spend some time and build the chemistry.”

More GoPro changes

The GoPro camera used to record quarterback reps for virtual reality film review has changed helmets again. Ethan Garbers began fall camp wearing the camera fitted to his helmet before it was placed on freshman Dante Moore roughly a week ago. On Saturday morning, Garbers was wearing the camera again.

Coaches have emphasized that the wearer of the camera is not an indication of who is the starting quarterback, and Moore, a highly recruited freshman, still has an effect on the team.

“He has a lot of energy, which we love,” Mokiao-Atimalala said. “At times we’ll be down or we’ll be tired of running and I hear just a little rookie in the background saying, ‘Come on T, run T, you can go faster.’ Stuff like that just helps push the group.”

JonJon Vaughns returns

JonJon Vaughns was a full participant in practice Saturday morning and appears to be in the full swing of things. At one point during individual drills, linebacker Kain Medrano held a tackling dummy while Vaughns rushed at him and front-flipped over him on contact.

Vaughns is a dual-sport athlete and was recovering from baseball season, which ended in late May, prior to returning.

Ale Kaho also joined the linebackers last week after recovering from an injury that kept him out all of last season.

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