UCLA football takes advantage of ‘improvement week’

LOS ANGELES — It’s a bye week, or rather “improvement week,” as coaches and players are calling it, and the UCLA football team is using the opportunity to focus on fundamentals.

“I find my personal motivation in doing the small things correct every day, like focusing on the details,” Bruins defensive back Azizi Hearn said. “Good practices, good meetings, being attentive to the details and doing all the little things right and we’ll get all the wins we want.”

The Bruins are 6-0 and have reached the No. 11 spot in the most recent Associated Press College football rankings after appearing in the polls for the first time just last week.

Players have been stressing a week-by-week mentality and watch and analyze film in the same way they would after a loss.

“You talk about what you did well and you focus on what you need to improve,” UCLA offensive lineman Jon Gaines II said. “It’s quick. You don’t sit on the laurels of victory. You’re on to the next because that’s the most important thing, what you’re going to do the next day.”

This week’s practice schedule looks a little different, with Tuesday and Thursday off, and coach Chip Kelly said planning for Oregon doesn’t start until next week, as several scout team members floated around wearing green jerseys.

Like Gaines said, there’s no time to rest, even after a win.

“Tackling, blocking, ball reception, ball placement, handoffs, everything,” Kelly said of what improvement week is all about.

“You’re never going to get complacent when it comes to the fundamental aspect. How do we get better at the fundamentals that we have to continue to work on to be a better football team going into the second half of the season?”

Praise for Medrano

Linebacker Kain Medrano was credited with two assisted tackles in Saturday’s 42-32 win over Utah. It’s the most playing time he’s seen in a game, as he’s been rehabbing an undisclosed injury for most of the season.

Medrano played both the Sam and Will linebacker designations Saturday.

“It was good to have him back adding some depth at the linebacker position,” Kelly said. “He’s worked extremely hard in his rehab to get himself back out and so to finally see him back out on the field, I was happy for him.”

Fellow linebacker JonJon Vaughns was spotted on crutches in the third quarter of that game, but Kelly said he was “available” before Wednesday morning’s practice. Vaughns was also seen fully participating in the practice.

A round of applause

Game attendance has steadily been building from the season-opening crowd of just more than 27,000 people to the 42,000 fans that gathered Saturday for UCLA’s win over Utah.

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Hearn said he hasn’t noticed a buzz among students on campus, but did see support from his intellectual history professor.

“She told us good job about one of our wins and that was cool to know people care about what we’re doing over here,” he said. “But when I’m over there, it’s really majority school. I’m trying to learn as much as I can.”

The class responded with applause, while Hearn kept his head down and pretended to take notes.

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