LOS ANGELES — A floor-to-ceiling banner reads “semper optimus” outside the weight room during UCLA’s first spring football practice Tuesday. With promising new coaches and players walking past the words that translate to “always the best,” there’s reason for optimism at Spaulding Field.
Defensive coordinator D’Anton Lynn is one of the fresh faces, and brings NFL experience after coaching stints with the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans.
“New coordinator, but we still got the same goals and aspirations going into the year,” Bruins senior linebacker Darius Muasau said. “It’s just another opportunity to learn from a good coach coming from the league. He knows the game inside and out. I’m just looking forward to picking his brain throughout the year.”
Lynn succeeds previous coordinator Bill McGovern, who has moved to the role of director of football administration after missing multiple games last season due to an unspecified health reason.
Lynn flitted around the field during Tuesday’s 8:45 a.m. practice, actively giving direction to defensive players. He’s in his early 30s, making him relatable to players but still respected because of his nine years of experience in the NFL.
“Him being a younger coach just brings a new perspective of the game,” Muasau said. “He’s a great coach, but an even better person, just talking to him every day and being in the meeting rooms.”
Last year’s UCLA defense gave up an average of 29 points per game, just over 2,000 rushing yards and more than 3,500 passing yards.
Muasau ranked first on the team in total tackles with 91 last season. Other players with significant game experience at linebacker include Carl Jones, Laiatu Latu, Kain Medrano, Carson Schwesinger and JonJon Vaughns.
First glimpse of Dante Moore The starting quarterback position is up for grabs with the graduation of Dorian Thompson Robinson, who led the Bruins’ offense since starting seven games as a freshman in 2018.
Returners Ethan Garbers and Justyn Martin as well as Kent State transfer Collin Schlee each received repetitions during the team periods at Tuesday’s practice, but early enrollee and five-star recruit Dante Moore drew attention.
“We’ve got a lot of potential in that in that quarterback room,” Muasau said. “So I’m really looking forward to going and getting after against those guys competing every day.”
Moore, a product of Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, appeared charismatic though small without full pads on. He showed a strong arm and quick release as the first quarterback to get reps and raised his hands in celebration each time he threw the ball on target during an accuracy drill.
“He’s just very outgoing, easy to talk to,” UCLA offensive lineman Duke Clemens said. “(All the quarterbacks) are mature for their age. Being able to want to get better and being all-in already as a young guy, I’m impressed with that.”
Youth on the O-line Clemens is one of the most experienced players on the offensive line heading into spring, with starts in all 13 games last season. Left guard Antonio Mafi (who was in attendance to watch practice on Tuesday) and right guard Jon Gaines II graduated. Left tackle Raiqwon O’Neal declared for the NFL draft.
That leaves Clemens at center, and he’s already taken on a leadership role. He’s been planning and hosting player meetings and making sure everyone is on time for team meetings.
“Guys have just gotta grow and be able to handle what we’ve got going on over here because I feel our system is good,” Clemens said. “Getting everybody on the same page and understanding the playbook is probably the most important thing right now.”