Rule change is a wel­come meal ticket

Los Angeles Times - - FOOTBALL - By Chris Foster chris.foster@la­times.com Twit­ter: @cfos­ter­la­times

It has been a year since the plight of col­lege ath­letes was in the head­lines.

The changes that came from the up­heaval last April, af­ter the NCAA loos­ened the leash on what ath­letes could be given, have been “huge,” UCLA Coach Jim Mora said. The in­creased meals and snacks alone were a boost to the play­ers’ men­tal and phys­i­cal well-be­ing.

“UCLA was do­ing ev­ery­thing it could be­fore, now they’re al­lowed to do ex­tra,” re­ceiver Jor­dan Pay­ton said. “Break­fast in the morn­ing be­fore prac­tice has been great. To have a whole meal out there for you is amaz­ing.”

The is­sue came to a head af­ter North­west­ern foot­ball play­ers moved to union­ize. But it be­came a hot-but­ton is­sue a year ago when Con­necti­cut bas­ket­ball player Shabazz Napier told re­porters at the Fi­nal Four that there were times he went to bed “starv­ing.”

That brought ac­tion from the NCAA Leg­isla­tive Coun­cil, which ap­proved changes.

“I was glad Shabazz said some­thing,” UCLA line­backer Myles Jack said. “I re­mem­ber my fresh­man year, we would play night games and wouldn’t get back to the dorms un­til 2 a.m. Ev­ery­thing was shut down. There was no place to eat. Now they can pro­vide us food af­ter games.” Mora said that the need was ap­par­ent. “Be­ing able to give them a snack in the morn­ing be­fore prac­tice or be­fore their work­outs, and a snack now be­fore their din­ner is great be­cause they were starv­ing,” Mora said. “Th­ese kids’ phys­i­cal out­put is amaz­ing. They are big old dudes. It’s just been a real pos­i­tive thing and they have ben­e­fited from it.”

Where it leads now re­mains to be seen. Be­gin­ning Aug. 1, UCLA will begin pro­vid­ing schol­ar­ships that cover the full cost of at­ten­dance.

“There are a lot of is­sues,” Jack said. “Maybe pay­ing ath­letes will be a pos­si­bil­ity. There are a lot dif­fer­ent changes that can hap­pen.” In the scrum

Line­backer Cameron Grif­fin has shown a see-a-ball-car­rier, hit-a-ball-car­rier at­ti­tude this spring. It’s a prod­uct of seven years play­ing rugby.

“I’m will­ing to tackle,” said Grif­fin, who was a fresh­man last fall. “Play­ing rugby, you have no pads and ev­ery­thing is in the open field. I can play out in space and make open­field tack­les. Rugby taught me that.”

Wed­nes­day was just an­other ex­am­ple. On one play, he crashed from the right and smoth­ered run­ning back Nate Starks. It was one of a hand­ful of eye-catch­ing plays Grif­fin has made this spring.

“He is scrappy and re­lent­less,” Jack said. “He brings that rugby men­tal­ity. He knows how to tackle. He knows how to hit.” Where Grif­fin fits re­mains to be seen. “I have only seen him prac­tice a few times [be­cause of an in­jury], but ev­ery day he seems bet­ter,” Mora said. “He gives supreme ath­leti­cism. When I look at him, I can’t de­cide yet if he’s an in­side or an out­side line­backer.”

Mora added that “I have a feel­ing he is go­ing to be a re­ally, re­ally good spe­cial-teams player for us. He can run and is pow­er­ful.” Quar­ter­back watch

Fresh­man Josh Rosen, who was ab­sent Mon­day while at­tend­ing a fu­neral, re­turned to run the first-team of­fense. He com­pleted 10 of 14 passes and threw two touch­downs.

“He’s got the wide vi­sion and he has the abil­ity to go zoom vi­sion,” of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Noel Maz­zone said. “He’s a sharp guy.” Quick hits

Re­ceiver Alex Van Dyke and run­ning back Craig Lee suf­fered mi­nor in­juries and spent the last part of prac­tice rid­ing sta­tion­ary bikes. … Tackle Simon Goines was limited in prac­tice be­cause of an undis­closed in­jury. … Line­backer Aaron Wal­lace had his best prac­tice of the spring, shut­ting down ball­car­ri­ers on a few plays.

Wally Skalij Los An­ge­les Times

Robert Gau­thier Los An­ge­les Times

UCLA COACH Jim Mora, right, is pleased that Myles Jack, left, and all Bru­ins play­ers are now al­lowed to re­ceive ex­tra meals be­cause of a rule change by the NCAA. Says Mora: “It’s just been a real pos­i­tive thing and they have ben­e­fited from it.”

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