UCLA Spring Practice continues, and progress is evident as the Bruins make up for lost time in a race against the clock
The Bruins are wearing pads now, hitting with full force, trying to separate ballcarriers from the ball, and trying to separate from each other as competition for starting positions rages on. It is still too early to say who is winning these battles, but it sure looks like everyone is getting a chance. All the QB’s are getting reps, with Kevin Prince apparently first in the rotation, while Jonathan Franklin is still probably the starting Running Back, although Steven Manfro, Damien Thigpen (and especially) Malcolm Jones are looking impressive when they get the ball.
At Wide Receiver, I’m seeing Jerry Johnson and Devin Lucien split wide most often, while (I think) Shaquelle Evans and Logan Sweet are still very much in evidence. Johnson may be the early standout though, making two great catches today including one on a pass thrown way behind him that he had to twist around to grab (Ricky Marvray was a big contributor last week, but I didn’t notice him today).
At Y-Back (i.e. Tight End), Joseph Fauria is the clear starter, but he was out with an injury today, so John Young and Darius Bell got a lot of exposure. Young sustained (what looked like) a minor injury, while Bell made some catches, including a leaping grab in the end zone. The other catch of the day (after Johnson’s and Bell’s) was made by Fullback David Allen, contorting to snag another bad pass.
On Defense, there were a lot of good hits and a forced fumble or two, but I can’t really single out any players with certainty. Like Young on Offense, Linebacker Anthony Barr also sustained what looked like a minor injury. In general, the Defense looked good to me, but I believe the Offense was deemed the “winner” of the 7-on-7’s, as only the Defense had to do wind sprints at the conclusion.
As for the reports of cursing and amped-up intensity, NONE of that was in evidence on Tuesday. There was no swearing that I could hear, nor were any new a-holes getting ripped. Not to sound too negative, but this practice looked just like the practices from the last 8 years. Nothing inherently WRONG with that, but reports made it sound like a whole new attitude had taken over at Spaulding, and I just didn’t see it on this day. Maybe there was a LITTLE more hustle, but nothing jaw-dropping. The theory is that Saturdays are the days where they scrimmage at full force, with intensity crescendo-ing to levels not seen before this year. They DID use piped-in crowd noise on Tuesday during 7-on-7’s, and they tried to execute plays at a “no-huddle” pace, but it did NOT resemble the Oregon Ducks’ attack. Instead, there was miscommunication, blown patterns, and even two backs running into each other right in front of the Quarterback, resulting in a badly broken play.
That being said, the QB’s did a good job of checking down, and going through their progressions, and finding the open Receivers for nice gains during 7-on-7 drills. Of course, with no major rush or blitzing, that doesn’t mean a great deal. It will be much more telling when ALL-OUT 11-on-11 drills show similar results. At least they are getting comfortable with looking away from the primary Receiver, as opposed to just “locking in” on one guy.
Below are some photos from Tuesday’s practice, including a whole bunch of Aramide Olaniyan, who Tweeted that he wanted some photos of the Spring Session.