Lunch and Launch — Two delightful Laker Girls make a lunch appearance in Pasadena, while Mora and his staff re-light my fire at their first practice in Westwood
It was a Tuesday full of passion, as the Laker Girls continued their whirlwind tour of local Carl’s Jr’s, and the new-attitude, re-invigorated UCLA Bruins started their annual Spring Practice Session. While the Laker Girls have job security, the Bruins are all fighting for their jobs, and it shows. The UCLA players worked harder than ever before in Spring, even without pads, as the competition for playing time has already intensified.
The Quarterback situation includes 6 contestants, with another one coming in the Fall to make 7. One of the 6 is Freshman T.J. Millweard, who was recruited by new Offensive Coordinator Noel Mazzone. While the Frosh seemed to fit in fine with the group, he does have a noticeable difference: When he throws the ball, the leading tip of the ball (or the “nose” of the ball) seems to be pointed down. The ball still arrives accurately at the target, and is NOT travelling in a downward direction, but the ball is just strangely angled as it flies through the air. I don’t claim to know what this means in terms of passing mechanics, but I hope it doesn’t make the passes any harder to catch. I pointed this out to someone else in the stands, and they confirmed my observation (so it’s not just me). I don’t care what the passes LOOK like — If he can move the team the best, then I hope he starts.
Kevin Prince got the first snaps, with Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley, Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fauful and Millweard all getting plenty of reps. MOST of their passes on Day 1 were Screen passes, to Running Backs who had already run patterns all the way to the sidelines. It was a staple of Mazzone’s Offense last year at ASU, and if Day 1 is any indication (it really isn’t), then the Bruins will stretch Defenses all the way out beyond the hash marks on a regular basis. The QB’s will have to be able to throw the ball 20 yards, without it crossing the line of scrimmage. They are trying to get the ball in the hands of speedsters who are already up to speed. One good block by the outside Receiver, and the Backs will have room to run.
Mazzone says the Bruins will run only 20 plays, so it makes sense that they would spend lots of time on each one. Later in the practice, they threw more slants and deep balls, but the concentration on the passes to the backs lingered in my mind. The QB’s were hitting the back shoulder on the slants, but with more time spent on timing, they should be able to lead their Receivers, like they already do on the Screens. But it still made me think that the Screens will be their bread and butter. That being said, it is OBVIOUSLY TOO EARLY to make any assessments like this.
The word coming from the players is that they were more intense and more energetic than in the past, and that even on day one, they were working harder and getting gassed — Not because they are out of shape, but just because more was being asked of them. They are pleased with this change, as you should be too.
The players were in shorts and without pads, so they weren’t tackling for real yet. Therefore, I can’t really determine how good the ballcarriers were at breaking tackles, or how good the Defense was at stopping forward progress. That will change in a few practices. But there WAS one great tackle: There was one drill where an Assistant Coach was acting as a mock-ballcarrier to motivate the direction taken by the Defensive pursuers, and the Coach was doing all these quick direction-switches to try to fool and confound the Defenders. After about 15 reps, Coach Mora told a Defender to actually tackle the Assistant, which he DID, very effectively. Everyone had a good laugh, and practice continued, with no injury on the play. The only injury I saw all day was Running Back Steven Manfro suffering some minor leg cramps. Not bad for 2 hours on Spaulding Field. By the way, PAULEY PAVILION LOOKS AMAZING!!!
Below are 24 photos from the practice, plus 6 from the Laker Girl appearance. Click on the photos to enlarge them, and e-mail me if you want the original files, which are 4 times bigger than what you get here.