Spaulding Roundup: Position Changes, New Opportunities & Other UCLA Spring Notes

Photo Credit: E. Corpuz

Bruins are going to be in full pads on the third day of spring practice today. It gets started around noon. After two days we have a compilation of notes checking in with our guys on how some of them are handing position adjustments, competition, and fresh opportunities. Also, the Bruins officially announced the hiring of a new graduate assistant coach with pretty interesting resume yesterday.

First, let's start with the guys who are trying out new positions this spring. Lot of eyes are going to be on Nate Chandler, Christian Ramirez and Glenn Love this spring, who made high profile position changes during the off season. Nate went from TE to DT, Christian from RB to SS, and Love switched over from SS to LB. The OC Register has their thoughts after first couple of days of practice:

"Technique-wise, it's a little different than offense," Chandler said. "At the beginning of practice it was a little foreign but as the practice went on, I got the hang of it."

Ramirez, a fifth-year senior, was a safety in his freshman season but the playing time he got was on special teams. He hopes the move back to safety will involve little more than a refresher course.

"It's something that I'm familiar with," he said. "You have to get used to backpedaling and all that stuff but as far as learning concepts and all that stuff, it's basically the same. I just have to get comfortable again, knowing what I'm doing, seeing stuff, recognizing things."

Other players on the move include Donovan Carter (linebacker to defensive tackle) and Glenn Love (safety to linebacker).

Love was merely joking about the possibility of moving to linebacker, but the right people heard him and the experiment began. Two days into spring practice, he has no regrets.

"It's a little bit faster than at safety," he said. "A linebacker is five yards off the ball and it's a lot quicker. A safety gives up 10 yards. Right now, it's not affecting me at all. If I gain 10 more pounds (he's currently at 220), I think I'll be OK by fall."

Guess we will have to wait till the first scrimmage to see how they are handling themselves in simulated  game situations.

In addition to high profile position changes, the spring also creates an atmosphere for intense competition and new opportunities. More on how the players are reacting and information on a new addition to our staff after the jump.

 It will be very interesting to see how the battle shapes up at LT where high profile recruit Nik Abele is going at it with former walk on Brett Downey. From the LA Times:

"I wanted to earn a scholarship," he said.

Step one was accomplished, as Downey was put on scholarship last season. Now he's getting more ambitious.

"Now the goal is to earn a starting spot," Downey said.

Downey - from Altaville (Calif.) Harte High - is 6 feet 7, 298 pounds, up 55 pounds from when he arrived in Westwood.

"Guys who are 6-7 with big frames are hard to find," offensive line coach Bob Palcic said. "We were hoping he would develop and he has worked his tail off to get to this point."

This is fun to hear. Now let's hope Abele is responding in kind and making this a dog fight at Spaulding. Speaking of scrappers, Stanley Hasiak is getting a fresh chance (perhaps his last one) out at Spaulding. In his words he is trying to take advantage of the opportunity:

"I'm taking advantage this," Hasiak said. "I spent the off-season working out, getting ready for this opportunity they have given me."

We are all rooting for a happy ending to this story. Hopefully Hasiak goes all out and competes (in a productive manner) to make himself one of key guys in Palcic's rotation.

Meanwhile, the two transfers from last season - Josh Smith (Colorado) and Joe Fauria (Notre Dame) - have been turning heads in practice:

The first thing you notice about Josh is he's just a playmaker," said UCLA junior center Kai Maiava, who played with Smith in 2007 at Colorado before transferring. "Even if it's just a little out, he's trying to break it. He's gotten a lot better since our freshman year.

"He's still fast, but he's a little bigger."

Most telling about Smith, though, is the attitude. He has the swagger of a performer, a smooth gait that oozes confidence. Perhaps more than his ability, his mannerisms speak volumes.

"You see the TO's and the Ochocinco's and they're just confident in themselves," UCLA sophomore quarterback Kevin Prince said. "I'm not saying Josh has that personality, but he has that kind of swagger, that confidence in himself that he's going to catch the ball and make plays."

Josh spoke about his first spring with ESPN's Blair Angulo after first day of practice:

Well, can't wait to see more of this. Our WR corps is in desperate need for an attitude infusion. As a group they have the talent and skills to become viable threat. For them to truly emerge though they need consistent playmaking in big situations. Nelson Rosario showed glimpses of that during second half of his sophomore season. If Smith can step up, it will be a huge boost.

As for Fauria, the kid had a previous connection to UCLA given he was team-mates and best friends with Kevin Prince from Crespi High days. But I really liked the following comment from Fauria (emphasis added):

"It's not the program you come from. When you're here, they don't give a hell where you're from," Fauria said.

"You could be from Kathmandu, and you still get a clean slate. It's about how you work. Josh and I both worked very hard in the weight room and we proved ourselves. Last year we made plays on scout. That right there proves us. It has nothing to do with where we're from."

Joe was nicked up a bit during first day of practice. He sat yesterday out with a groin injury. It doesn't sound like anything too serious. BTW speaking of injuries X-rays were taken on Kai Maiava's shoulder injury and the results were negative. That is good news (even though it didn't sound all that worrisome from CRN's comments after first day of practice).

Lastly, the Bruins have a new graduate assistant in the staff. Clark Lea, the former graduate assistant was promoted to LB coach. So the Bruins have brought in Daronte Jones as a graduate assistant to coach our defense. From the official site:

Jones came to UCLA after serving five seasons (2005-09) as assistant head coach/defensive coordinator at Bowie State University in Bowie, MD. In addition to coordinating the Bulldogs defense, Jones also served as the Pro Liaison.

During his five years, the defense captured an aggressive, attacking scheme that has gained the Bulldogs high recognition, both at the conference and national levels. In 2009, the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 among all Division II teams in total defense, allowing just 217.7 yards per game. They also ranked No. 2 nationally in rushing defense (56.5 yards per game) and ninth in pass efficiency defense. Two Bulldogs were named first-team All-CIAA and two more were named to the second unit.

During his tenure, the Bowie State defense ranked in the Top 10 nationally in five different statistical categories (total defense, scoring defense, pass efficiency defense, sacks and rushing defense, including 3rd or higher in total defense). Under Jones' watch, eight defensive players were named All-CIAA, three named All-CIAA Rookie Class, and one D2football.com All-American.

Jones duties per the official site will include assisting with game preparation and working with the cornerbacks. I am guessing he will also be expected to help out in recruiting given his background that includes roots in the Mid Atlantic and Louisiana high school scene. Clark Lea made a huge impression on the recruiting front by helping to snag high profile recruits such as Aramide Olaniyan. Hopefully Jones can also have that kind of impact while also serving as a solid mentor for our guys.

Again, the practice gets started today at noon. Don't forget you can make today a football-baseball doubleheader Saturday out in Westwood. As always if you are out there please considering sharing your notes, impressions and pictures from a beautiful UCLA spring.

GO BRUINS.

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