Bruins get started early with their first two-a-day practice sessions today. To celebrate that thought we put together a second Spaulding Roundup for this Saturday. The first session is going on just about now from 9 to 11 am PST. If you missed that action, you can take in the second session in full pads this afternoon from 4 to 6 pm PST. As noted in our early roundup this, Bruins had a good start in their first day in full pads yesterday. Here was Coach Rick Neuheisel after yesterday's practice (HT Jon Gold):
CRN gives a full account of all the nicks and bruises of our players. You can read up on those notes here. CRN also talked about how impressed he has been with this year's freshmen class who have wasted no time in asserting themselves out in Spaulding field.
It wasn't a surprise that guys like Malcolm Jones, Jordon James, Cassius Marsh, and Owamagbe Odighizuwa have made their presence felt early. It's certainly great to hear how other freshmen such as Chris Ward have held their own early in the training camp. Toby Umodu, the senior FB in the team wrote his impression on the freshmen from the perspective of a Bruin senior in the Canyon News:
College football would be nothing without recruiting, and every year it's interesting to see the new talent on our team. I remember how I felt coming into a new environment when I was a freshman and being a little intimidated by the veteran players on the team, so now the roles for me have been switched. I get to see the freshmen try to get comfortable with their new teammates. This year we have a lot of new faces comprised of scholarship players and walk-ons, with the majority of them being on the defensive side of the ball. The young pups are usually behind the older guys because they don't have too much experience, but I can already tell the freshmen this year are a different breed. Most of them have picked up the speed of the college game pretty fast, and I can't wait to see which ones will actually help us reach our goals this year.
More on these young pups and other team notes after the jump.
One of the young pups making everyone's head turn is none other than Dietrich Riley, who has been delivering huge hits all over Spaulding:
"I've been waiting for this," Riley said. "The first couple of days, it was kind of frustrating - I had a lot of opportunities to make big hits, but they want us to stay up. I only know one speed, and that's to go full speed. I'm coming up here trying to make hits, show the coaches I can be physical."
It sounds like Rahim Moore is also taking him under his wings:
Junior All-America safety Rahim Moore has taken an active approach in Riley's maturation, seeing a bit of himself in the new protégé.
"I told him last night, I stopped by his room, and I said, 'Tomorrow, I want you to watch everything I do,'" Moore said. "'Watch me. In the film, watch me. When his time comes, if me and (UCLA safety) Tony (Dye) play this year, and we become seniors and his time comes, I want him to be able to say, 'Rahim took me under his wing and kept the whole DB tradition going.'"
Hmm. It is really nice to hear about Rahim envisioning himself as a senior. Hope he holds on to that thought through next off-season but we won't look that far ahead for now. :-)
Speaking of hits, Malcolm Jones got the better of Riley in yesterday's Oklahoma drill and he is feeling pretty good about it:
"It was the first hit of the football season so I had to make it a good one," Jones said. "My blood was pumping and I was ready for it."
Jones, who got plenty of carries during practice and took several hits, said the biggest difference was the speed of the game but that he didn't take any hits that surprised him.
"But we weren't really going full contact," he said. "I'm still waiting to see if I get rocked really hard. Hopefully I don't."
When was the last time we heard players getting so fired over huge hits and engaging in this kind of competition at UCLA practices? Well, I certainly can't remember it from last few years. Seems like intensity is up few notches even from last year, when we started noticing subtle changes from the stale, vanilla practice environment from the KD era. We will have to see how this translates into Saturdays, but for not it is certainly setting a different tone for UCLA football.
Moving on, Coach Palcic sounds optimistic about the state of OL to date:
"We're miles ahead of where we were when we first got here," third-year offensive line coach Bob Palcic said.
A surprising comment, considering the Bruins lost nearly all the offensive linemen in their 2009 recruiting class.
Tackle Xavier Su'a-Filo, who started 13 games as a freshman, left on a two-year Mormon mission. Tackle Nik Abele was forced to retire because of chronic neck problems. Guard Stanley Hasiak's year of upheaval left him academically ineligible this season.
"That hurt," Palcic said about losing those freshmen.
So why is Palcic smiling?
"We have experience," he said.
That was from the LA Times, where Chris Foster seemed to be desperately fishing for a concern laden quote from Coach Bob Palcic. I imagine Coach Palcic is nowhere close to being satisfied with where the OL is right now, but still his confidence level in these guys stands from the gloomy outlook we used to hear from him after he returned to Westwood three years ago. It will be interesting to see how his unit holds up in the coming days.
Anyway, speaking of the OL, it looks like Stanley Hasiak will return to the team in September. Apparently he was "not invited" to camp. However, CRN as always is looking at the silver lining saying that Hasiak is working on "learning responsibility," and that "as he learns it, he will flourish in our program." We wish him luck.
"I like the way our receivers are developing," Rosario said. "I think we're going to have a pretty dangerous unit."
They had a little extra inspiration yesterday as Flash 80 showed up at Spaulding Field to check out Jerry Rice Jr.
The development our receivers, young RB's showing early promises, and a much maligned (but improving OL) holding their own early on, are helping our offense enjoying its moments for the first time in a long while out in Spaulding. From Umodu's notes:
Offense has always been the weak point of the Bruins for the past few years. The defense and special teams have been some of the best in the country, but offensively UCLA has had a hard time finding any consistency. Fortunately, everything looks to be headed in a completely different direction for the offense during camp. Receivers like Taylor Embree, Nelson Rosario, Ricky Marvaray and Randall Carroll have been making big plays down the field all week long, which is a good sign that the offense has finally started to click. The passing game has been good, but that is all thanks to the effort given by the running backs. There may not be that many holes to run through, but with great vision and by running with conviction the running backs have found ways to get the yards they need and every once in awhile break free for a big play.
It may only be the first week of camp and we may have only been in full pads for two days, but just by watching the team practice I can tell the atmosphere has changed around the Bruin football team. The defense aren't the only ones celebrating big plays or causing havoc this year. It may be a few years late, but the offense has joined the fight and when we have all aspects of our game operating smoothly, the Bruins will be a tough team to face week in and week out. There is still a lot of work to be done before September 4 when we play Kansas State, and we are going to continue to work hard every day to make sure we start off the season with a victory.
Hey, it might also have to do with Brian Price no longer destroying offensive rhythm all by himself. Just sayin. ;-)
Anyway, it certainly sounds like a different atmosphere out in Westwood these days. As we have said all along, Spaulding is the place to be. So get out there today for second session starting at 4 pm, and then come back over here with your pictures, videos and notes from another fun day in Westwood.