Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
Just got back from the first practice of the season over at Spaulding and thought I'd share a few quick notes.
First off, keep in mind two important things. First off, it was the first practice of the season for everyone, and the first real UCLA practice ever for the Frosh and transfers. Secondly, without pads its hard to get an accurate gauge on a lot of aspects (its amazing how much the game changes when the guy can actually hit the hell out of one another). Also, I only got there for the 2nd half of practice, so did not see any of the kids from the first group practicing today.
The Sight Test - Our team definitely passes this year. The team as a whole just looks much bigger and more athletic than we have in years past. A few guys in particular stood out to me. Kevin Prince definitely looks bigger. KP was with the first group, so didn't see him working out. But just walking around, he looks considerably bigger than last year. Crissman is another guy who put on some bulk this off-season. The past couple of years he has looked very lanky, but the kid finally looks like a football player. Some of the frosh are as big as advertised. Malcolm Jones already looks very solid and Jordan James looks a little small on top, but the kid has some massive calves. Also, two of our frosh on the OL, Kody Innes and Wade Yandell, both look big enough to be playing right now. Whether the skill is there yet is another question, but the size is definitely there.
Anthony Barr - You can tell just by watching a little bit of this guy that he is someone we want with the ball in his hands. But he is not going to be a running back. I know there has been a lot of talk that he will probably need to find another position eventually, but that probably should be a definitely. He's just way too tall to stay in the backfield. But like I said, this is someone you need to find a way to get a ball in his hands. He looked extremely quick out there and with some beautiful moves. During the plays at the end of practice he was lining up a lot in a slot position or as an F-back, and he looks like he can be pushing for immediate playing time.
Darius Bell - He does not look like he is going to be pushing Prince or Brehaut for the #1 or 2 qb slot any time soon. He looked very comfortable running some option plays, but looked lost throwing the ball. He threw a couple of picks where his receiver had no shot at the ball and was consistently overthrowing his guys. Even his completions were high or too far away and it was more of his receivers making nice plays. I know its only the first practice and he's got to still be learning the playbook, but he looked really sloppy out there.
Richard Brehaut - looked very good. Nice sharp passes (for the most part) and looked very comfortable running the read option out of the revolver. He looked much more comfortable out there today than he looked at any point last year.
Joseph Fauria - Not that this is all that new, but I am so excited about getting him on the field this year. He is just an impressive guy to see on the field and an impossible guy to cover. The only times he was targeted today where he did not make a play was one dropped ball (which was more a bad throw from Bell than a bad play by Fauria, but he got his hands on it) and two breakups that were clearly pass interference. He is just so damn tall and athletic that he is going to be a beast for us this year.
Randall Carroll - looked very impressive today. During the passing drills he made a couple of spectacular catches. One in particular, it was an under-thrown ball from Bell and Abbott had good position on it. Carroll came over the top of him from behind to haul the ball in. His hands looked much improved over last season.
Read Option - they were practicing it a lot today. Much of the individual practice with just the QB's and RB's involved the read option hand off, with the qb holding the ball out to his side and the head on a swivel to read the defense. Then during the plays against the defense they were running at the end of the practice, over half of the running plays involved some read option elements. This is the one aspect of the pistol that I did not see the offense work a ton on in the spring, but, if today was any indication, its something that we are certainly going to be seeing quite a bit of on the field.
Punting - Not that I want to see us doing much of it this year, but our punting game is going to be phenomenal. Jeff Locke was, of course, his steady self with punts mostly in the 45+ yard range with a ton of hang time. But our backups were not far off either. And with the speed of our team right now, our gunners are going to be amazing as well. Thigpen in particular had a beautiful play where he just flew down field to grab a ball right before it rolled into the end zone to down it at the 1.
And one of my favorite moments of practice came off of the field. After the special teams drills, the kids who worked out for the first half were heading off the field. The three kids from my hometown Ricky Marvay (Corona Centential), Jordon James (Corona), and Jared Koster (Norco) all came over to say hi to their mothers who were sitting together. During the conversation, one of them asked Marvay to look at the tackling dummy behind him. It was wearing a No. 20 jersey (Marvay's number). His response (which I'll paraphrase) was hilarious. "Man, that's messed up. What do they need to do that for. I don't want those guys pretending that they're hitting me the whole time. I'm gonna need to talk to coach about that..."
So glad to have football back! Go Bruins!