Ralph Irvin wrapping up the scrimmage (via UCLA's YouTube Channel)
The Bruins wrapped up the third week of spring practice by running what Coach Mora earlier in the week termed a modified scrimmage. Yesterday's session was shorter than the normal practices that the team has gone through so far in the spring, with the higher intensity envisioned by the coaching staff and subtraction of drills (for non-injured players) in favor of running plays in particular game situations throughout the afternoon leading them to narrow down the number of plays run.
Going by how the session unfolded and the debriefing that Mora gave to the media after the scrimmage (video here), the goal was as much seeing that the players were able to play at the pace and with the determination that the coaches are demanding than in seeing how well the players were performing. Not saying that the individual performances from "Separation Saturday" are not going to be important when the initial depth charts come out at the end of the spring, but that until Mora and the coaches study today's film, the takeaway is the effort of the players, and how well they have bought in.
The quarterbacks drew plenty of attention on Saturday, for good reason given the unanswered questions at the position. The battle has narrowed, if just slightly with TJ Milweard seeing fewer reps in recent days, and Jerry Neuheisel slightly behind the Brehaut/Hundley/Prince trio. Miguel Melendez filled in for Jon Gold, and shared a few thoughts on the Daily News blog.
Brett Hundley picked up some rhythm as the scrimmage progressed, connecting with Shaquelle Evans for a touchdown after tripping for a loss. Jerry Neuheisel looked sharp at times connecting several times with Johnathan Franklin and Malcom Jones.
Steven Manfro continued to impress, while even the injured players had a workout going on the sideline courtesy of Sal Alosi and staff.
Peter Yoon focused his post-scrimmage story for ESPNLA on the quarterbacking situation and where the coaches - and the guys competing for the starting spot under center - see the competition.
"I feel a little bit different every day," Mora said when asked if anyone has emerged through the first three weeks of camp. "So me giving you that answer is really saying no. I really still feel like over the course of the next six practices we’ll start to see some separation."
... All of the contending quarterbacks have had their shining moments of impressive play. Each has shown a good command of the offense at times, made some nice throws and good decisions. But each has struggled with poor throws, interceptions and bad decisions at times as well. It's that type of inconsistent play that leaves the coaches non-committal about the leading contenders for the job.
"They haven’t really said much," Brehaut said. "They’re keeping a good poker face, but hopefully after today we can start narrowing it down and not everyone getting equal reps, but maybe the guys who are starting to get to the top to take more reps."
The battle might continue past the end of spring practice, but Mora does not see it continuing very far into fall camp. Saturday was not flawless for any of the guys, with the big-3 QB's each throwing an interception during the afternoon; the Brehaut and Prince picks leading to a choice Noel Mazzone quote:
"They brother-in-lawed me on those," Mazzone said. "I told them it was between you two guys and the winner is buying. They both decided to throw those so no one won."
Melendez's take on the INT's:
... From my view, Hundley's throw intercepted by Larimore was Larimore being Larimore: good instincts with a nose for the football; Kevin Prince during overtime drills left the ball hanging int he air; and Richard Brehaut came under pressure.
IE Angel wrote up his extensive thoughts and observations from the scrimmage. A great read, and going by his notes, the Hundley pick was part bad decision-making by Hundley along with Larimore making a good play. It does seem that Brett made up for it later in the scrimmage.
Hundley had the next one and looked lightyears better than his first drive that I saw. Moved the ball down the field easy, defense was looking worn out. He completed a short ball to either James or Lucien or Franklin, but the runner made a hell of a spin move that led to Larimore and another defender lighting each other up. Always hate seeing friendly fire. Larimore got up, which I didn't think would happen and wandered back towards the play but was obviously a little dazed. It was like a scene in a football comedy where a guy is in the wrong huddle, had to stop the play and get him off the field and Olaniyan in at ILB. BH's only below average throw of that drive was to #81 on a curl that went too high, but #81 (Tyler Scott) made a nice grab to get a first down. Hundley followed that up with a fade to the endzone for Scott that went just long, but was thrown well where only Scott had a chance to catch it. Ended up throwing a TD to Shaq Evans on a post in the middle of the endzone. Well thrown ball. Got everyone really excited.
Larimore left the scrimmage at that point; Aaron Wallace also was removed with both players showing what Coach Mora later described as concussions or concussion-like symptoms. In addition to these injuries, the end of practice saw the usual injury report with a couple more names added to the list of players who will miss the remainder of Spring Practices. Ricky Marvray and Brandon Sermons will be undergoing surgeries to repair a back injury and a broken hand, respectively.
Sermons, a reserve cornerback last season who had five tackles, tried to play through his injury with a cast earlier this week but sat out practice Saturday and will probably not return this spring...
Marvray, who had 28 catches for 227 yards over the last two seasons, looked good during the first week of spring practice but he has missed the last two weeks with chronic back issues. He will have surgery next Tuesday but said he would be back in time for fall camp.
After practice, Mora did say that Sermons might possibly be able to return before the end of the spring, albeit with a new larger cast on the hand. At worst, there should not be an issue with him being ready by the late-summer practices. Can't be so sure about Marvray - who will be having surgery for a herniated disk in his back. Best case will see him back for the start of the season, but with that kind of back injury, who knows...
According to Chris Foster, the program is seeing some of the attrition that we expected with the coaching changes, with a pair of players leaving the team and freeing up their scholarships. Unfortunately, the departures are coming from the critical but already shallow offensive line. Connor Bradford has left the team and is on track to earn his degree at the end of the Spring quarter. With one year of eligibility remaining, he is expected to pursue a transfer under the NCAA's graduate student transfer rule. Casey Griffiths is seeking a medical retirement - if granted, he would be able to keep his scholarship, but will not count as one of UCLA's 85 scholarship football players while completing his degree.
The Bruins will return to Spaulding Field on Tuesday at 3:45pm for their tenth practice session of the spring.