Coach Mora's post-practice media session (via UCLA's YouTube channel)
The Bruins returned to Spaulding Field on Tuesday afternoon for the tenth session of Spring Football. With the fourth of five weeks of practices beginning, the coaching staff should be able to start on their analysis of how the early depth chart will look as the team heads toward fall camp - which players can be expected to see a significant role in the fall. Of course, the competition at quarterback is the one garnering most of the attention.
After a couple of weeks that saw all of the QB's in camp get roughly equal time, the coaches have focused the crucial reps on the guys with a real shot of being under center when the Bruins take the field on August 29th against Rice, in a competition which has not seen any of the trio take a meaningful advantage.
Prince, Brehaut and Hundley received the majority of the reps in 11-on-11 team drills during Tuesday's practice. Brehaut had the better day, though most of his work came against second- and third-team defenders.
... "After 30 years, it's a gut feeling," Mazzone said. "You know when a starting quarterback walks onto the field or runs into a huddle. That's what I'm waiting to see, one of these guys grab it and start running with it."
While the QB's are in the highest-profile fight for a starting role, there is a strong competition brewing in the trenches opposite Brehaut, Hundley and Prince. In his post-practice media session, Coach Mora had plenty of praise for the D-line - the depth and level of talent of the players, but also with the coaching of neophyte D-line coach Angus McClure. Even with Ellis McCarthy a few months from donning the blue and gold, he sees 8 players who he can see being competitive this fall, with a couple of guys that can legitimately should be able to play at the next level. Tuesday's unofficial D-line depth chart, per Chris Foster:
The first team has had Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh at defensive ends and Brandon Willis at nose tackle. They are being pushed by Owamagbe Odighizuwa, Kevin McReynolds, Seali'i Epenesa, Iuta Tepa and Donovan Carter
Anthony Jefferson was also a topic of discussion on Tuesday. Mora cited his aggressiveness and effort so far on the practice field; he was at first skeptical of Anthony's demeanor, an mood coming from two years of injuries and time out of competitive football. Peter Yoon wrote a piece for ESPNLA on Jefferson's recovery, and his road back to action for the Bruins.
It has been a long two years of rehab and waiting, but Jefferson says he's finally ready to go.
..."I’m not going to lie, when you love football and you’re as passionate about football as I am, then it’s been real tough," he said. "I’ve tried to be patient and been waiting and grinding to get through it as well as I can."
"He’s becoming a legitimate player to me," Mora said. "He’s tough, he’s physical, he’s aggressive. He’s playing with more confidence now because he probably feels better."
While Anthony is seeing early success in his return from injury, there are others in the program who are banged up to varying degrees. After returning to practice on Tuesday having recovered from a groin injury, Damien Thigpen re-aggravated that injury, seeing him taken out of the session as a precautionary measure. Jerry Rice Jr has missed the last few practices with an undisclosed injury - Mora hopes that he will be able to participate in drills in a non-contact jersey on Thursday and return to full participation next week.
After practice, Coach Mora confirmed that Patrick Larimore did suffer a concussion during Thursday's practice, and the timing of his return to practice is currently unknown. Aaron Wallace, who left the same practice with concussion-like symptoms, was on the sidelines having been cleared for non-contact workouts with the other injured players.
Ricky Marvray had surgery to repair an injured disk in his back on Monday, and is currently expected to recover in time to participate in fall camp this August. The LA Times also reports that Dietrich Riley also had neck surgery on Monday, and will - as expected - miss the 2012 season while recovering from the injury that he suffered against Cal last October. The operation is similar to what Peyton Manning had last year, and was necessary in order for Dietrich to return to football.
The Bruins return to Spaulding Field for their eleventh practice session of the Spring on Thursday at 3:45pm.