The Bruins practiced twice yesterday with the morning edition kicking off at 8:30 am. Nestor already did a great recap of the first session and hit some highlights of the evening practice as well, and rsmbruinsfan posted some great observations from the morning practice here. Lucky for me, they've already done half of my work! So I'll focus on some highlights from the evening scrimmage and Mora's interview afterward.
As mentioned, the evening practice featured a 90 minute scrimmage under the lights, in a move that Coach Mora hoped would add a spark to the tedium of camp.
It just seemed like the right time, the right environment. The lights were on. It was nice and cool and we got a lot of good work done. I think the guys had fun. The tempo picked up. The energy picked up, and I just felt like it was something we needed to do, and it went well. I think it was really good for our team at this point in time to do this. A good way to end the week.
In related news, the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, and no one is surprised by that anymore, either.
Ok, maybe I'm a assuming just a bit too much, but not that much. Manfro keeps doing what he has been doing since spring. The Bruins can't stop the White Mamba - they can only hope to contain them. And we can all hope that the rest of the Pac-12 has exactly the same problem. Mora later confirmed that Manfro will likely be the kick returner for the Bruins this season, but they are still undecided on a punt returner. Now I'm no D-1 coach, and I haven't seen any live practices this summer, but that hasn't stopped me yet. The answer to the punt returner question seems pretty clear to me, and it rhymes with Meven Stanfro.
The most encouraging news of the evening to me is how effectively the offense played last night.
My feeling is that the offense, especially the offensive line, stepped up tonight and did a really good job. I mean, there was still some pressure, but it seemed a lot better to me than it has...I was impressed with the offensive play tonight.
Miguel Melendez cited standout performances by Kenneth Walker, Devin Lucien, Shaquelle Evans, and Roosevelt Davis at WR, and Johnathan Franklin and Damien Thigpen at RB. Those two units (along with the DL) are the deepest and most talented on paper, and it looks like that potential is translating to the field. Having those skill positions nailed down will make Brett Hundley's life much easier, and his stats last night bear that out: 12-22, 4 TD, 2 picks (one on a deflection). Yes, it's a scrimmage. But do you know the last time a bruin QB threw 4 TD's in a game? It was Ben Olson, in 2007, who threw 6 in the opener against Stanford back when we had a promising QB and then Stanford was still terrible. An 8-Clap for you if you knew that one.
Keep in mind the offense is still without probable starting linemen Jeff Baca (concussion) and Greg Capella (calf), but both are close to getting back. The OL is still our biggest question mark, but we are starting to see some encouraging signs from the pieces we have and from those filling in the holes, and it's reasonable to think that things will only get better. OL Coach Adrian Klemm has had a tough hand dealt him so far, but if the OL comes together and is solid, he should get tons of praise.
On the defensive side, Mora said that Anthony Barr is doing a "really good job" at OLB, despite playing all summer with one hand in a cast, calling him an "explosive, powerful long athlete who can bend and explode on people". I've always said Barr reminds me of the great Carnell Lake, who was a standout HS running back who went on to a Hall of Fame career at OLB for the Bruins, and then went to 5 Pro Bowls as a safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Do you think U.C.L.A. DC Lou Spanos, who spent 14 years coaching the Steelers' linebackers, might remember him and see some similarities, too?
Mora continues to live up to his promise of finding a position and playing time for the best players. He also suggested that Brandon Willis may see some time at defensive end in addition to defensive tackle where he is the projected starter. He said the same thing for Donovan Carter. Including both of these guys in the DE rotation could free up some time for someone else at DT, say a large intimidating freshman who might show some promise as a defensive lineman.
Here is Coach Mora's full post-scrimmage presser.
The Bruins continue practice at Spaulding at 11:30 am on Monday, and we'd love to hear some eye-witness accounts and thoughts from anyone who can get out to practice.