UCLA Spring Football Day 6: RBs and WRs stepping up

Thomas Duarte could be setting himself up for a big season - Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

A few news and notes from Spaulding as UCLA Football finished its 6th day of spring practice.

UCLA Football continues its march towards a special season with another productive day of spring training.

Starting with a few injury notes, the team has been fairly lucky so far:

  • Isaako Saivaneea missed practice again with his shoulder injury
  • Ian Taubler  and Devin Fuller also sat out
  • Johnny Johnson seems to have reinjured his operated-on shoulder

None of these are deemed serious, though it is unclear how Johnson's will turn out.

On the field, it was a day for running backs and wide receivers to make some impression:

Craig Lee has looked much better under the tutelage of Kennedy Polamalu and the more detailed drills.  He looked somewhat lost last year but has come into his own, running with power and speed.

Meanwhile, despite a veritable stable of what seems like good running backs (Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Craig Lee), Steven Manfro continues to have a solid spring practice and is not going away.  I find him particularly effective on swing passes, so I think he will continue to contribute positively.

Over on the defensive side of the ball, Tahaan Goodman has been rather impressive as well.  He has been moved around quite a bit in the defensive backfield, but will likely solidify his spot as a starting safety.

As expected, some of the youngsters who flashed some brilliance early on are hitting a bit of a wall.  Poasi Moala is doing very well at right tackle but definitely needs to improve on his strength to be a dominant run blocker.  Meanwhile, Zach Whitley is apparently back to being ordinary after being moved to OLB, after looking like a superstar when playing inside.  Growing pains are inevitable but I'm sure these guys will come around.

Finally, Noel Mazzone addressed the media and provided some good tidbits:

The battle for the backup QB spot continues, and it is a battle.  Mad Photobomber Jerry Neuheisel keeps holding  his own and is neck and neck with talented Asianti Woulard, which can only lead to good things and good improvement for both QBs.

Mazzone seems pleased with the group of running backs who will be available to him, though still unclear which really stands out and dominates.

Sticking to his one-word answers his description of Malcolm Bunche is:  BIG.  But he is also pleased with Malcolm though he believes he should get in better playing shape.

The guys Mazzone is most excited about are Thomas Duarte and Mossi Johnson.  Duarte has very good size and continues to fill out, but mostly he has very good ball skills and can make QBs look good by grabbing bad passes.  So it is not a surprise that he has developed a good relationship with Brett Hundley.  Mossi Johnson is also being noticed after moving over from the defensive side of the ball.

Another guy starting to come around again after his back surgery is Kenny Walker, who could provide a needed speed  option to the offense.

That's it folks.  There is no practice today, and the practice on Saturday is closed to the public, so hopefully this will satisfy your appetite for a while.

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