Spaulding Roundup: Observations Of Closed Saturday Practice From Lot 8

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I took in my second UCLA Bruins football practice of the spring on Saturday afternoon (was out for last Saturday's practice as well) and wanted to share the notes I took down while going through the day.

I caught some traffic on the 405 (surprising no one in the greater Los Angeles area) and missed most of the Pride Alley segment that kicked off practice. Immediately following that, the Bruins worked on punt and punt return, the highlight was an Ishmael Adams TD for about 60 yards, this is a bigger deal than normal because it was a full contact drill for the most part and he actually had to evade attempts to tackle him. Randall Goforth was the backup PR guy at this point.

After that segment, the team went through a simulated drive before individual drills took over.

  • Started with a sizable Roosevelt Davis kickoff return (I believe Adams was back with him, but Sean Covington kicked it to Davis' side of the field) that got the drive started at around the 20 yard line. On came the first string offense and defense.
  • Hundley started off with a screen pass to Jordon James for about 12 yards down the right sideline, followed it up with an attempt at a fade to Devin Lucien that was defended by Adams and the drive ended with a TD run up the middle by Paul Perkins.

Then the team broke into position drills and the defense went out of sight to the field closest to Pauley Pavilion. The QBs, WRs and RBs were working through routes and these are just some really broad observations:

  • Asiantii Woulard probably throws a better deep ball than Hundley at this point, but has oddly erratic throws every 5-7 reps.Those two work one after the other constantly, while Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Faufal and Jake Hall are in a separate group, read into that what you want to.
  • I wish Jordan Payton were two or three inches taller, because he'd be like Vincent Jackson if he were at 6'4". He's not fast enough to me for someone who isn't over 6'3". Probably like a 4.65 40 guy. Which is totally fine because he runs the most consistently clean routes of anyone on the roster. Tough to see him being able to individually impact a game though.
  • Eldridge Massington is attached at the hip of Payton throughout all the WR drills. Seems to be very eager to learn from the more experienced receivers, but it is clear he's not played football for a while. Talent is certainly there, would expect a big jump once the Fall rolls around.
  • Depth wise on the outside: Lucien and Payton are clearly the starters on the outside, much better players than anyone else. Massington, Logan Sweet and Tyler Scott are the guys getting reps behind them at this point.
  • Depth on the inside: Big story throughout this piece is going to be Mossi Johnson. He worked inside exclusively today at the Y behind Thomas Duarte. He is going to be a factor this season. But I'll gush on him more later.
  • Depth at slot: Devin Fuller is far away the leader here, Ahmad Harris and Jalen Ortiz fight for reps behind him, but neither are at the same level running routes, catching the ball or running with the ball.
  • QBs are taking a lot of snaps under center. Allows for the use of Nate Iese blocking and getting Hundley out of the pocket on rollouts. Both practices I noticed how much this was happening, so don't be shocked when not all the snaps are shotgun next season.
  • As far as footwork under center: Hundley looks good, clean feet, has obviously worked a ton in preparation for the next 15 years of his life under center. Neuheisel also has pretty clean footwork (coach's son comes out in the little things). Woulard is a ways away from being on the level of those guys, but the physical talent is just too large of a gap.

After going through drills, the offense worked as a team briefly to install an outstanding play that I instantly remember Tavon Austin running a ton at West Virginia. You can see this below:


Quick little touch pass to the slot man in motion. Only difference is the Bruins were in a read option look out of Shotgun instead of a Pistol set. It allows Devin Fuller to get the ball in space and running before he touches the ball.

It works well too, as the Bruins ran it on the 2nd play of the full contact team period.

  • 1st string vs. 1st string D to start it off. Brett Hundley completed a screen to James for a few yards, then ran the touch pass to Fuller and he took it 50+ yards down the sideline for a touchdown. Was outstanding to watch it translate so effectively.
  • Malcolm Bunche is massive, by the way. Not in 100% football shape yet, but looks solid at guard. Caleb Benenoch and Bunche at LT and LG are imposing to look at.
  • After the quick TD, the offense reset to give the first group a few more snaps. Highlight here was a Mossi Johnson catch on a slant over middle, got hit hard by Tahaan Goodman closing on the play, but held on. Got people excited, especially Hundley. Those two have a uncanny chemistry considering how little they've worked together.
  • Neuheisel came in for the next possession and there were two noteworthy offensive plays in Craig Lee getting 10-12 yards on a stretch play, got to the edge quick. Enjoy watching him run. Next play was a completed crossing pattern to Mossi Johnson for around 20 yards, again a tough grab.
  • Other highlights: I saw a TFL by Kenny Orjioke on a inside run. Crashed the edge and made a play.
  • Hundley also completed a pass on a rollout to Nate Iese from under center. Iese looks much smoother than last year.
  • Adarius Pickett also jumped out on that series when he got beat by Lucien on a curl, but recovered quickly and bodied up Lucien on the tackle. Solid form, though it was an older player originally.
  • Neuheisel hit Mossi Johnson over the middle again and he held on after a big hit by Goforth (might have been the play where Goforth got his head dinged, as I don't remember seeing him again until he was on the sideline without a helmet).
  • Also, impact freshman early enrollee Zach Whitley was working at inside linebacker today.

The next part of practice was 1-on-1s in pass blocking for the linebacker and running backs/ combination routes (half field 7-on-7 for the skill position guys), some observations from both segments. It was tough to keep track of both, so bear with me:

  • Ron Robinson got flagged for targeting on a pass down the sideline, good call. I like seeing the officials at practice because they are practicing as much as the players are.
  • Craig Lee stuffed Zach Whitley, looked improved from last week.
  • Jayon Brown blew past James on an inside move, advantages of being a safety turned linebacker is the speed.
  • Deon Hollins had a couple of nice bullrushes, looks like a better player than last season.
  • Kenneth Walker roasted Pickett deep for a TD, ran right past him at the line.
  • Devin Lucien (on Moreau) and Payton (on Adams) both made tough catches deep for TDs, Adams showed great closing speed to make it a tough catch after getting fooled on a post.
  • Priest Willis (another guy I was impressed with) and Massington were going at it in drills all day. Fiery reps with lots of contact both ways.
  • Marcus Rios dropped an interception, undercut a route perfectly.
  • Ishmael Adams got called PI on curl. Unsurprisingly, he disagreed.
  • Myles Jack looked impressive as you would expect in man coverage on slot guys, outstanding feet and instincts. Not fair for guys like Harris and Ortiz to try and create separation against Jack.
  • Anthony Jefferson had a good session exclusively at corner, got beat at the line last play though.

UCLA went back to team work after this, started with a swing to Perkins. It was a check down on safety blitz, Mazzone seems to be emphasizing this part of the passing game that was nearly non-existent last year.

  • Deon Hollins was with the first group on defense.
  • Mossi Johnson made another tough grab over the middle.
  • Hit a rollout to Iese, big play. Finished with a big hit by Goodman.
  • Hundley had to throw it away on blanketed coverage on play action.
  • Kenny Clark had a TFL.
  • James juked the hell out of Whitley once.
  • Craig Lee had another big run. Best looking RB both days I've been.

After this, the team broke into DL/OL 1-on-1s and 7-on-7 for the rest:

  • Orjioke beat Caleb.
  • Clark beats Jacob Brendel.
  • Owa vs. Kenny Lacy push twice that I saw.
  • Poasi Moala not with 1's today, Kenny Lacy was the starter at RT.
  • Lacy beasted Hollins.
  • During this period, I noticed a enormous tackle from St. John Bosco at practice.
  • Orjioke great day pass rushing.

From the 7-on-7's:

  • Willis playing angry. Had a big hit closing on a swing pass to Craig Lee. Best I've ever seen him look.
  • The DBs are more talented than WRs in general.
  • Mossi Johnson sideline toe tap on a rollout by Neuheisel.

Finally, the last team period of the day:

Brett Hundley's first series:

  • 7-yards to James on out.
  • Quick to Lucien for a first down.
  • Nice run by Perkins up the middle. Holding called.
  • Bunche got hurt. Didn't look serious, he came back in.
  • 12 yards to Duarte. Nice route.
  • 15-yard run by Manfro.

Jerry Neuheisel's first series:

  • Kylie Fitts should have gotten credit for a sack, containing a rollout. JN found Mossi down the sideline over Marcus Rios. Good coverage.
  • Orjioke sack on the next play. Was on that Barr-ish outside bend move.

BH next series:

  • Touch pass to Fuller for 15.
  • Screen to James, nice recovery by DBs. Willis came from 15 yards downfield in man coverage to stop it.
  • Sack. Didn't see who. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, I believe judging by Coach McClure's yells.
  • Dropped interception by Goodman off a great play to close on an out route by Jack.
  • Wheel route by Perkins well covered by Ryan Hofmeister.

Asiantii Woulard's first series:

  • Like every other QB, he found Mossi Johnson over the middle.
  • Marcus Rios breaks up a pass in great coverage on Massington.
  • Excellent throw across his body on a rollout to Logan Sweet on the sideline. Put it where only Sweet could make a play.
  • Followed that up with the throw of the day on a deep post-corner route to Sam Handler. Absolutely gorgeous ball, got an audible reaction from the crowd.

Brett Hundley's last series (simulating a 2-minute drills:

  • Completes a swing to Manfro with lots of space, but he slipped.
  • Priest Willis was with the 1's in nickel on the outside with Goforth out. Jefferson bumped back to safety.
  • Willis all over Payton down sideline on a fade.
  • Repeat on the next play, and nearly a pick on a free play due to Hundley's hard count drawing defense offsides. Coach Martin was so focused with coaching Willis during this period. Nice to see.
  • Next play, he came up tough to tackle Duarte after he burned Hofmeister over the middle.
  • Final play of the day was a TD pass as Ishmael Adams got beat by Thomas Duarte for a TD over the middle. Offense went crazy.
  • Practice ended the same way it always does, with the FG team and FG block team going at it.
  • As usual, Ka'imi Fairbairn was perfect within 40 yards, no problems and solid kicks. Missed from deep once.
  • Then, in a very savvy move. They simulated the ending of the Auburn-Alabama game from 2013. The missed FG run back on a kick from like 60 yards. FG team ran down and kept contain.

That was wordy, but just sharing information with everyone who is as anxious for football season to start as I am. Hopefully, I can do one of these for the Spring Game at the end of the month to satiate everyone until August.
Until next time, Go Bruins!

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