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Spaulding Roundup: Prince Gets In A Groove, Fauria's "Squirrel Dance," Stars Appear & Other UCLA Notes

Bruins had their first full scale scrimmage of the Spring on Sunday afternoon at Spaulding Field.  Kevin Prince  highlighted the action with what looked on paper to be pretty efficient performance. Prince completed 8 of 9 passes for 84 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Sophomore tailback Johnathan Franklin led the backs with 44 yards on 9 carries, including two double digit runs, while Rosario, Taylor Embree and Antwon Moutra each had 3 catches. You can get the full scrimmage stats over at the official site.

Coach Rick Neuheisel sounded pleased after the scrimmage was over (putting UCLA at half way point of 2010 spring practice):

It is also good to hear there were no bumps and bruises after the first full scrimmage of this spring. That is always a plus. Everything wasn't perfect though.  Per Jon Gold of the Daily News the offense 'struggled at first but found a tempo later in the day." More on Prince finding his rhythm through practice:

Prince improved throughout the affair, finding junior wide receiver Nelson Rosario on a slant on the left side for a 32-yard score and high school teammate Joseph Fauria up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown.

"There will get things that get better over time," Prince said. "The mechanics of it all - it will start to become natural to us. But there are some things we messed up scheme-wise, whether it be blocking, my reads - just stuff we need to fix. There are certain things we messed up that we've been running for two years now. We've got to work those things out."

It did take Prince and the offense three series (per the LA Times) to find that "elusive groove." The reason was due to our defense "flying around" at Spaulding:

[T]he defense looked stout often, recording seven total sacks and several helmet-to-helmet collisions for lost yardage. Linebackers Patrick Larimore, Glenn Love and Ayers were particularly impressive.

"It was a big difference from the last practice," Ayers said. "Everybody was flying around, being excited, making big hits and making big plays."

What is interesting this spring is that the defense would dominate these scrimmages in the past. It is clear now that the offense is having its share of moments.

Prince wasn't the only player who distinguished himself. As CRN mentioned Joe Fauria had a pretty solid day. He caught TDs during 7 on 7 drills and also one during full scrimmage. He apparently also did a little "squirrel dance" after once of his scores. LOL.  On a more serious note though if Fauria, Corey Harkey and Morrell Presley can emerge in this offense, it could really help addressing our red zone woes from last couple of seasons. Presley caught couple of passes for 10 yards while Harkey grabbed one for 10 yards.

Besides Prince our other QBs were below average (in terms of numbers). Richard Brehaut was 3 of 11 for 21 yards and Nick Crissman was 3 of 6 for 16 yards. Guess the good news here none of them threw a pick. CRN called them "inconsistent" but mentioned "there is hope." Also, surprised to see Damien Thigpen not showing up in the statsheet. Would love to hear from anyone who was at practice about how he looked. He has been getting lot of looks from our coaches this spring. So I thought he'd show up in the box score.

There were other "younger" Bruins making an impression on Sunday:

Sophomore defensive end Iuta Tepa had two sacks and freshman linebacker Jared Koster had a number of nice plays, including a sack, in his first scrimmage after greyshirting last season.

"You just have to understand that you have to make an impact early if you want to be playing," Koster said. "There's so many guys that you have to be the one to step up and take that starting spot or you'll get lost in the program. It's added pressure, but it's going to boost my game, and that's why I came to UCLA. I knew it would make me compete."

Good to hear Koster making most out of this spring. I don't see him getting a lot of action next year because he still needs to bulk up a bit. However, the experience he is accumulating this spring will only help him going into his first full season at UCLA.

Speaking of young guys apparently it was a star-studded practice in terms of blue chip recruits:

The attendees at Spaulding Field included "The Great One," who accompanied his young one -- quarterback Trevor Gretzky  (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian). Quarterback Max Wittek (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei), who has offers from both UCLA and USC, and athlete DeAnthony Thomas (Los Angeles, Calif./Crenshaw), one of the nation's most sought-after recruits, were also in attendance.

I have heard pretty good reviews on Trevor Gretzky (lot more favorable in terms of athletic ability than the ones on Nick Montana). Gretzky wasn't the only kid from Oaks Christian at practice. Per Gold tight end Dillon Van Der Wal and wide receiver Blair Holliday were also in attendance. Van Der Wal's reasoning for coming out to Westwood was pretty telling:

"They had a huge recruiting class, and now UCLA is the up-and-coming school, the one that everyone wants to be at," Van Der Wal said. "Having all of us here, a lot of us know each other, so it's cool hanging out - that's how you try to build a program. It's really cool having all of us out here."

Guess Van Der Wal finds a lot of similarities in the atmospheres between this and this. Now if the Bruins can keep going forward towards a positive direction, chances are it will be even lot more fun to hang out in Spaulding in the coming years.

Anyway, the Bruins are now at the half way point of Spring Ball. The reviews we have gotten to date certainly sound encouraging. No question there is lot more energy out in Spaulding than what we have seen in recent years. Yet we all know better and should guard ourselves from taking all the gushing reviews too seriously. As encouraging as Prince and the offense's progress has been this spring, we need to keep in mind they are flashing their development against a defense which is replacing key starters.

Let's hope the competition level is truly high and will motivate these guys to push each other (without any major injuries rest of this spring). The guys go back at it tomorrow starting around 4 pm PST.