Saturday afternoon saw the Bruins celebrating the midpoint of this year's Spring Practices by participating in their first 'major scrimmage' of the Spring. Media accounts of the scrimmage have been positive - if varying on which side of the ball displayed the stronger performance. Before getting into news of Saturday's events, another Bruin has been knocked out of action. Sean Sheller, who is expected to take a starting role on the offensive line after being granted a second injury redshirt waiver by the NCAA earlier in the winter, broke a bone in his hand during Thursday's practice. He will be wearing a cast for about one month, but can participate in individual drills, and may be able to take part in further activities later in the practice period. In positive injury news, Kevin Prince did participate in 7-on-7 drills on Saturday for the first time since his fall knee surgery.
One of the big storylines of the day was the early strength of the Richard Brehaut-led 1st team offense. Brehaut completed his first 6 passes (finishing 11-21, 146 yards, TD) and the 1st team offense pulled off scoring drives in their first two possessions. Jon Gold's impression was that Brehaut has certainly improved over the past months, detailing a couple of plays from Saturday that show his progression. Another opinion on Brehaut's play, this one from Coach Neuheisel's postgame talk with the media.
"The thing I loved was his eyes were where they were supposed to be," Neuheisel said. "He had pocket sense, got out and found his check-down" receiver.
Gold's thoughts on the encouraging signs from the starting offense following the scrimmage:
This is only my second spring ball, but my umpteenth scrimmage situation, and I can't remember seeing the offense not only move the ball better, but look better doing it. Last season's spring game featured some decent stats, but a lot of that was the 1s vs. 2s or even 3s, and I distinctly remember the bulk of the quality coming against the lesser defenses. On Saturday, from the opening drive, the first-team offense looked impressive against the first-team defense.
While the offense may have looked better than it has in the previous couple of years, that standard is admittedly not a high one to surpass. And while the offense was providing encouragement to some, the 1st team defense was getting its licks in as well.
The Bruins had 18 tackles for a loss, which includes nine sacks, during the scrimmage.
"Our goal is seven [tackles for a loss] per game," defensive coordinator Joe Tresey said. "We want to be an attacking defense."
The LA Times article quoted above also has a couple of quotes and play descriptions from the afternoon:
Safety Tony Dye was almost giddy following UCLA's first scrimmage this spring.
"This best scrimmage we have had here, ever," Dye said. "This is the most fun I have ever had on this field."
The biggest and loudest moment came when defensive tackle Nate Chandler buried running back Damien Thigpen, forcing a fumble that defensive tackle Donovan Carter returned for a touchdown.
... "We have to be the strong point, come out and hit teams in the mouth," [Datone] Jones said.
The focus of this scrimmage was on the passing game, with Brett Hundley serving as the day's leading rusher both in attempts and yards gained (10 carries, 82 yards, TD). Ricky Marvray led the team with 50 yards on 4 receptions, and Damien Thigpen caught a pair of balls and also ran in a touchdown (but also fumbled away an eventual defensive TD as quoted above). After some encouraging practices, Hundley looked more like the true freshman-to-be that we sometimes lose sight that he is (although his task was complicated by having Owa and Chandler playing opposite him on the 2nd team defense... while protected by the 2nd team offensive line). While he ran the ball quite well, he has some work to do in terms of the details of being a successful QB. at this level. He knows it.
In addition to Brehaut and Marvray, a few other players stood out to some of the scrimmage watchers:
Jon Gold will be keeping an eye on Eric Kendricks and Jordon James, and really likes the potential of Nate Chandler at defensive tackle.
MaltBaa was at the scrimmage, and posted his thoughts on the proceedings and on some of the players in particular. Without stealing too much from his writeup, he agrees with Gold on the slick moves that James had on display. Anthony Barr spent the whole day with the 1st team offense and served as a focus for much of the offense. Joe Fauria and Dietrich Riley brought energy and purpose to their respective units, though in different ways. And a note on the officiating of the scrimmage; this was also a chance for the SPTRs' to get a bit of practice in, with questionable results.
SPTR - Were reffing the scrimmage. The head of PacX officials was there watching as well. On a number of plays he asked the official right in front of me, "did you see that false start?" "No" "Did you see that defender grab the shit out that receivers jersey?" "No."
Coach Neuheisel concluded the session by conducting a press conference at Spaulding following the end of the scrimmage.
Rick Neuheisel After Practice; Spring Day 7 (via UCLA)
The team is off today, but will resume practice on Monday at 4pm.