Coach Mora's post-practice media session (via ESPNLA)
Tuesday afternoon saw the Bruins return to practice at Spaulding Field, and the first live tackling of the year. Coach Mora noted a little bit of tentativeness early on with the return of physical practice action, while on the sidelines, there was some star power. Future Bruin QB Devin Fuller's uncle - aka Sinbad - was at practice, as was Keyshawn Johnson. Trojan though he is, this was not Keyshawn's first appearance at a UCLA practice in recent years, and as Jon Gold noted in his wrapup is close with Coach Yarber,
The Quarterbacks continued to see a pretty even workload in practice, seeming to be doing a solid job, at least in terms of being early in the spring.
... Brett Hundley has looked better every day, but is still a little tentative. Richard Brehaut was behind on a handful of throws, as was Kevin Prince. Jerry Neuheisel is throwing the ball really well.
After practice, Coach Mora touched on the overall framework that he and Coach Mazzone have envisioned for the QB's this spring. At this point in the process, letting all of the QB's get a good number of reps, though as he put it "competitive reps" - the drills most approximating game conditions - have been focused on the returning quarterbacks. The coaches are looking to narrow down the reps further starting either next week or in the week after, concentrating on the QB's likely to play a role this season.There continued to be standout performances, whether in the eyes of the media and/or as expressed by the coaches. Coach Mora singled out Steven Manfro, telling the media how well he has practiced to date, that he has impressed for 4 straight practices. Malcolm Jones also had a good practice, running the ball well but also acquitting himself on play-action calls. Looking toward the season, Mora is aiming at having 3 or 4 backs ready to get significant playing time.
Jon Gold continues to be impressed by Darius Bell's transition from quarterback to receiver.
Not trying to fuel the hype machine too much on Darius Bell, but he is really impressing. He's actually hit another threshold - a quarterback (can't remember which one) threw a rocket to Bell in the back of the end zone that he dropped, and I was actually surprised. That's a big leap even after four days. But Bell made a heck of a catch between Shaq Evans and Sheldon Price for a touchdown later in the day.
The LA Times has another piece on XSF's transition back to football and to UCLA after his 2-year religious mission. Gold wrote a piece on Damien Holmes' transition from a pure DE to a hybrid end/linebacker. At this early date at least, the transition seems to be going well. He has worked his body into shape, and is learning the ins and outs of his new role, but the real impression has been made with his attitude.
"Damien is to me what we want this entire program to look like," UCLA linebackers and special teams coach Jeff Ulbrich said. "Without a doubt. He knows one way, and every single guy on this team knows he knows one way, and that's full speed. How physical he is, his effort, his attitude, the way he prepares is unbelievable. For a guy who has never played linebacker, he knows every run fit now, every pass drop."
In addition to Damien, we have seen several players switch positions - even sides of the ball - in the past few months. At the end of his presser, Mora pointed out that there are a lot of guys on the team who while having the talent to play at this level, do not have the measurables that coaches are used to fitting into traditional schemes. He talked about his responsibility to find the right spot for these guys and the advantage of the unorthodox schemes that Noel Mazzone and Lou Spanos are running, in terms of using players that are not 'just the right size' for their position.
The Bruins will be back at practice at Spaulding Field on Thursday at 3:45pm.