UCLA spring football is humming along with the usual news of minor injuries (let's hope they stay minor), new names stepping up, and some familiar ones showing signs of promise. Reading through these reports after more than a decade of following this program intensely on day to day basis, feeling something in between like a chore and addiction.
It is an addiction because as Bellerophon said yesterday some of us (that would include yours truly) chase around UCLA football recruiting and practice news like "crack." Yet on the other hand it is tough to shake off the feeling about how we hear the rhetoric of "fun," "new pace," and all the clichés you can think of every spring and fall camp leading into the season. Hey Jim Mora himself mentioned about how the spring press comments are really all clichés. This is what leads to skepticism (which is different from cynicism) after more than a decade of mediocrity and underachievement in the program. Anyway, let's get to the practice notes after the jump.
Let's start with the some of the new names, who are making an impression this spring. The battle for the third cornerback spot has been a heated one between Anthony Jefferson and Marcus Rios this spring. Mora said lot of good things about Rios in the video posted above. DN's Vincent Bonsignore, who was pinch hitting for Jon Gold yesterday wrote down Mora's praise of Rios:
[F]ive practices in, he [Rios] is already making a move:
"I thought today was by far his best day," Mora said. "He flashed, he made some plays....today he made a breakthrough and I hope he feels good about it because he deserves it."
And it's a far cry from where Rios was just a few days ago when Mora described his as a deer in the headlights,
"But if you can imagine he should be preparing for his senior prom," Mora said. "And I think the last two or three days he's made an adjustment."
That is good news. We need depth at the DB position badly. Meanwhile, speaking of new faces stepping up, apparently there is a Manfro mania at Spaulding:
In January 2011, Steven Manfro was on the last day of his official visit to UCLA - which also happened to be his 18th birthday - when then-coach Rick Neuheisel offered a scholarship.
At that point, the only college to have offered the Valencia High School running back a scholarship was Wyoming, despite the fact that Manfro had gained more than 10,000 all-purpose yards and scored 123 touchdowns in his prep career.
Manfro accepted the offer and redshirted last season, when he became UCLA's most outstanding offensive scout team player. So far this spring, he has been impressive.
"Every day he makes a really big play," Mora said.
Mora likes who the LAT describes as a 5-11, 195 "powerfully built" TB:
"He's got quickness, he's got speed, he's got elusiveness, he can make the first man miss," Mora said. "We'll find ways to get him the ball, whether it's handing the ball off to him or throwing it to him on a swing pass or getting him out into the route up the field. We'll do all those things with him because...when he has it in his hands he makes things happen."
So Manfro is impressing Mora. There is also Dalton Hilliard who has apparently been not too shabby this spring. Hopefully the way these guys are stepping up will keep pushing Malcolm Jones, who reportedly has had couple of good practices in a row after a lackluster start to this spring.
Speaking of guys stepping up - interesting to hear from Coach Mora about Darius Bell having a good spring this far, playing at the slot receiver spot ("Y" receiver). Bell apparently has been making lot of plays at Spaulding. It is good to hear the kid not giving up and doing what he can to help the coaches "somehow, someway". Jon Gold had a good interview with him few days ago. You may want to check out the video in which Bell talks about "new beginnings" which includes him losing 27lbs this off-season (oh, hey Joshua Smith).
Since I just wrote about Bell - the former QB - only fitting I end this roundup with the "crack" you all were waiting. QB news. There is an interesting piece in the OC Register by Vincent Bonsignore (guess he writes for multiple outlets) about Brehaut digging Mazzone's spread offense b/c it's the same offense he ran in high school:
Yes, it's dramatically different than the Pistol offense Brehaut learned under Norm Chow and Mike Johnson the past two seasons - and even the offense Chow first used as the Bruins offensive coordinator during Brehaut's freshman season - but it bears an uncanny resemblance to the offense Brehaut ran at Los Osos High of Rancho Cucamonga.
"Really, it's the same plays, almost to a T," Brehaut said. "Which is kind of funny."
More important, it's an offense that best takes advantage of Brehaut's talents, a rapid-strike attack that requires quick reads, a strong arm and puts a premium on getting the ball to players who can make things happen.
Brehaut likes that.
"If any offense fit my skill set, without a doubt, this is it," Brehaut said. "Throwing the ball, quick decisions, quick throws and getting it into the hands of playmakers. That's what I love about this offense, and I'm excited about it."
That's good to hear b/c personally I always thought Brehaut will end up being the guy this up-comings season with Hundley getting serious time through special offensive packages (setting him up to take over fully in his sophomore season).
That said, the reality in terms of depth chart hasn't changed. Kevin Prince, Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley and Jerry Neuheisel are all getting fairly equal times during team drills. So reporters and observers are having a hard time figuring out who Mora and Mazzone likes. But from reading through various reports it appears Brehaut, Hundley and Prince are ahead of Neuheisel and T.J. Millweard. Told ya. Not a lot of new development in QB news. But we still chased it all down ... like crack. Practice resumes this Saturday at 9:30 am PST.