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Spaulding Roundup: Game Situations, Consistency, and ... ugh ... Injuries

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The U.C.L.A. Football team completed practice #7 yesterday afternoon, and the Bruins focused more on specific game situations, particularly the 2 minute drill with officials and backup, as the team prepares for a scrimmage this Saturday. This was the first mention that the coaching staff is planning a scrimmage for this weekend. Mora noted that he wasn't sure how long the scrimmage would last, but he expects it to help define which players will be getting more looks in the following weeks, particularly at the QB spot. Mora was asked if he expected the QB's to continue to share reps going forward.

No...we'll probably after the end of this week we'll start to funnel it down a little bit.

That sounds like this weekend's scrimmage will offer some opportunities for each QB's to move himself up on the depth chart.

Overall, the word of the day for Mora was consistency, as in, he wants and needs his players to to be more consistent. He said that inconsistencies were not unexpected, given the new systems and coaches and terminology and tempo, but that the team as a whole and specific players need to focus on getting things right every time. Importantly, he noted he saw "real signs of progress". It's good to see the coach insisting on doing both the little things and the big things right, and we know he has been holding the players to it so far.

One of the issues leading to the consistency problems is the growing number of injuries, necessitating other players to fill gaps they may not be ready for. There were 24 players who did not dress for practice Thursday, with the defensive backfield seemingly hit hardest so far. Unfortunately, that unit saw three more go down by the end of the day. From Peter Yoon:

A total of 24 players did not dress for practice Tuesday and then receiver Jerry Johnson, cornerback Aaron Hester and safeties Librado Barocio and Anthony Thompson joined the walking wounded by day's end.

Safeties Dietrich Riley and Alex Mascarenas were ruled out for spring practice and safety Andrew Abbott had knee surgery last week and is unlikely to return before the end of spring.

The Bruins ended practice Tuesday with only six healthy scholarship defensive backs: cornerbacks Sheldon Price, Anthony Jefferson, Brandon Sermons (playing with a cast on his hand) and freshman Marcus Rios and safeties Tevin McDonald and Stan McKay.

On the good side, OL Wade Yandall saw increased activity today as he works his way back from a concussion.

The injured players are working with S&C Coach Sal Alosi to get back into playing condition, but Coach Mora put up a brave face, noting that he is only concerned with the players he has available on the field.
"I'm concerned only with the guys that are practicing," Mora said. "Those other guys who are over there, it's like I don't even see them."

I don't want to be the concern troll, but while many of the injuries are relatively minor and practices have been more physical this spring, this spate of injuries sounds disturbingly familiar. We have seen a disproportionate number of players going down on a regular basis at Spaulding before. We have heard about the players' concerns with the condition of the field at Spaulding before. We have heard about our AD's apathy and obliviousness about the sub-par state of Spaulding before. Of course, we all really hope the injuries slow down. I also hope Mora might see the connection between the growing number of inactive players and the POS facilities that our AD has provided for our student-athletes in our most important revenue sport. Next time Dan has the gall to ask, "What's wrong with Spaulding", Mora can simply point to the quarter of his team that isn't dressed for practice.

In Mora's post-practice interview above, he singled out several players for praise, including Jeff Baca, Devin Lucien,Torian White, and Steven Manfro. He complimented Baca as a solid OL who can play any position along the line. Baca spent some time at center today when backup Jake Brendall and Tre Hale, who are filling in for an injuredGreg Capella, were inconsistent at getting the ball back to the QB. Staying on the line, Torian White got some looks with the first team at right tackle. About White, Mora said that he is exactly what he is looking for in an OT and that he has a lot of potential. Mora continued to praise Lucien for his play making ability, and he saved his best comments, once again, for Steven Manfro, noting he has talent, a "will to be great", and calling him "really impressive". He also noted that Manfro is a candidate for returning punts (not fair catching punts, btw), citing his ability do special things in the open field. He also complimented Dalton Hiliard for making progress in cutting and turning the ball upfield in the run game today.

Jon Gold cited some particular highlights from the afternoon at practice.

On three consecutive plays, Jordon James, Steven Manfro and Dalton Hilliard had nice touchdown runs, either trucking or juking defenders.

Hopefully that is a more a comment on the skill and sudden depth we have at the RB position, and less a comment on the defensive tackling.

On the other side of the ball, Gold noted that Eric Kendricks has been working hard at pass coverage and it is paying off. He made a nice read and interception of a Jerry Neuheisel pass in drills yesterday. Kendricks progressed to be probably our best linebacker by the end of last season, and this will add a new dimension to his playmaking skills.

The Bruins next practice will be Thursday afternoon. Any fans heading out to the practices are encouraged to post updates on the open thread we will have up that day. Hopefully our wounded Bruins will get well soon, despite Dan Guerreror's disgrace of a practice field, and get back into action with the team. Go Bruins!