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Spaulding Roundup: Defense Rules at Practice #11

Defense ruled the day at Spaulding during practice #11 yesterday.

With Brett Hundley, Richard Brehaut, and Kevin Prince - in that order - leading the offense, the Bruins focused on situational play, including short yardage, 2 and 4 minute, red zone, and goal line among others. Jon Gold tweetedthat Eric Kendricks, Cassius Marsh, and Sheldon Price had great days, and later wrote:
...the defense definitely shined. The front seven was getting good push, and the coverage was almost flawless, with several interceptions, including some great anticipation. As we've come to know so well, it's a bit of a zero-sum game, so if the defense does that well, that must mean the offense did that poorly. For the most part, it did. More dropped passes than I can remember in any one practice this spring, running backs getting jammed behind the line, quarterbacks simply off.
However, even with the poor showing in the passing game, Peter Yoon writes that the QB job at this point should belong to Hundley.
On Thursday [Hundley] had a pair of eye-catching runs that showed off the speed and open-field ability that made him a high-level recruit out of high school and had him tabbed as "The Savior" for UCLA football.

But after struggling with his throws for much of the last year, he never got off the bench and sat out the season as a redshirt. Now, under the tutelage of quarterbacks coach Noel Mazzone, he's beginning to show some promise with nice touch as well as arm strength and accuracy.

All is not perfect, however. He had passes intercepted on consecutive plays during a red zone drill, though safety Anthony Thompson made a tremendous play to get one and Tevin McDonald also had to make a nice play to get the other. Still, the flashes of extraordinary ability he's starting to show make you hungry to see if he can, indeed, reach the tremendous potential expected since his arrival. That alone makes him the most intriguing pick.

I'm not really interested in intrigue at Spaulding. That's what the Bourne movies are for. I'm interested in heady leadership and good reads and accurate throws and a potent offense. So far, none of the QB's has emerged as a clear leader in any of these areas. I understand Yoon's opinion, but we have heard others say here and here that Brehaut has been just as steady, if not more. Regardless, coming out of last weekend's scrimmage, the consensus seems to be that the QB race is now between Brehaut and Hundley, with Prince falling to 3rd. There is not much more time before the end of spring drills, and I expect that the coaching staff wants to have a pretty clear idea who the starter will be going into fall camp. With that in mind, we will continue to watch this position very closely over the last week and a half of practice.

Despite the offensive struggles, Mora called it a good practice and seemed pleased with the effort and improvement. More after the jump...

Going back to Price, he is getting some great reps going against Jerry Johnson every day, and Mora praised both of them, especially Johnson.

I think the fact that he (Johnson) and Sheldon go at each other the whole practice has really helped them both. He just seems really determined to capitalize on that amazing physique and athletic ability that he has. He's not saying anything. He's just coming out and working really really hard. ... I've been very impressed with him.

The WR crew is pretty thin right now, with Ricky Marvray out for the rest of spring and with Shaquelle Evans still out with a groin injury, so the emergence of Johnson is coming at a very opportune time for him. With a healthy crew, the WR unit will definitely be a big step up from last season.

The offense got a boost yesterday from the return of C Greg Capella to the lineup. He worked with the second team line at guard to get some experience at that position, as Mora said he wanted all 3 centers to be able to play guard as well as center.

There was one significant injury to report, and unfortunately this one may be pretty serious. Linebacker Isaiah Bowens took a helmet to the knee and suffered a sprain. He was taken from the field and will need further evaluation, but observers didn't sound optimistic. The obvious fear is that he injured his ACL and may require surgery, but more evaluation will be needed to know for sure, and we can expect to have some more information later today.

Librado Barocio suffered his own ACL tear last week and is scheduled for surgery this coming Monday, but that hasn't kept him off the practice field entirely. Mora pointed out to all the reporters gathered around him at the end of practice that across the field, at that moment, Barocio was doing pushups, Mora called him "amazing" and "awesome", and said that Barocio told him he wants to have the fastest recovery ever from an ACL injury. With a work ethic and dedication like that, he just might do it. Either way, the Bruins will definitely be better off for his return.
Coach Mora also expressed his displeasure over a scuffle that broke out on the field halfway through practice. Kendricks and LG Jeff Baca got in some post-play shoving, which then escalated when RT Brett Downey stepped in, followed by RG Alberto Cid who then threw a punch.

"It's unacceptable," Mora said. "That's not who we're going to be and that's not what we're going to do. A punch was thrown and so we paid the consequence for it. I want this team to play with class and composure at all times and in order to play that way, you have to practice that way."

Mora was yelling at Cid the whole time as the team ran sprints for about five minutes, barking about discipline and how throwing a punch would get him kicked out of the game and cost the team 15 yards. Cid, who was suspended a half last season for his role in the benches-clearing brawl at Arizona, said he simply lost his cool.

With the guys going up against each other every day, and with the level of competition that we have seen this spring, at some point you have to figure that tempers will flare. But Mora was not accepting that as an excuse. The offensive line and the linebackers got some additional bonus sprints after practice, just in case Mora's point wasn't clear to either of the two units. Pushing matches break out during football camps, and to a degree, you want to see that sort of passion and competitive intensity from your players. But I agree with Mora's overarching demand for discipline and composure. The team can't afford such a lapse in discipline. Let your play do your talking for you.

One bright spot that came from this incident was the leadership of Xavier Su'a-Filo and Brett Hundley. As the less-than-svelte Cid was struggling to finish his sprints, he was approached by both players.

Showing quiet leadership was OG Xavier Su'a-Filo, who then made his way closer to Cid between the lines. A little more verbally supportive was QB Brett Hundley, who then side-stepped in stride with Cid, encouraging him to finish out.

It's good to see the team rally together at times of adversity, and maybe this was a glimpse of the leadership we need from Hundley.

Those are the highlights from yesterday's practice. If anyone was there, we would love to hear your thoughts and analysis of what you saw.

Go Bruins!