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Spaulding Roundup: Surprise "Scrimmage," Bruin Defense "Ahead" Of the Offense, & Other UCLA Football Notes

The Jet Ski reportedly had a great practice on Sunday. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
The Jet Ski reportedly had a great practice on Sunday. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Bruins held two practices today at Spaulding. Notes from the evening one are still coming in.

I have already shared Coach Jim Mora's comments after this am's practice here. Let's get to some quick pointers from the first session worth noting in this space. First, I am going to start with rsmbruin's notes from our comment thread:

This was my first practice since spring ball and it was evident that the players are much more accustomed to the pace of practice/play. The defense looks very fast and athletic in the 3-4 look. Cassius Marsh looks like a different player than his past 2 seasons, he's noticeably leaner and no longer is standing straight up to make contact. His get-off is much quicker and lower and he looks really good.

Not sure what we're going to get from Datone this year, he just seems to go through the motions at times. Epenessa got quite a bit of time at the nose today and if he can develop a mean streak in him he could really help us as he usually occupies 2 blockers and at times got a pretty good push last year. B. Willis was moved outside for quite a while today and IMO may end up there for good due to his size.

Barr, Zumwalt, and Kendricks are very fast and athletic which should provide a sizeable upgrade from where we started the season last year. We didn't do much live tackling this year so I'm not sure how improved we'll be on that front but we couldn't be any worse. If the DL can get any push and control the LOS these LB's should have a very productive year.

Mostly situational plays on offense, but it was visible that the O in general is starting to show signs of gelling minus the OL. Baca and Cappela should be back in time for Rice but that RT spot is still a concern. White looks most comfortable right now but Goines did see some time with the ones but is definitely not ready to step in. Like many are saying the extra time the underclassmen are getting will definitely strengthen them as a group and make us deeper but we wouldn't want to have to count on them at this point.

Hundley flat out throws a great ball and looked spot on in drills today. He seems to be much more poised and confident and that's what we want as we get closer to the season. I talked with him for a minute after practice and he's just a very polite and respectful kid who will represent us well.

Huge thanks to him for sharing those observations. For those of you who live around UCLA, you have three more opportunities to check out practice: 11:30 a.m. on Monday; and then at 8:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday.

It'd be awesome if you can head out to Spaulding, checking out the Bruins' on Chianti's new turf and then share with us your first hand impressions. More notes and news from today's evening and am practice after the jump.

I will start with bulleting out some key pointers from Miguel Melendez's evening notes:

  • "After saying they would only scrimmage in segments this morning, UCLA coach Jim Mora pulled a fast one and ended up with an hour and a half-long scrimmage in the evening practice. Lots of good things from the Bruins, which was a surprise to some of us since there still are some questions surrounding this team."
  • "In the opening kickoff Steven Manfro returned it for 98 (that's what we're calling it even though the field is 80 yards. He was clearly ahead of the pack by the time he waltzed into the end zone so if it was a 100 yard field it's a score anyway)."
  • "On the run, RB Damien Thigpen's speed was on display and proved elusive from tacklers. He's clearly one of the fastest, if not the fastest, players on the team. Johnathan Franklin was breaking ankles all day. What makes his cutting moves so impressive is his ability to do them going up the middle. He's patient for blocks and takes advantage of them. Malcolm Jones got off to a slow start, opting to run outside on his first carry but it wasn't long before he found his way up the middle."

Read Melendez's full recap here. And from his morning notes:

  • Dalton Hilliard was back at practice after tending to a family emergency on Saturday. Apparently bunch of people were freaking out at his absence, to which Dalton responded with this:
  • JUCO OL transfer Jacob Seydel saw some time with the second unit. Per Melendez Baca tutored Seydel on down time.
  • As of the first session on Sunday Melendez noted that the offensive line continued "to switch players seemingly on every play," which created "inconsistency at times" as the pocket collapsed. Really hoping by this week Coach Klemm will get to settle on a rotation of 8-9 players who he will be deploying against Rice
  • Apparently Brett Hundley has "settled down since his four-interceptions day on the first day he was named the starter," and his interceptions as of late "do not stem from poor mechanics." but more a case of "the defense outshining the offense." Hard to know what to make of that. I still feel stung from all the reports last year about how Dantone Jones was a "dominant" force.
  • Speaking talented DL with lot of natural potential, "DE Cassius Marsh recorded a couple sacks and had his way with the guys up front, particularly against Carl Hulick."

BTW it's really good to see Melendez back covering the Bruins in Westwood. We hope he will stick with us through the whole season.

More second session notes are filtering in via Twitter now. We will do a second round-up on it sometime in the am. Edward Lewis from BSR has this teaser:

Lastly, Peter Yoon has a fluff piece - a look back at the San Bernardino camp:

The San Bernardino experience was about more than just bonding on the football field. They had team bonding experiences such as swimming and bowling-where again Mora divided the team into random groups for a competition.

The players had long walks from their dorms to the lunch rooms, meeting rooms, locker rooms and practice fields. Every day they would find themselves sitting with different people at meal time and walking the campus with someone they barely knew before camp started. At night and in between practices, they held gab sessions.

"We all hung out together like a big family," Franklin said. "Offense, defense, kickers, punters. Some days we even let the long snappers come."

And sometimes the conversations turned personal and serious.

"It wasn't always joking around or talking about football," Prince said. "It's sometimes serious stuff in life. I roomed with Brandon Sermons and we talked about our future plans and stuff you don't normally have time to talk about when you are just on campus. But when you are stuck here at camp, you start talking about things."

Meh. I have been hearing this "chemistry" and "family" stuff for 10+ years. I want victories on Saturdays - in the form of a huge season and a W against Southern Cal. Until I see that none of this pre-season fluff will matter.