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Spaulding Report: UCLA Spring Football Day 8: Musical Chairs on the Line, Mossi doing everything, & Ka'imi finding his range.

The Bruins practiced on Monday evening. Injuries forced some switches but Coach Mora liked what he saw from the players on the field, particularly Ka'imi Fairbairn, Mossi Johnson, and Craig Lee.

Ka'imi Fairbairn is having a great spring camp, with some help from his former holder Jeff Locke
Ka'imi Fairbairn is having a great spring camp, with some help from his former holder Jeff Locke

The Bruins held practice #8 last evening and Mora met with the media afterward to talk about the day.  He called it a "good night of practice" and complimented the players for working hard and competing, particularly when injuries forced some players to move around on the fly.

Thanks, as always, to Ed Lewis from Bruin Sports Report for posting the video.

from BSRTV via YouTube

  • Jack Wang at InsideUCLA posted a lot of notes after practice last night.  Unfortunately, there was lots of news on the injury front last night.  LB Zach Whitley slipped on some stairs yesterday (and really, who hasn't ever done that?) and bruised his heel which caused him to miss practice.  OL Caleb Benenoch suffered a hyperextension of his knee during practice but was able to ride the bike on the sideline to stay loose.  Both of them are expected back for the next practice on Wednesday.  LB Isaako Savaiinaea has missed a couple sessions with a shoulder injury but he should be back on Wednesday, as well.   WR Eldridge Massington was held out of practice as a precaution after a "ding" to the head.  The toughest news was with CB Johnny Johnson who recently reaggravated a previous shoulder injury that caused him to miss all of last season, and he will miss the rest of spring practice.
  • The injury to Benenoch meant the Bruins OL had to juggle some spots for the evening.  LG Malcolm Bunche moved over to right tackle and Scott Quessenberry moved back to the left guard spot he ably filled for much of last season.  Poasi Moala got reps at left tackle and Kenny Lacy got reps at left tackle and also at guard.  Mora likened it to "musical chairs"
  • Mora referenced "a little tussle" between WR Mossi Johnson and CB Ishmael Adams.  Whereas those in-practice fights have irked the coaches in the past, Mora took the opportunity to leave both players on the field to see if they could refocus and play the next down, and he complimented them both on their ability to get their heads right back in the game.  By all accounts, Mossi Johnson is having a great camp so far at one of the receiver positions, with Mora saying he "has grabbed everybody's eye".  Brett Hundley was quoted tonight that "He has a nasty streak. He's scrappy. That's what you want from a receiver, one that's going to go out and hit a DB in the mouth, then go back and burn a DB the next play." As proof, Wang noted one play tonight where Johnson actually tried blocking Ellis McCarthy.  Ok, Mossi, let's not get too far ahead of things.
  • Craig Lee is making progress with his pass protection, pass receiving, and burst through the line with Mora saying "He looks good. I've been impressed with him".  Mora noted that this is the first time that Lee has really gotten to practice the offensive plays, having spent last year on the scout team.  The coaching staff seems to really like Lee's potential, and getting the playbook down may be last step before we see Lee become a major contributor at RB this year.
  • One really encouraging note from spring is the development from PK Ka'imi Fairbairn.  We saw Ka'imi struggle with kicks greater than 40 yards last season, especially from the hash, and that issue was consistent throughout practices last year.  Fortunately, Ka'imi has been consistently good through the spring season, hitting a much higher percentage of kicks and really showing his range.  Mora said he was good from 60 tonight and credits Ka'imi's former holder and current Vikings punter Jeff Locke for bringing some tips back from the NFL that have helped the mechanics of the snap and the hold.
  • Mora also referenced the backup quarterback battle, saying that Jerry Neuheisel, Asiantii Woulard, and Mike Fafaul are having a good spring camp and that he is not really evaluating the quarterbacks on a day to day basis, but will try to separate them at the end of camp based on their bodies of work through the spring.

Jack Wang posted a pair of great interviews featuring S Anthony Jefferson and DT Kenny Clark that are worth the watch.  The interview with Jefferson is here and he talks about his role as a senior leader in the defensive backfield, a unit which struggled last year but is looking much improved this spring, calling them "leaps ahead" this year compared to last.

Clark's interview is here and he talks about his development and preparation for an increased role on the D Line this year.  He says that things started to click for him in the ASU game last year when he felt like he understood the speed and the strength of the college game, and now he is focusing on his technique and the defensive system so he can make a difference on every play.

The Bruins next practice is Wednesday morning at 7am and is open to the public.

Go Bruins!