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Spaulding Roundup - Freshmen Defensive Line, Thomas Duarte, and Running Backs Depth

A recap of UCLA's Thursday practice.

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Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Practice is beginning the transition from training camp to regular season practice which means one thing: FOOTBALL SOON.

Thanks to BruinSportsReport for the video.

Questions about freshmen and the other young players on the team dominated the session.  Last year we played 18 true freshmen but this year UCLA will probably play the kids that will make the most impact this year.  Other quick bits:

  • The three freshmen defensive lineman, currently, are all slotted to play this year, meaning they will not redshirt.  Mora noted that in the Pac-12, we rotate people in and out frequently, and we will need every available body.  Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Matt Dickerson and Ainuu Taua will see playing time and all have progressed well in the minds of the coaches.
  • As for redshirts, the staff hasn't discussed who will redshirt this year yet.
  • When asked to compare this year's class to last year's great freshman class, Mora deflected, saying he looks at football players and not their age.  (Seriously. Myles Jack turns 19 in two weeks.)  When he looks at the roster, he says he can't tell you who is a junior or a senior - the goal is to put the best player out there, not the one with the most years of service.
  • Overall, the team is healthy, which is great heading into quite possibly our most hyped season ever.  It was tough to lose Austin Roberts, Sam Handler and also Cameron Griffin, but Simon Goines will be back relatively soon, and he feels it's a sign of the team's maturity that they are able to stay on their feet at practice.
  • Thomas Duarte will play more this year, after a nice showing his freshman year, gaining confidence as the season went on. They will try to expand his role in the offense, but also noted he will need to add consistency, which will come with more playing time.
  • UCLA does not have a 4th running back - they're still thinking about it and will discuss it.  We are all assuming that Jordon James, Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro are the top three.  He didn't mention Nate Starks or Craig Lee, so it'll be interesting to see who comes in against Virginia.
In other UCLA and College Football news:
  • Did you think the College Football Playoff System would fix the problems of the BCS? Oh you naive individual.  Rick Neuheisel also thinks the playoff system will keep a worthy team out, and he believes that worthy team will probably be from the Pac-12.  Why?  First, the Pac-12 plays 9 conference games, forgoing the 4th cupcake game that the SEC and other power conferences love.  With strong QB play in the Pac-12, you should have quality games every night, and the committee will probably have a hard time putting in a 2-loss Pac-12 team over a one loss other big conference team.
  • ESPN released it's preseason All Pac-12 team and three Bruins made the cut. Alex Redmond at OL, and Myles Jack and Eric Kendricks at LB.
  • Speaking of Myles Jack, USA Today has a nice piece on him, dating back to when he signed his offer, worrying about if he could actually play this game, to his rise as a two-way player and a story from his high school days about how he prepared for his opponents.
Practice today is closed to the media, so we can just imagine what happens as we look ahead to Virginia.