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Spaulding Report: Defense Taking Charge for UCLA Football

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The Bruins focus on being more physical on the defensive side while the offense develops under the new OC.

Kenny Young is part of a very talented, and very crowded, linebacking unit for UCLA.
Kenny Young is part of a very talented, and very crowded, linebacking unit for UCLA.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It was Day 2 of Spring Football for the Bruins on the IM field this morning.

uclaluv was one of the ones who got up early with the Bruins and shared some observations from today's practice.

  • There was much more work on rushing offense and defense today than at Tuesday's practice which focused more on passing.
  • The OL are running for every false start. They did this on Tuesday, too. Hallelujah.
  • Defense won the 11 on 11s today.
  • Josh Rosen had a couple beautiful passes just over the defender's hands and right in the receiver's hands.
  • Theo Howard made another awe inspiring catch today. That's 2 in 2 practices. The kid looks special.
  • Nate Meadors made several good pass breakups today. Randall Goforth got beat a couple times at corner and looks better as a safety.
  • J.J. Molson was 4 for 4 on field goals with a long of 41 yds.
  • Deon Hollins left practice early again. It is confirmed he does have an early class on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A true student-athlete.

Deon knows the drill. You have to have all your classes early in spring quarter so you can get down to State Beach (with your books, of course) by noon. Duh. It's spring time in Los Angeles!

Special thanks to uclaluv for sharing some of the notes on the day. Now if I can just talk uclaluv into periscoping practice, then I'll get up early, too!

Today's post practice videos begin with Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley. Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen and InsideUCLA for the early previews of todays interviews, and a special thank you to Ed Lewis and Bruins Sports Report for sharing all of today's videos.

Bradley said he feels more comfortable with the roster and says he has a better ability to position players and design his defense because of that increased familiarity. He said the general scheme hasn't changed a whole lot since last year, but the defense did show some pretty clear vulnerabilities, particularly against power teams. Bradley said they made a concerted effort in the off season to get players bigger and stronger at key positions to improve that aspect of the defense. He specifically mentioned that the front 3 or 4 guys have to be better at the point of attack and not get knocked off the ball and keep the linebackers clean to pursue and make plays. Less bending, we hope.

Eddie Vanderdoes is apparently spending a lot of time on the bike because Bradley said EVD is getting ready of the Tour de France. Strange because I haven't seen him honing his form in any of the Spring Classics so far. Maybe in Flanders this weekend? In any case, Bradley said there is no need to get Eddie on the field in Spring as they need him 100% ready for Texas A$M in September. Allez, Eddie, allez!

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Next up was Quarterbacks coach (yes, a real one) Marques Tuiasosopo

Coach Tuiasosopo's comments about his role and relationship with starting quarterback Josh Rosen seem a bit better disguised than Rosen's comments on Tuesday (that is if you're trying really really hard to unfairly read into them), but it's clear that both of them seem pretty comfortable with how the new player-coach relationship is working. The coach paid the usual compliments to Rosen's talents and said the key is to get him to utilize those skills consistently and in all situations. So, fewer swing passes and quick outs, then? More seams and deep outs? Use his ability to read defenses and make a throw to any spot on the field?  Yup. I think we're all good with that.

Coach Tui was also complimentary of true freshman Matt Lynch, saying his arm has a lot of "pop" and that he's fitting in well in the meeting rooms. Considering he's been a college student for four days, Tui said his future looks bright, which is in stark contrast to his hometown. I can vouch that he's missing out on a lot of snow and gray right now. Sun? It's all in Westwood.

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Linebacker Kenny Young talked about his role as being a leader for the younger players and the increased physicality that will be expected form the linebackers this season.

As I mentioned on Tuesday, the Bruins were already really deep at linebacker, and now with the move to a 4-3 set becoming more frequent, they depth chart looks like a Pacific trench. Young started the last two years at one of the two ILB spots alongside some guys named Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack. Isaako Savaiinaea and Jayon Brown both played very well at the ILB spot after Jack got injured. There is room for a middle (Mike), strong (Sam), and weak side (Will) linebacker in the 4-3, so it will be interesting to see who ends up where. Deon Hollins was a lock at one outside LB spot in a 3-4 lineup, but it's questionable whenever he has the size and power to be a true DE in a 4-3. More likely he'd play at the Will which seems more suited for his skill set and sick speed. Keisean Lucier-South could play that spot, too, but he looks like he could fit better as a down 4-3 DE than Hollins. And besides Hollins and KLS, Cameron Judge and Josh Woods are waiting in the wings. And then there is that Mique Juarez guy who is going to see the field somewhere this fall for sure, not to mention the other highly touted freshman linebackers Breland Brandt and Lokeni Toailoa.

Of course, there is so much variability in formations depending on down and distance and whether the opponent is a spread team like Cal or Wash St or a more typical pro style team like Stanford or Southern Cal, so calling the base defense a 4-3 or a 3-4 is more semantics right now. Nickel and dime packages will certainly be part of every game plan, too. But the point is that the Bruins have a ton of weapons at linebacker, and LB coach Scott White will have his hands full getting everyone playing time. It's a good problem for us fans to have.

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Finally, WR Eldridge Massington also spoke about being a leader for the younger receivers and had some funny words for former DB turned receiver Ishmael Adams

If you think the linebacker spot is pretty deep, the Bruins receiving group won't let you down either. As a junior, aside from Darren Andrews and Kenny Walker, much of the talent is younger than Massington who looks to be the top receiver for the Bruins at this time. Stephen Johnson, Mossi Johnson, Alex Van Dyke, and Jordan Lasley all look very promising. There's a walk-on film student who looks really good, too. And then there is this early enrollee who is turning heads already.

"Theo's pretty good. He's gonna be nice...Once he really just learns everything, he's gonna be nice."

End understatement.

Massington also had some awesome jibes for Ishmael Adams who was an All Pac-12 cornerback as a freshman and has now moved to slot receiver and is suddenly complaining about how much the DB's are holding. You know, since Ish never once committed a penalty as a DB. Just ask him, or any DB ever. Like Einstein said, it's all just your point of view.

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Next practice will be Saturday at a very pleasant 9am. Practice is open to the public and free (parking is not). The annual Saturday morning breakfasts will be back up and running for anyone who wants an early start in Westwood before taking in practice. You can get all the info right here.

GO BRUINS!