UCLA held two practices Wednesday in San Bernardino, going with the shells for the morning while going full pads for the afternoon. The morning practice was an incredibly intense affair, while the evening practice
There is apparently a wildfire going on a few miles near the practice fields, which I would assume would create a problem for the team, but it doesn’t seem to be effecting anything so far.
Fire burning a few miles from where UCLA is scheduled to practice. pic.twitter.com/xRe77WX7pw— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) August 16, 2016
If anything, the intensity of the fire was an apt metaphor for the intensity of the morning practice. Coach Mora seemed to be the one driving the intensity, utilizing some, well let’s call it colorful language with his star quarterback at one point.
Rosen throws ill-advised INT— Matt Cummings (@mbcummings15) August 17, 2016
Mora: "Dumbass, what the f--- are you thinking? You get on the cover of Sports Illustrated w/ that bullshit?"
Near the end of practice, Takkarist McKinley and Kolton Miller got into it, and both players were ejected. Still, it was a really good practice, with the defense doing a good job of continuing their dominance during non-pads practices. The offense had their share of moments, and 5th quarterback Dymond Lee (the third quarterback from last year’s class) got his first taste of 7-on-7 reps, which is always nice to see. I’m going to highlight the end of practice because not only did Cameron Judge make a hell of a play to snag an interception, but Matt Cummings put together a gif of the play so that you can get an idea of what it looked like.
Defensive Coordinator Tom Bradley talked a bit about the intensity of the early practice, but pay special attention to his discussion of penalties. Bradley pointed out what we’ve known for a while: that UCLA has a penalty problem, and he said it’s a huge point of emphasis for the coaching staff right now (as an aside, referees were present for the afternoon practice). Bradley is maybe one of my favorite interviews just because he shows off a ton of knowledge in these things.
Resident speedster Kenny Walker talked about his development and also discussed the arrival of Theo Howard, who Walker said was going to be the best receiver in the bunch.
Alex Van Dyke spoke about how the receivers have bonded and he included a cute story about his new nickname "Buck".
Rick Wade talked about how the new offense is helping the defense by providing them new looks to work against. Wade also discussed his growth from last year.
As for the evening practice, let’s just put the biggest news up front:
#UCLA starting LG Kenny Lacy tweaked his left knee tonight and had it wrapped at trainers' tent.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) August 18, 2016
No word on how serious the injury is, but it’s not a great piece of news for a line that is already relatively thin. Thankfully, the Bruins have some options to fill in including Najee Toran, who had one of the starting guard spots after spring ball.
Aside from that, the evening practice period was really a showcase for the offense. This has seemed to be the pattern for UCLA practices so far: the defense performs better during the shell practices, while the offense shines more in full pads. The running back crew in particular had themselves a day, dominating a period where the team worked on exclusively 3rd and 4th down situations with some strong running. On InsideSocal.com, Thuc Nhi Nguyen writes:
They ran a team run period in exclusively short-yardage situations (third-and-1, fourth-and-1) and the offense converted every time. That was a perfect 9-for-9 in those situations. All the running backs (Soso Jamabo, Nate Starks, Bolu Olorunfunmi, Brandon Stephens, Jalen Starks, Zachary Byrge and Kahlil Muhammad) each took at least one rep in the drill. After one snap in which Stephens ran for the conversion, linebackers coach Scott White was yelling to his sideline that "All you (expletive) quit!"
We’ve stated before that this is a talented group of running backs. The change in offensive philosophy should bring that talent even more to the forefront. Conversely, it is a bit worrying to see the defense apparently continue to struggle defending the run (UCLA ranked a dismal 97th in the nation last year in run defense, allowing 198.5 YPG on 4.4 YPC). I guess the hope is that the defense will pick it up once real games begin, but this is still a worrying trend.
The other big news from the afternoon practice was Theo Howard’s return. Howard has missed a ton of time this fall after straining a hamstring and possibly tweaking his ankle on Monday, but today almost became the Theo Howard show. Howard seemed to be at full movement right now, and was a force while running with the 2s. Howard was a huge pickup in the last recruiting cycle, and it’ll be fun to watch his development.
Today’s #MiqueWatch Update: Excused absence. He is reported as being back with the team, just not practicing yet, and realistically it’s best to just wait this one out.
New Tight End Coach Rip Scherer gets his first interview of the fall. Rip discusses tight end development, with a focus on Nate Iese’s continued growth. It sounds like Austin Roberts and Caleb Wilson also will see some looks, while Jordan Wilson develops.
The next practice is today a 3 PM in San Bernardino.