Unfortunately, real life kept us from looking at what’s been going on in UCLA Football Training Camp this week. So, let’s catch up on this week’s practices in this jumbo edition of the Spaulding Report.
The big news of the day on Monday was that the Bruins only had two healthy running backs practicing, according to a report by Thuc Nhi Nguyen of InsideSoCal. The team was down to just Bolu Olorunfunmi and UC Davis transfer Josh Kelley. Because Kelley is a transfer, he will not be available to play until next season.
Theo Howard had another good practice on Monday. It’s still unbelievable that he saw so little time last season.
Thuc Nhi also notes that Mique Juarez “is continuing to flash some of the potential that made him a five-star prospect in high school.”
Jordan Lasley was kicked out of practice by Coach Mora. Thuc Nhi was unclear if Lasley had done or said something Mora didn’t like. Meanwhile, Adarius Pickett was ejected from practice for targeting. He hit Austin Roberts in the back with his helmet and Roberts didn’t return to practice.
The defense ruled the day on Tuesday. It was a practice made up almost exclusively of team periods.
According to Thuc Nhi, it was “a bad day to be on the offensive sideline.” She notes that Soso Jamabo returned to practice for the first time since last Thursday, but he “wasn’t particularly effective.”
Darnay Holmes owned Christian Pabico, who had been having a good camp up until now. Meanwhile, the defensive line “owned the second team period with sacks and tackles for loss on nearly every drive.”
She reports that Matt Dickerson, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Keisean Lucier-South and Leni Toialoa all had sacks.
On the injury front, Sunny Odogwu was fully dressed, but didn’t participate in team periods. Kenny Lacy took all the team reps at right tackle.
Brandon Stephens, Nate Starks and Jordan Lasley were not on the field and it’s not sure if Lasley’s absence stems from his ejection from practice on Monday.
After practice on Wednesday, it was linebacker day as LB Coach Scott White and the likely starting trio of Josh Woods, Lokeni Toailoa, and Kenny Young all met with the media after practice.
While the linebackers were the guys who spoke after practice, the offense were the guys who spoke on the field. It was the first time since camp began that the offense won the day. According to Thuc Nhi Nguyen, Josh Rosen looked “extremely sharp.”
This is good news to hear.
Rosen had shown flashes of the five-star prospect but he had been extremely inconsistent up to this point. In the first few practices, there were times when he looked bad. Sometimes, it was overthrows and, sometimes, he was underthrowing his receivers. So, hearing that he finally looked sharp is definitely a good thing and it’s compounded by the fact that the offense looked terrible on Tuesday.
But, there was none of that on Wednesday.
Thuc Nhi wrote that Rosen “was zipping passes through tight windows and finding receivers in stride all over the field.” She added that “it was everything you would expect from Rosen, who had some especially nice throws to Andrews on long passes.”
Austin Roberts, who was hit hard in the back on Monday by Adarius Pickett, was out again as was Soso Jamabo. On the offensive line, Najee Toran was out and Sunny Odgowu didn’t take any snaps despite being dressed. Audie Omotosho, Nate Starks and Brandon Stephens also didn’t practice.
Next, we have the three likely starting linebackers. First, it’s Josh Woods, then Lokeni Toailoa and, finally, Kenny Young.
The final post-practice interview from Wednesday is offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. Fisch spoke about how good Josh Rosen and the offense looked as well as the progress that Christian Pabico has made at receiver. Talking about Pabico, Fisch said:
We like guys that do things right, that are going to be studying really hard at night, that are going to focus in on the details of the game, is going to make sure that, mentally, he’s in the right spot at the right time and then make the catch. He’s been very consistent in camp over the course of the seven days. He actually was consistent in the Spring and did a nice job in the Spring, but has really just battled, battled, battled and kind of scraped and clawed his way into the discussion.
Fisch was asked about going from new quarterback to new quarterback. He added, “I’m really hoping for two years with this one, though. Write that!” That would be nice, even if it’s not likely.
He wrapped up his interview talking about the different NFL teams he visited from a professional development standpoint. He said that he had visited the Patriots, the Dolphins, the Rams, and the 49ers. He mentioned that visiting NFL teams allowed him to bounce ideas of his NFL counterparts.
Thursday was the ninth practice of camp and the rigors of camp appear to be taking its toll on the players, in general, and the offensive line, in particular. Najee Toran was out of practice again and Sunny Odogwu didn’t take any reps again, according to Thuc Nhi Nguyen. Poasi Moala suffered a leg injury and “was seen walking out of Wasserman Center in a walking boot.”
Audie Omotosho, Nate Starks, Colin Samuel, Breland Brandt, and Brandon Stephens were all out of practice.
It was, however, another good day for Josh Rosen. Rosen threw touchdown passes to Christian Pabico, Caleb Wilson, and Jimmy Jaggers. While Devon Modster threw a touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley, the second team defense pretty much dominated the second team offense.
First up is UCLA Head Coach Jim Mora. Mora started by mentioning some of the younger players that have been impressive so far. He also spoke about the team’s injuries and about how they are trying to manage Sunny Odogwu’s practice time to make sure he’s healthy for the A&M game.
He also mentioned that he kicked Jaelan Phillips out of practice because he had done something that would have gotten him kicked out of a game, but he didn’t go into detail as to what Phillips had done.
Ben Bolch asked Mora for his opinion on Josh Rosen’s comments about schoolwork and football at the college level not being compatible. Mora replied:
This is what I know about Josh Rosen: He has the absolute respect of every player on this team. He has the absolute respect of this staff. We see on a daily basis his work ethic, his attitude, his commitment, the investment he’s made in his team. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. Opinions are based upon things we see or feel that affect us or affect others around us. I think the lesson to be learned is that, if you are going to state an opinion, you have to realize that not everybody is going to agree with it. You may create perceptions that people don’t agree with and there may be consequences. And, so, if you’re going to make statements, you have to understand there are going to be consequences.
I’m really proud of the fact that, at UCLA, we have a tremendous balance between academics and athletics. Forbes just put out a study where they rated schools in the county on academic and athletic excellence and we were ranked #2 in the country. I think our academic support is amazing. We spend millions of dollars to make sure that our student-athletes aren’t just graduating, but that they’re getting an education.
We brought Roman Phifer back into the fold as a director of player development for the specific reason of making sure, as soon as our student-athletes come on campus, they are connecting with alumni of UCLA out in the business world with like interests of our players. So that they can start to build a network and build a support system that will help these guys when they get done playing football, whether that’s one practice or 15 years. We want to make sure they always having a chance to continue to fill their emotional and motivational buckets. I think, as a school, as a department, and as a program, we are going to great lengths to make sure that our players are always on the right track to success.
Mora closed his interview talking about the progress of walk-on receiver Christian Pabico.
The player interviews Thursday focused on three defensive backs. First, we have Adarius Pickett, then Denzel Fisher and, last but not least, Darnay Holmes.
Last night’s practice saw the return of Nate Starks, Breland Brandt and Najee Toran. Sunny Odogwu was back, but that may have more to do with the fact that the team was in shells, helmets and shorts rather than full pads.
Audie Omotosho, Poasi Moala, Colin Samuel were out of practice and Brandon Stephens “was limited to sprints and individual conditioning on the sideline,” according to Thuc Nhi Nguyen’s report on Inside SoCal.
She also mentioned that the offensive line tried a new combination. The first unit last night consisted of LT Kolton Miller, LG Najee Toran, C Scott Quessenberry, RG Michael Alves and RT Andre James. That combo replaces Kenny Lacy who had been playing both right guard as well as right tackle. We’ll have to see if this ends up being the starting five.
According to Thuc Nhi, the most interesting play of the session “came during a hurry-up seven-on-seven period when Bolu Olorunfunmi dropped a screen pass...and it looked like the ball bounced off his foot and went up in the air. Jaleel Wadood came crashing in, grabbed the ball, and ran it back for an 8-yard touchdown.”
She also reports that Josh Rosen was sharp again in a hurry-up seven-on-seven period.
He spoke about the young guys as well as the depth in the secondary. He also spoke about how he cross-trains the DBs to play every position saying, “I want to put the best 5, 6, 4 DBs on the field at any given time. So, in order for that to happen, everybody has to be able to learn how to play every position.”
The eleventh practice of Fall camp begins today at 3:15 with Westwood Fan Appreciation Day.
And, that wraps up this Spaulding Report Jumbo Package.