If you felt like you weren’t in Kansas anymore today, you weren’t alone and I’m pretty sure I saw the Wicked Witch of the West fly by on a bicycle. The UCLA football team had a tough practice today, with winds making a difference and causing the offense to struggle a bit.
On the injury front, three individuals have missed three straight practices: Greg Rogers, Jimmy Jaggers, and Mique Juarez. I think I’m the most sad about Mique—he showed so much promise before he got to campus and seemed to make a little progress coming back last year. I really hope Juarez is able to reach his potential as a Bruin.
We still aren’t seeing blazing differences from the Jedd Fisch offensive schemes we saw last year. I’m not sure if Head Coach Chip Kelly is trying to blend the old with the new, or if he’s sticking with what the team knows because they just aren’t ready for everything he’s got to teach them. They seem to be focusing on something new everyday and I’m not sure what, if anything, is going to be perfected before Fall Camp. If you’re anything like me, you’re probably getting a bit impatient since the Spring Game is in a week and a half and we’ve yet to see the high-flying Kelly offenses we saw at Oregon. I’m guessing we’ll be waiting until September 1 to really see noticeable progress.
There were a few bootleg passes thrown in that can be put in place as long as you have a quarterback with quick feet. Nothing longer than 20 yards was thrown today, but that may also have been due to the gusty winds.
J.J. Molson was back in his old form going perfect for the day, and backup Andrew Stauch only missed one that was blocked. Punt returns were thrown in the mix as well, with Adarius Pickett being the most solid performer. Theo Howard botched one catch and another was interfered.
Quentin Lake and Nate Meadors both picked off Modster today, with Lake showing his skills tracking the ball and Meadors reading the receiver’s route quite nicely.
Before practice, Coach Kelly talked about the team adjusting to the new practice form (without dissing former Head Coach Jim Mora at all) and he seems pleased with the team’s progress so far. He specifically mentioned the progress of Keisean Lucier-South and how he has done a great job in practice and has picked up things well so far. Zach Sweeney is also learning the new playbook and Kelly is still evaluating where he’ll end up on the offensive line. Kelly basically said they’ll make final personnel decisions when it comes time to play Cincinnati. He mentioned the hard work all the players are putting in and how they are all striving to be “the best versions of themselves”.
Keisean Lucier-South was also interviewed today and mentioned learning new techniques, but nothing drastically different from last year. Sometimes, I get the feeling that no one really wants to talk about the differences from last year to this year because they’d be disrespecting the old regime. On a positive note, Lucier-South reports that they are learning more like a family and working better together with more discipline. He also had a lot of positive things to say about outside linebacker coach Roy Manning. According to Lucier-South, he is energetic, has been helpful guiding the players through a 3-4 defense, and is always extremely positive. Apparently, Lucier-South is a big Chiefs fan. So, he also gave his opinion on the offseason trades and changes that are taking place in Kansas City.
Last but not least, we have sophomore tight end Jordan Wilson. Wilson reports that tight ends are spread all over the field, and there have been as many as three tight ends on the field at once in the new offense. Each practice looks a bit different with a new objective and focusing on a new concept, which can be difficult especially with the faster pace. Wilson said that offseason training with the strength and conditioning coach really prepared them. As has been stated by many players before, a lot of attention has been placed on sleeping, eating, and monitoring habits off the field. With this new focus, Wilson reports that the team has lost 55 pounds of fat collectively! Kelly is a no-nonsense coach that is more business-like and Wilson says that is exactly what they needed.