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UCLA Football: Defense Comes Out Strong

While the quarterbacks didn’t have an incredible day, the defensive backs showed what Bruins are made of.

Jesus Ramirez/

UCLA football came back for their second spring practice after their two-week break, and there were some interesting things to note today.

J.J. Molson took the field for the first time against a full rush with protection, which had not happened all spring. He was four of seven, while two were blocked (nice job, defense!), and one went wide.

The offense is still a bit vanilla, far from the high flying Chip Kelly offenses that fans are expecting. No deep routes yet, mostly just screens. But there were a few run-pass options and bootlegs thrown in the mix today, and let’s remember, it’s still spring.

Unfortunately, the quarterbacks made the defensive units look good. Devon Modster missed a wide open throw to both Dymond Lee and Theo Howard, and Austin Burton and Matt Lynch were both schooled by the defense with pass breakups and a pick-six by defensive back Keyon Riley.

Additionally, there were lots of drops by the running backs, including experienced players like Soso Jamabo and Bolu Olorunfunmi. But again, it’s still spring.

Boss Tagaloa had previously been moved to center, but it looks like Kelly could still be keeping his options open. Zach Sweeney took reps at center and Michael Alves at right guard.

On the injury front, Jaelan Phillips was absent from practice, as he was recuperating from wrist surgery on Wednesday and posted on Instagram that it was a success. Will Lockett was at practice for the second day after missing the first two weeks, but didn’t really participate as he wasn’t wearing a non-contact yellow jersey and mostly stayed on the sideline in shorts and a white practice jersey. Kyle Phillips was injured during practice yesterday and had been seen limping off the field, so today he practiced in a yellow jersey. On the upside, Lokeni Toailoa practiced for the first time this spring in a white jersey, but didn’t take a ton of reps his first time out.

I know at this point, with only two and a half weeks until the spring game (and note, it says game, not showcase—are we getting four full quarters???), many fans were hoping to see more from the team by now. More Chip Kelly-type plays, running touchdowns in left and right with bombs to the end zone and circus catches for six points. But have no fear, I trust that Kelly has the team exactly where he wants it and will turn on the jets when the time is right.

Defensive back Quentin Lake was interviewed after practice. He talked about working hard and making a name for himself in Westwood. He stated that his dad, Carnell, a UCLA alum, was his inspiration for being the most conditioned player on the field and doing everything he can to earn a starting spot. He is working his way into the rotations, getting a crack at the safety position today.

If you need proof of his dedication, here it is:

Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen of LA Daily News for today’s player interviews.

Mo Osling III was also interviewed, and talked about learning every position on the defense, and it doesn’t matter to him where he is as long as he gets to play. He was also asked about learning lessons from guys that had the option to go to the NFL, but chose to come back to school. He said he learned the value of getting your degree and being a good student in the classroom (as a teacher, it seriously gives me goosebumps to hear that!).

Apparently, Fortnite is a big deal to these guys, and it’s become quite a thing (according to Osling, Modster is NOT, in fact, a team player). It’s good to hear these kids act like kids. Modster did have something to say about it:

Osling did say that Modster is a team on the field and he loves him.

Thanks again to Thuc Nhi Nguyen of LA Daily News for today’s player interviews.

Go Bruins!