The UCLA Bruins were back at practice yesterday and it was the linebackers’ turn to take the spotlight. After practice, Leni Toailoa and Josh Woods both met with the media. There were two bits of interesting news. First, Woods is really happy to be back on the field playing football after suffering a season-ending injury last season. Second, Woods is now playing outside linebacker rather than the more familiar inside linebacker position he’s played the past few years.
But, before I get to Woods, let’s talk about Leni Toailoa. That’s because Toailoa was up first and he spoke about what it’s like to have Woods back as a vocal defensive leader after losing him to a season-ending injury in training camp last year.
“It’s just another vocal leader,” Toailoa said. “We lost like [Adarius Pickett] last year as one of our vocal leaders and Josh would have been one too last year but, since he wasn’t able to participate, he just stayed on the sidelines. But, now, he’s back. You hear his voice. He’s on the sidelines trying to get all the guys to bring some juice to the defense and stuff like that. So, it’s kind of different. We needed it because we got another field general out there. So, that’s good.”
The first half of yesterday’s practice wasn’t up to par, apparently. Toailoa noted that the players were in shorts for the first half of practice, but, then, Chip Kelly had the players put the pads on. Toailoa explained:
The energy was low. You didn’t hear nobody echoing team periods and stuff like that. There was no energy on our sideline or on the blue sideline. So, altogether, just low energy as well people kept falling. We can’t have that in practice. It just wasn’t up to our standard. So, he made us go put our pads on.
Josh Woods followed Toailoa and after making some jokes about his new hairstyle, he spoke about what it’s like to be playing football again. “I’m just so happy,” Woods exclaimed. “I’m just so grateful to be out here with my brothers again and just be able to compete. Being sidelined, you really don’t want to take anything for granted and you just appreciate just being able to do what you doing. The daily...even the grind and times where people try to say camp sucks and all this and that. I’m just happy to be out here and not being in a yellow jersey and not be in a bed with my leg propped up, not being able to walk.”
Woods also spoke about his transition from inside linebacker to outside linebacker. “I started there sophomore year,” he said. “So, I have a little familiarity with it. I’m just still getting used to this new defense a little bit as far as sometimes being an edge rusher and things like that but, with help from Coach Kaufusi, Coach Azz and even having Keisean on the sideline helping me with the different calls and techniques, it’s helped me out a lot.”
Woods continued, “I think personally that I can do whatever they need me to do. I’m just gonna do whatever I can to help our team out. So, if they want me to play outside, I’ll play outside. If they want me to play inside, I’ll play inside. I’m just trying to be versatile.”
Thanks to UCLA Athletics for sharing yesterday’s post-practice video of Toailoa and Woods.
On the injury front, Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times notes that Alec Anderson appears to have suffered an unknown injury. Bolch writes:
A day after Kelly said he was pleased with his offensive line depth because of a relative lack of injuries, another player had gone down. Redshirt freshman Alec Anderson, the leading candidate to start at left tackle, was wearing a yellow jersey to signal he was recovering from an unknown injury. UCLA was already without backup center Sam Marrazzo, who recently hurt his leg and has been moving around on crutches.
Finally this morning, have you signed up for the new SB Nation Fan Pulse yet? The plan is to have our own Bruins Nation Top 25, but we can only do that if we get enough signups. Right now, it looks like we need a minimum of about 20 more sign-ups, but ideally about 70 more. So, please sign up now if you haven’t already.