It probably says a lot that UCLA had two practices yesterday, and the only thing anyone seemed to care about was the status of incoming freshman Mique Juarez. But that’s where we are to start the second week of fall camp and the first in San Bernardino. Thus, I’m going to focus this particular report on last night’s practice, while there will be a separate post for yesterday’s Mique Juarez saga.
Yes, UCLA did manage a practice last night, in full pads and everything. And it was a really strong effort from the defense, specifically the defensive backs. The common perception was that the defensive backfield would be the best unit on the team, and possibly the best DB unit in the conference. Joe did a real good analysis of the unit that you should check out. Anyway, the defensive backs were active all through the period, and it resulted in average play from Josh Rosen. Throwing lanes were tight, and the receivers had issues making catches. What’s most impressive is the continued drive to be better in this unit. Take, for example, this anecdote from Thuc Nhi Nguyen at Inside SoCal:
Tahaan Goodman nearly picked off Rosen, but couldn’t quite get his hands on the high throw. It bounced off his fingertips and he did a few push-ups as punishment.
This appears to be a self-applied punishment, but still speaks to how hard this group is pushing themselves.
Continuing with the offensive struggles, Coach Jim Mora did not appear to be happy with the offense at times yesterday. Thuc Nhi Nguyen wrote:
Mora was really displeased with something going on with the offense while the team was working on some plays in the red zone. Wasn’t exactly sure what he was yelling about, but he was yelling for quite a while at offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. It looked like the offense was struggling to get the play calls in and get the correct personnel on the field.
Thankfully, this is practice, and the exact moment to iron out these issues. Still, these are the kinds of speed bumps that can hopefully be rectified with a new offense.
Also of note, there continues to be a focus on penalties, as Ben Bolch of the LA Times noted:
Jim Mora made false starting lineman Markus Boyer leave the field in the middle of a series to run around the field. Penalties a focus.— Ben Bolch (@latbbolch) August 16, 2016
In injury news, Deon Hollins was held out of yesterday's practices as a precaution due to concussion-related symptoms.
Coach White (obviously) talks about the linebackers, including the battle for the middle linebacker spot. Interestingly enough, Coach White describes it as a three-way battle between Kenny Young (who got the start with the ones), Isaako Savaiinaea (boy I really need to learn that name) and incoming freshman Lokeni Toailoa. Toailoa came in the last recruiting class with the expectation of being one of the big linebackers of the future, so it is exciting to see him make an impact this early, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him get some playing time during the year.
And, obviously, Coach White dodges any questions on Mique Juarez, though he does say they’ve been in contact and that "he’ll be just fine."
First up is Coach Mora. He spoke about how being in San Bernardino for only six days allows the team to focus on the football for the time they are there. He said:
And, if it's Monday, it must be Rosen. This week, he talked about working with new receivers and about how the new offense is actually helpful for the defense in that they get to see even more looks than they did under the old offense.
Finally, there's Nate Meadors. Meadors discussed, among other things, how he likes being in San Bernardino because it's an opportunity to play in front of friends, family and his high school football coach Ron Gueringer who played fullback for UCLA in 1977.
The next practice will be at 3:00 PM today in San Bernardino. Go Bruins!