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Spaulding Report: UCLA Football Plays Through the Dog Days of Camp

Two rather uneventful practices allow UCLA to get healthier while providing some younger players with an opportunity to shine.

Joe Piechowski

UCLA Football held its last double session of the year today, doing the usual light practice in the morning and heavier, full-pads practice in the afternoon. Let’s launch into this starting with the morning.

I’m a bit new to writing these Spaulding Reports, but I have a newfound respect for how hard these things are to write. Because, if we’re being honest, there isn’t much that really happens in these fall camp practices. Guys get injured, a few position battles are fought, but these practices are mostly about working out the kinks before the actual game week practices begin.

Take, for example, today’s morning practice, a light affair featuring mostly situational plays. A good amount of the big-name starters sat out the practice for precautionary measures, including Conor McDermott, Scott Quessenberry, Eddie Vanderdoes, Takkarist McKinley and Fabian Moreau (no injuries for any of these guys, just to put everyone at ease). At running back, Jalen Starks and Brandon Stephens got the majority of touches as the other three running backs stuck to only light work.

If there is any news, it’s that the offense, specifically the passing game, had a very good day. The big secret of the fall camp has been Josh Rosen’s struggles to find any sort of rhythm during practice, not looking like the freshman phenom he was last season, but like the true freshman quarterback we thought he might be. The big issue has seemed to be that Rosen has only felt confident with a few of his receivers, specifically Darren Andrews and Nate Iese, and having trouble connecting consistently with the others. Thankfully, this was not the case today.

The big benefit to having a bunch of top guys participating in a lighter practice has been letting younger players step up. The big beneficiary today was true freshman Boss Tagaloa, who got to run with the first string today while Eddie rested. DL Coach Angus McClure talked about him and said the following:

Boss works extremely hard. I was talking about earlier guys staying after, learning, taking extra help. Boss has taken advantage of that. I rolled him into the ones today so he got some work with the ones today against the first o-line, I wanted to see how he did, and he was outstanding. And so Boss will play multiple positions also, so I’m very happy with his progress

The second practice, definitely the harder-hitting of the two thanks to the presence of pads, had a similar flow, but again there was something notable. In this case, it was a positional switch for DeChaun Holiday from the defensive backfield to outside linebacker. Holiday is a big hitter, with his biggest problem being the veteran talent sitting in front of him at cornerback, but the coaches obviously want to see how they can get him on the field. So, Holiday got a crack at outside linebacker during some positional drills and I’ll turn it over to Thuc Nhi Nguyen of Inside SoCal for the rest:

During one-on-one pass blocking drills between the linebackers and running backs, Bolu Olorunfunmi got absolutely lit up by DeChaun Holiday. Holiday just bowled through Olorunfunmi, putting the sophomore running back on his backside. Holiday won the second rep against Olorunfunmi too, but the running back came back to win the third, pushing Holiday back into the defensive backfield.

Bolu is not the easiest guy to take down, so it speaks to Holiday’s physicality that he was able to beat Olorunfunmi twice.

A big problem near the end of practice was a few helmet-to-helmet hits from the defense. Both Adarius Pickett and Denzel Fisher laid some big hits, but also led with their heads. Notably, Coach Mora did not kick either player out of practice like he has been known to do, though he did let both players have it verbally. Hopefully it gets through that the players can’t commit these kinds of mistakes going forward, though 4 years of evidence isn’t in their favor.

On the injury front, running back Khalil Muhammad suffered an apparent leg injury and had to be helped off the field. In more positive news, Kenny Lacy returned today and participated in individual drills, while some of the players that have been sitting out the week due to concussions (Deon Hollins, Cameron Griffin) were present at practice and should be able to participate next week.

Today’s #MiqueWatch update: Nothing, and I wouldn’t expect to see anything until next week at the earliest.

Today’s videos of Coach McClure, Kenny Young, Tahaan Goodman, and Cameron Judge all come to us courtesy of Edward Lewis at Bruins Sports Report. Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen at Inside SoCal for the video of WR Coach Eric Yarber. Thank you to both for the videos!

Defensive Line Coach Angus McClure spent a good amount of his video talking about the positional flexibility of the line, with players able to play both inside and out. The reporters also seem to love talking about Eddie Vanderdoes with McClure, which is understandable because Eddie is great.

Kenny Young discussed the three-way battle at middle linebacker between him, Isaako Savaiinaea, and Lokeni Toailoa. He also talked about how San Bernadino helps the team become mentally tough, which will be an important trait to have during the opening game in College Station.

Tahaan Goodman discussed the defensive backfield, how they’ve gelled as a group, and how he considers himself to be the "hype man" of the group. He also discusses his reputation as a big hitter, and how he tries to tamp down the aggressiveness during practice just to protect his teammates.

Cameron Judge is currently the third starter at linebacker for UCLA, which isn’t what many people likely expected after the arrival of Mique Juarez. While Juarez has had some issues, Judge has continued plugging along, and here he discussed his job as a starter. He also talks about the middle linebacker competition, and says that he feels comfortable playing alongside all 3 guys.

Wide Receivers Coach Eric Yarber got the evening interview, and talked about the receiver group in general. The weirdest moment to me was how Yarber talked about Darren Andrews being under the radar, which is odd considering he is the leading returning receiver and grew into a weapon during the season last year. Yarber also talked about Theo Howard’s development and skillset, and you can just tell how highly this coaching staff views Howard just from the way Yarber gushes about him.

Thanks again to Ed Lewis and Thuc Nhi Nguyen for the videos!

Today is the last practice in San Bernardino, with practice beginning a 12:30. This will be the last practice open to the public, after which UCLA will return to campus and begin working on the game plan for the game against Texas A&M.

Go Bruins!