The Bruins went through their 2nd of 4 days with a morning and afternoon/evening session. It wasn't quite a triple digit temperature day in the greater San Bernardino area, but it was right on the edge for most of the afternoon.
The big story (really a non-story, but I'd be wont to avoid it) out of the morning session was Myles Jack and Caleb Benenoch getting into a scuffle that boiled over into Jack being booted from practice, per Chris Foster.
Jack Wang over at Inside UCLA posted some notes on the morning session and also posted this post-morning session interview of Hundley:
What Brett had to say about the Ed O'Bannon vs. NCAA ruling is interesting in an off-the-field sense, but not really pertinent to the practices so I'm not going to comment outside of saying that allowing for "student-athletes" to earn up to $5000 a year is so reasonable that I worry for anyone who tries to criticize it. If you have ever been a college student, that is just spending money that every football player easily makes up for in value every season. It doesn't harm the integrity of the game, it doesn't dilute the importance of school. It allows for athletes to have enough money to enjoy being college students.
Some other things that Wang, Foster, Jordan Lee and others noted:
After briefly switching to safety last year, sophomore ILB Jayon Brown is up to 230 lbs. Came in around 195. #ucla— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) August 11, 2014
— chris foster (@cfosterlatimes) August 11, 2014
Translated from Twitter-ese, that means freshman running back Nathan Starks and redshirt freshman running back Craig Lee missed practice due to flu-like symptome.
Craig Lee tried to go but was also out with flu, UCLA thin at RB today. Jordon James dressed but DNP in team drills.— Jordan Lee (@jordantlee) August 11, 2014
I attended the evening session at 5:45 and here are some of my thoughts from the practice:
First things, whoever is in charge of the ropes shut down the viewing area again, lots of people crammed in a pretty tight space. I took advantage of my strong eyes (I appreciate the 20-20 vision while I've still got it), height and angles to get as good a view of everything as possible.
- Got there as the offense and defense were going through separate installation periods. The first team Nickel unit for the defense is the same as it's been all camp. Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Deon Hollins on the edges, Kenneth Clark and Eddie Vanderdoes inside, Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack as the linebackers, Randall Goforth and Anthony Jefferson at safety, Ishmael Adams inside at slot corner and Priest Willis and Fabian Moreau outside. Unless something strange happens in the next couple weeks, that is probably going to be the starting defense against Virginia if they open with 3 WRs.
- During the earlier part of practice, the special teams was focused on the kickoff return team. Unit looked solid as always. Ishmael Adams took the first reps as the returner and Roosevelt Davis was the 2nd man up, a little bit of a surprise.
- The last rep was a surprise onside kick by the scout team that was pounced on right away by the front line. Coaches still have the special teams guys sharp, no reason to be anything but excited about that group.
- The Bruins then jumped into a redzone full team drill, the highlight being a jump ball in the corner of the endzone hauled down by Eldridge Massington over Fabian Moreau. Great protection on that rep by the offensive line as well, Hundley had all day.
- Similar play by Mike Fafaul to Alex Van Dyke on a sideline throw over Justin Combs, that size difference was just too much because Combs was right there.
The teams then separated into individuals, but the running backs and wide receivers evidently didn't get there quick enough because they were sent back to the other side of the field and forced to run back. I followed the defense to the bottom field, which shouldn't surprise anyone. I don't think you can gather that much new information from watching the QBs throw against air to the skill position guys.
Pretty basic fundamental stuff on the defensive end, the defensive line working with bands on their get-offs, the LBs working on a little bit of everything and the DBs started off doing cone drills for footwork, then moved to more movement-based activity (run fits in open field, adjusting their coverage on WR motion, switching on receivers in zone, coming up and shedding a blocker in the run game).
Some notes on the defensive backs, who have quickly become my favorite unit on the UCLA football team and some other defenders:
- When Goforth and Jefferson go to the NFL, Ron Robinson, Jaleel Wadood and Tahaan Goodman are going to be extremely fun players in their own right. Each of them are unique players.
- Wadood reminds me of like 85% of Tyrann Mathieu (a huge compliment). He can bounce to corner in the slot and isn't afraid of contact with anybody.
- Robinson is going to be built like Kam Chancellor in a year or two, his frame is ridiculous. Already looks like the biggest defensive back on the roster as a freshman.
- Goodman is what you'd build a strong safety like in a lab. He'll get run this season and certainly be a monster on special teams, but 2015 is the season he blows up.
- Marcus Rios walked off with a coach during individuals. No apparent injury that I could see. Maybe dizziness. Didn't look as crisp as usual.
- Kenny Young doesn't look like a freshman on the field. Looks as comfortable as any backer on the field and moves well in space.
- Cameron Judge and some other older backers were helping Dwight Williams get up to speed in drills. Seemed to be mesh into the group pretty easily. Williams was in helmet and uniform but without pads, as was Jordan Lasley.
- Zach Whitley was still not dressed out, just wandering around in shorts. The neck injury (or whatever is wrong with him) must be lingering.
Team period was next up. Just a general observation, the nickel package on D is too much for WRs in the three team drills that I've seen against it. Hundley had to throw one out of bounds today because the defense was blanketed everywhere. In this particular period, there was no run game whatsoever.
- Kenny Orjioke (against the 2's), Kenny Young and Tahaan Goodman all had big hits on smaller backs and WRs.
- The defense's lateral quickness makes it tough for Perkins or Davis or Manfro to get to the edge.
- Pass rush, Eddie Vanderdoes absolutely abused Najee Toran two plays in a row. Got one sack and big penetration on a run that Young turned into a TFL. Kenny Clark registered a sack of his own in this period.
- Aaron Wallace looks nice crashing down the line in run support. I think he's had the best camp as an OLB. Definitely Hollins as a pass rusher, but I'd probably start Wallace if I were making that choice.
- Eldridge Massington mossed Jalen Ortiz for a first down. I'll touch on Massington later.
- At RB, Adarius Pickett left Mike Fafaul out to dry by not knowing where to go on a read option. Got yanked and yelled at by Coach Polamalu. Based on two days of seeing him at RB, that "I'm leaving here the starter" comment was just confidence. The right kind of confidence, no doubt. But I think there is almost no chance he starts based on what I've seen.
The team broke up into 1-on-1's mostly. I watched the running backs and linebackers go at it, both in the run game and 1-on-1's passing.
- The run segment was angle tackling basically. Get past the cone as a runner, stop them as a defender.
- Steven Manfro broke Young's ankles in their first 1-on-1 drill, but they stalemated the next time. That second time was the loudest pop of the period.
- Nathan Starks got by Cameron Judge on a nice cut as well.
- Jordan James was just conditioning off to the side. Looked okay moving around, I'd expect him back pretty shortly.
They went to a pass rush 1-on-1 next:
- Paul Perkins owned Isaako Savaiinaea on the opening rep. Set a good tone for the running backs.
- Pickett did a nice job on Kenny Young. Got beat initially, but made a good recovery to settle his feet again.
- Taylor Lagace looks decent pass blocking on the edge. Best out of FB's in my opinion, at least in this drill.
- Nathan Starks has clearly never pass blocked. That can be coached up, but not quickly enough for him to be trusted protecting Hundley quite yet.
- In the 1-on-1 passing period for these groups, it is Savaiinaea that set the tone for the defense. He got an initial jam out of the backfield and then outran Roosevelt Davis toward the sideline to intercept the pass underneath pretty easily.
- Paul Perkins had a nice day all around, broke Young off on an out route. Young got caught reaching a little bit.
- Manfro still looks great in the passing game. Moves better without the ball and in space than any other RB.
- Young recovered and made a great break on the ball to breakup a pass intended for Starks.
I saw Devin Lucien walking off the field gingerly at one point. It was not a good look. It looked like he went through concussion testing, but was back out on the field pretty quickly for the next team period. He made an instant impact as well.
- Lucien had the first reception on a pass over the shallow middle for a big gain. The linebackers looked like they had blitzed or maybe followed running backs out of the backfield. Also ran a great route on a deeper comeback route down the sideline against Moreau. Created a lot of separation and made a diving catch on the sideline. Not the best throw by Hundley on that one.
- Jordan Payton had a nice block on the edge to spring Davis on a swing pass. Was too big for Adams. I could see that working well in season, Payton is probably the best blocker in space of the WRs. By keeping him at Y sometimes, it helps out the offense because that is not Thomas Duarte's strongest skill.
- Mossi Johnson put Wadood on his back on a curl route, didn't get the pass as Pickett picked up a nice gain on a swing. Johnson looked good in the limited work he got, had a red jersey on still but I still expect good things out of him this year.
- Tahaan Goodman was at safety for Goforth, who didn't do any full contact team work that I saw.
- Priest Willis is so solid in team. He was the only defensive back that looked good against Massington today.
After that team period, the skill guys stayed at the far end and did 7-on-7 work, while the OL/DL and OLBs did 1-on-1s. I kept score of the reps that I was able to score, excluding some reps including walk-ons.
- Owa beats Malcolm Bunche (Defense 1, Offense 0)
- Kenny Lacy beats Eli Ankou (D 1, O 1)
- Kenny Clark and Jacob Brendel even, which is an offensive win generally (D 1, O 2)
- Vanderdoes owns Najee Toran (D 2, O 2)
- Kenny Orjioke beats Caleb Benenoch late, who swears loudly. (D 3, O 2)
- Orjioke wins a 2nd time with a different move, and CB follows with a different loud swear (D 4, O 2)
- Zach Vinci beats Kolton Miller (D 5, O 2)
- Kenny Lacy owns Ainuu Taua. Best OL rep that I saw. Taua never got more than a couple feet off the line of scrimmage. (D 5, O 3)
- Jacob Brendel bears Kevin McReynolds (D 5, O 4)
- Ben Wysocki wins a rep over 78 (walk-on defender, I assume) and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner back to back. (D 5, O 6)
- Poasi Moala has a great rep on Jake Jones (D 5, O 7)
- Kolton Miller beats Matt Dickerson, 73 (walk-on lineman, I assume) beats Thomas Schwab (D 5, O 9)
- Clark swims Najee Toran easy. (D 6, O 9)
- 77 (walk-on defender, I assume) owns Kolton Miller (D 7, O 9)
- Then Miller has nice rep on Dickerson right after. Saw Brendel coaching him up on technique throughout. (D 7, O 10)
- Clark beat Toran inside at the snap, but lost his footing and got laid on (D 7, O 11)
- Moala nice rep on Jones again (D 7, O 12)
- I missed a couple reps of walk-on guys and obviously my score isn't an official one, but the offensive line had a nice session of 1-on-1s.
The last session of the day was a live team period of situational ball.
- Started off with 1st string defense on 1st team offense, but with a couple random substitutes on both sides due to injuries and what not.
- First snap, Owa overpowerd CB off the edge. Would have been a sack.
- Second snap was a swing to Roosevelt Davis for about 8 yards. He got a lots of 1st and 2nd team reps today with Craig Lee leaving practice (I didn't see what happened), Jordan James out on team drills and guys like Pickett and Starks not quite up to speed yet.
- Third down, offense gets the first on a short run up the middle by Paul Perkins
- First down, Owa gets another sack, coaches let Brett continue and throw an incompletion anyway.
- Benenoch holds Aaron Wallace to stop another sack. This was a bad period for CB after a good day the rest of the time I saw him.
- Myles Jack stops Hundley on a read option. Gave him 5 yards because of the no-contact jersey.
- Kenny Young crushes Steven Manfro on a swing pass for a loss. Similar to that Jordan Zumwalt hit against Nebraska in 2012.
- 4th and 1, Eric Kendricks stuffs Manfro on a 4th and 1. Somehow the offense was still given a conversion
- Anthony Jefferson gets a great read on a play and almost picks off a screen to the outside.
- Hundley finally lets a ball go downfield and throws a deep TD to the corner. I didn't catch the number of the receiver (I think it was Lucien), but it sure as hell looked like offensive pass interference to my eyes, but the coaching staff counts it.
- Only highlights after that were another two sacks on Hundley. One from pressure up the middle that forced him out of the pocket and Jack chased him down from behind. The second was Orjioke coming off the edge against Colby Cyburt.
All in all, I thought this was the best that the offense has looked in the three practices that I have seen this fall. The defense is still a much better unit, but there was stuff on both sides of the ball to get excited about today.
Eldridge Massington looked good, finally delivering a little on that hype that Brett Hundley has been throwing his way all offseason.
I'm sure that this is just the UCLA homer in me because it is so statistically improbable to be true, but I legit think that all 11 first string players in the Nickel defensive set will be playing in the NFL at some point.
Regardless, the Bruins will be back at it in the afternoon tomorrow at 3 PM for practice in San Bernardino.
Until next time, Go Bruins!