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Spaulding Report: Building a Base on UCLA's Defense

The Bruins had a light practice this morning as part of their 2015 Spring Camp as the players and coaches continue to build a base for the upcoming season.

Expect to see Nate Iese play a bigger role on offense this year. Literally. Dude looks beast.
Expect to see Nate Iese play a bigger role on offense this year. Literally. Dude looks beast.
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

After a 7am practice on Wednesday, the Bruins were right back at it again this morning at Spaulding with practice #10 of the Spring season.

According to our friend Chris Foster at the L.A. Times, the Bruins had a light practice without pads. The quarterback rotation continued today with Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard getting the reps. Foster noted that Little Neu was 5 of 8 passing and Woulard was 7 of 9, both of those presumably on the 11 on 11 drills. Last week the coahces were talking like they might start narrowing down some of the split time for the QB's, yesterday Noel Mazzone said they might continue the two-QB rotation through the rest of spring. The staff certainly appears to be in no rush, and from the numbers, it sounds like each of the quarterbacks is doing well with the top unit, so the Bruins are at least building some improved depth at the position this spring.

Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley met with the media after practice and continued on some of the themes he talked about following last Thursday's session.

  • Bradley has started meeting with some selected defensive players. He didn't go into specifics with who he is meeting with, but noted it wasn't just starters and that he was looking from feedback from a range of players to keep everyone on the same page, pointing out that the young players are still getting acclimated to balancing classes with football.
  • The defensive installation will be a continual process and they staff is just trying to get enough on tape to see how far they have come. He wants to expose the players to a range of new techniques while also making sure that they are handling what they have been given so far.
  • Bradley watched tape on the players before practices began so he'd have an expectation and basis for evaluating players going forward, rather than relying on someone else's evaluation. He said the defense has some guys "who I think are gonna be good players". He isn't watching schemes as much as he's just watching players and seeing who can play.
  • Speaking of Myles Jack, Bradley says it will be a learning experience for him as they are asking a lot of him and they are moving him around a lot as part of their different looks, but his versatility and skills should allow him to handle it.
  • Bradley noted that "when you put a defense together there's usually 7 or 8 things that players like to do or understand how to do" and he's trying to figure out what those things are and then he'll build the defense to take advantage of those strong points. That probably explains the basis for his own film sessions and player meetings so far.

Nate Iese was the first of the players to meet with the media and he sounded very polished for a guy who doesn't spend a lot of time in front of the cameras. That may change this season, though. I suggested recently that Iese needs to get the ball in his hands and he noted that he's expecting to see his role expanded this season and get more opportunities with the ball.

  • He complimented the progress of fellow running backs Craig Lee and Nate Starks and the development of the RB unit as a whole. Much of Iese's offseason has been devoted to working on running pass routes, and Coach Kennedy Polamalu has been using some NFL film with the RBs and TEs to demonstrate technique.
  • He says he may see some plays from the slot when the coaches see a mismatch on defense. Looking at Iese today without pads, it's hard to imagine who any defense has who could match up with him in the first place, as he already has good hands and speed. But Dude looks awesome.

video courtesy Ed Lewis and BSR TV

Tahaan Goodman and Cameron Judge also spoke with the media. Goodman has spent the spring focusing on his defensive techniques including speed and change of direction, and learning some of the nuances of the new defense.

video courtesy Ed Lewis and BSR TV

Cameron Judge has been a great special teams player through his first two years on campus, and he has gotten high reviews through spring after his permanent move to outside linebacker. He credited new LB coach Scott White with the decision to move to OLB. He says that playing just the one position has helped him develop a familiarity and comfort with his responsibilities. He added 15 pounds in the offseason with Coach Alosi and he's been able to be more physical on the edge and point of attack with the offensive lineman so far.

video courtesy Ed Lewis and BSR TV

Ed Lewis, publisher of Bruin Sports Report and ex-trogan/OC Register beat writer Joey Kaufman did their regular Cover Two Recap and gave a nice review of spring camp to date. Like all observers, they are highly impressed with freshman QB Josh Rosen and essentially called him to be the starter, whenever the coaching staff gets around to making a decision. Paul Perkins and Nate Starks have both looked great and will provide a great one-two punch in the running game. They also reiterated what I wrote above that DC Bradley is trying more to fit in to the U.C.L.A. system and roster rather than rebuilding the entire defense in his own mold. They named WR Jordan Lasley, DB Marcus Rios, S Nate Meadors, and OL Kolton Miller as the surprises of camp.

Goodman wasn't the only the only Bruin DB getting some press today. Back to the LAT, Foster wrote a nice article on the explosive Ishmael Adams. Adams highlighted practice today by deflecting a pass that LB Kenny Young turned into a pick-6. Of course, making big plays is nothing new for Adams. Ask Arizona State. Or the Bruins new DC:

"I'm a big fan of guys who make plays," Bradley said.

"I know there are people who will say, ‘He's not tall or he's not this,' but he makes up for a lot of things with his ability," Bradley said. "He's a guy who gets better because he's a guy who is intent on getting better. He makes up for things with his recognition."

Adams started returning kicks for the Bruins late in his redshirt freshman season, and by the end of redshirt sophomore season last year teams just wouldn't kick him the ball. He had two interceptions last year and returned them both for touchdowns. Although Adams has started 26 consecutive games for the Bruins defense, the fact that he's in a battle with Fabian Moreau and Marcus Rios for the starting CB spot shows what kind of depth the Bruins have built in the secondary.

Jack Wang at InsideUCLA added some nice notes from the short practice today, the most important being that RT Simon Goines, who was noticeably hobbling yesterday, returned to practice and looked much better. With his history of knee problems and the history of inconsistency on the OL, his health and return are really key of rthe unit, and the presumed freshman QB who will be operating behind it. Some more OL notes from Wang:

Simon Goines returned to start at right tackle for team reps today after taking a bit of a break on Wednesday. UCLA did deploy a new look on its second-string offensive line. JUCO transfer Zach Bateman moved from guard to left tackle, while Kolton Miller — who replaced Goines on Wednesday — held the right tackle spot. John Lopez appears to have cracked the two-deep now, displacing a walk-on at left guard. Poasi Moala played right guard today, and the backup center was still walk-on Giovanni Gentosi.

The Bruins next practice will be Saturday morning, but do not plan on going, even if you are nearby. The Bruins staff will be hosting a coaching clinic during practice and the event is closed to the public and press. It's anyone's guess if spectators will be allowed atop Parking Lot 8, and Block's ridiculous hotel isn't finished yet so you can't rent any number of rooms with a perfect overview of Spaulding, so the Saturday morning BN Breakfast and practice group gets the day off. So on Saturday, sleep in, read any practice updates we can scrounge up in the afternoon, and then get out to Jackie Robinson Stadium in the evening to watch the baseball team beat Cal.