Practice Report: The Return of the Offense

A 50-play, full-speed scrimmage highlights Tuesday's practice -- with the offense starting to show its flair. A receiver has a big day, and an injury is suffered at a fairly thin position...

Monday, the UCLA Bruins and Charles Rogers had the same problem -- excessive water --  the Bruins on their field and Charlie in his #1. But the Bruins at least had a plausible explanation: It rained Monday in Westwood…unless you think Charlie's 10 on the Wonderlic qualifies.

 

So the guys were rarin' to go on Tuesday. The highlight of the practice was a 45 to 50-play full-speed scrimmage using "overtime" rules: the ball was placed on the 25 yard line for the offense. If the O couldn't produce a sixer, then a field goal was attempted.

 

Unlike last Friday's scrimmage, which primarily consisted of the O and the D playing smashmouth football, Karl Dorrell, offensive coordinator Steve Axman and the staff opened it up a little bit for the O. The result was that the O scored seven or eight TDs on the D, and had four in the last 10 plays, as they started to pick up momentum.

 

The tone was set on the very first play as Idris Moss, filling in for Craig Bragg, who sat out most of practice with a non-serious thigh bruise, streaked up the right sideline in an attempt to vertically stretch the cover 2 coverage the D was in. Ben Emanuel II couldn't get there in time, Moss had a step on Matt Clark, the throw from Drew Olson was perfect, but Idris over-extended his arms, failing to make the catch when the ball hit his bicep.

 

After a short gain by Tyler Ebell and a short completion to Manuel White in the flat, the drive ended when Justin Medlock, the left-footed placekicker, hooked a field goal attempt wide right.

 

On the next series, John Sciarra was under center. On second down, he attempted a slant pass to Antwuan Smith at left flanker, but Keith Short jumped the route and intercepted the pass. Keith Short, playing behind Matt Ware at right corner, has consistently shown the ability this spring to not only defend the slant pass (one of the hardest plays for a corner to make), but to take it the other way.

 

This brought on Matt Moore. The first play of his series was one of the most exciting of the scrimmage. The Bruins ran the conventional "stretch" play with Tyler Ebell carrying the ball to the right, except Tyler's speed and quickness produced unconventional results. Perfectly utilizing the lead block from Manuel White that got into the strong safety's legs, Ebell made a beeline for the outside, turned it up at about the five and went in for six untouched. There's a term for a back like Tyler: "Sudden."

 

Sciarra was again under center on the next series. On first down, a not well-thrown out route to Garrett Lepisto at left flanker was incomplete. But on second down, it was Akil Harris' turn to show his stuff. He, too, ran the stretch play to the right, broke a few tackles with hard running, kept his feet, and bolted into the end zone with a 25-yard run.

 

Olson back under center. A screen to Ebell for a modest gain, and a draw play to Ebell that got him past the DL and into the LBs and secondary moved the chains. A check-down pass from Olson to Ebell, a good hard tackle by Jarrad Page of Ebell, and an incompletion (Olson to Marcedes Lewis on a pass that was forced into coverage) brought on a field goal attempt that, frankly, I have no idea whether or not was good. UCLA can be a damn distracting place at times…

 

Sciarra's turn, with Wendell Mathis at tailback. After two short runs up the middle by Mathis, Sciarra was able to connect over the middle to Will Peddie (#82) to move the chains. Peddie was probably the second or third option on the play. On the next play, Mathis hesitated a little in the backfield, and Eric McNeal (#36) flew in to deliver a big pop for a loss. McNeal possesses a very good combo of size and speed, and looks very comfortable out there: In position and carrying out his assignments.

 

The next play was the most controversial of the day. Sciarra dropped back and threw a beautiful fade pattern to Brett Mitchell in the left corner. Brett laid out, but clearly dropped the pass, which bounced off his arms, hit the turf, and bounced right back up into his arms/chest as he came to earth. But it's Karl's and Embree's world, we're just living in it.  So when Coach Embree raised his arms, and the O celebrated, and the D fumed, the single zebra working the scrimmage consulted the 20 or so fans standing on the sideline in the end zone. Thus, it makes perfect sense that when the fans, as one, signaled ‘incomplete' in unison, after further review, Coach Embree's original call was allowed to stand and Brent/John got their touchdown.

 

Matt Moore next came on and didn't have a great series: One pass to Idris Moss was dropped, one pass to Junior Taylor was almost picked off by Justin London and a final pass to Lepisto was thrown under duress from a blitzing Spencer Havner (back in the rotation at LB) and almost picked off by Page.

 

Next series, Sciarra under center, Harris at tailback. After two hard runs by Harris, Sciarra dropped back, got good protection from the OL and found Marc Lewis over the middle for a touchdown in what Bruin fans hope is a harbinger of things to come.

 

During the next series, the worst event of the scrimmage occurred: after a Wendell Mathis running play, C.J. Niusulu stayed on the ground. He had to be helped off the field, andthen carted to the medical center. The word is that he suffered a sprained knee and will be further assessed on Wednesday.

 

The scrimmage lasted another 10 plays or so. Highlights were a strong out pattern from Sciarra to Brett Mitchell on the right side to get the ball near the goal line, and Ebell on takaing it in on the next play taking it up and over the top using good hops. Olson was sacked by one of the "Bruin Club" honorees, either LBs Steve Seigel or Ben Lorier. A beautiful fade to Marc Lewis for a TD in the right corner from Drew Olson. A super effort by Asi Faoa to get to Mathis in the backfield, who was then finished off by Jebiaus Brown. And finally, another TD pass from Sciarra to Marc Lewis on a pattern over the middle, punctuated by a reverse one-hand dunk over the crossbar by the gridsta/hooper -- a fitting end to a great day for Marc Lewis (three TD receptions) and John Sciarra (two TD throws, both to Lewis). Excuse me, make that three TD throws…And don't worry, BROs: I personally checked with UCLA Sports Information Director Marc Dellins about divulging Marcedes' slam dunking technique. As there are no slam dunk contests on the Bruins' schedule this year (but hopefully some slam dunks), Marc's ability to get himself plus his gear well over 10 feet in the air is now common knowledge.

 

Offensive players that appeared to have good days were QBs Drew Olson and John Sciarra. Both distributed the ball well, got it out on time, made some vertical plays, and in general didn't put the ball at risk.

 

At running back, both Ebell and Harris ran the ball effectively, Tyler using his speed, quickness and great instincts, Harris using his size and strength. Wendell Mathis didn't run today with the same authority that Ebell and Harris did. Pat Norton was out today, so Manster White only saw time at fullback.

 

Among the receivers, Marc Lewis and Brett Mitchell were most visible. Walkon Mitchell is small, but extremely quick and agile, an obvious challenge for a DB when the ball is thrown on time. Marc Lewis…what can we say? He could be a real "green zone" weapon.

 

On the OL, Ed Blanton took almost every rep at right tackle. The two 25-yard TD running plays were to the right side. Others in the first unit were Paul Mociler at RG, Mike McCloskey at C, Eyoseph Effseaff at LG and Steve Vieira at LT. On the second unit, it was Shane Lehmann at RG, Robert Chai at C, Tyson Clayton at LG, and Robert Cleary at LT.

 

Offensive players that struggled today were Idris Moss, Matt Moore and Justin Medlock. In last Friday's scrimmage, there were a number of missed field goals, mostly hooked right, and that trend continued today. From our viewing vantage point, the snap and placement were obscured, so it is impossible to hazard a guess as to the cause.

 

On the defensive side, the O had a good day of execution. It was not a case of the D tackling poorly or being out of position/blowing coverages. They just got a little taste of the unfettered O Karl Dorrell and crew are going to run…and there are many tricks in the bag that are just being hinted at so far. State-of-the-art offensive football. long time, no see.

 

Defensive players that stood out were Glenn Ohaeri, who got a lot of reps as a nickel back, but also as a strong safety. Xavier Burgess looked good playing the run and dropping into coverage. Matt Clark was running at first unit LC. The LBs probably had the most interchanging going on: no set combos appeared to be used in conjunction all the time. And Robert Garcia (#93) stepped in at DT when CJ Niusulu went down. While coming up to Rodney Leisle's clavicle, Robert was very game in there. Free advice: when in doubt, Robert, grab ankles and make a pile! That always worked for me at sorority parties…

 

During the punting practice before the scrimmage, Chris Kluwe unloaded two or three bombs that sailed over Tyler Ebell's head. The low end punts were right to Ebell, so I'd estimate the distance at around 40 yards, because that's how far away from the LOS returners normally stand.

 

On the recruiting front, Michael Bumpus (WR, Culver City) and John Ioane (OL, Tustin) were the bigger-named recruits in attendance. It was Bumpus' second appearance at a practice. 

 

The BRO Contingent:  It lacked the "star power" it had Friday when two legends, SamoRed and mdm67, joined the usual motley crew for some practice gazing and BRO-relating. Samo had family in tow as they passed time before attending the volleyball game Friday night v. Stanford @ Pauley to celebrate Hunter's birthday. What better way for a future Bruin (?) to celebrate a birthday: Football practice and volleyball game in one day! But I guess LPL, SOW, Prof, and Chas Chiccoa et al. will do in a pinch…

 


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