It's really kind of amazing how up tempo UCLA's practices have been thus far this week. Players are running between plays to get on and off the field, there are more reps during team drills, and there's actually enough passion to generate a couple of shoving matches.
During 7 on 7 and the 11 on 11, the offense was getting a play in every 10 to 15 seconds, which is about 10 to 15 seconds faster than practices earlier this year. And, naturally, playing faster made the offense look much better. It's almost like it‘s a good thing to not let the defense have a long look at the offensive formation. Kevin Prince had one of his better days in both the 7 on 7 and 11 on 11, and Richard Brehaut again looked good.
With all the reps, even Brett Hundley and Nick Crissman were able to get a significant amount of work in during team drills. Hundley still looks a little rough throwing the ball, but he's showing better pocket presence, only taking off and running once when he probably could have stayed in the pocket longer.
During special teams drills, there's, again, a big switch from the last few months. While Tyler Gonzalez was kicking field goals, instead of having the whole team standing and watching him, the rest of the team began individual drills. That might seem somewhat elementary to the layman practice report reader, but it's really a big switch from how the team practiced in the fall.
Wide receiver drills were also interesting, but that seemed to reflect more of a training camp atmosphere, The receivers actually ran a couple of blocking drills, where they'd run at a grad assistant holding a pad and push him back a few yards.
Mike Johnson spent most of the individual time working with the quarterbacks, and seems to be focusing heavily on footwork and fundamentals, as he's been saying in his practice videos.
Like in camp, the team spent a good amount of time in 1 on 1 receiver/cornerback drills. John Young and Cory Harkey, much maligned for bad hands earlier in the year, have shown much better catching ability the past few weeks. Young in particular has looked good catching the ball, although he was admonished at one point for not turning his head around quick enough for a pass.
Stan McKay looked good during 1 on 1's, stealing an interceptions away from Jerry Rice Jr.
Nelson Rosario made a very good one handed (of course) catch over Aaron Hester during the 1 on 1's. Hester showed some sour grapes, saying Rosario stepped out of bounds and he then wanted to line up again.
During the 11 on 11, Datone Jones got into it a little bit with Casey Griffiths and Brett Downey. It looked like Jones threw one of those punch/shoves with his right hand at Downey, but the three were separated before it got ugly. That's probably the first real heated exchange I've seen in practice this year.
Damien Thigpen was back in practice. Thigpen hasn't practiced this year, but he looked like his usual shifty self, if a step or two slow.
Patrick Larimore had surgery on his thumb today, but Johnson expects him to be back before the bowl. Chris Ward had surgery on his left knee today, so he'll definitely be out for the bowl game. Dalton Hilliard and Luke Gane both practiced in red. Wade Yandall and Darius Bell were both not at practice, with Yandall still recovering from his concussion and Bell attending to a family matter.
After practice, the team went immediately into the locker room to meet with Jim Mora for the first time.
Practice Report, Johnson Video
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