First Spring Practice Report

The tempo of practice is better than it has been under the last two coaching staffs, the quarterbacks shake off some rust, and the early depth chart shows some interesting wrinkles...

That was, without a doubt, the fastest practice UCLA has had in the last nine years. Nearly everyone was running or jogging between plays, and between periods. There was one period late in the practice where the players were a little slow getting into the next period, and the coaching staff had them huddle and redo the transition, this time sprinting.

And still in the post game comments, Noel Mazzone gave it a 72 out of 100 in terms of pace.

Another big change was that everyone now participates in warmups and drills. Kevin McDermott led the specialists in a few sprint drills, but they were present throughout, even participating in a few cutting drills with receivers and running backs. McDermott seems to have taken on a leadership role with the special teams crowd.

But the biggest thing was simply how physical the practice was. Even on Neuheisel's live days, the practices were rarely as physical. There were a few unserious scuffles, and what seemed like an emphasis from the defense on trying to strip the ball.

In terms of quarterback depth, there was a bit of a wrinkle, with Kevin Prince taking the snaps with the 1's, followed by Brett Hundley and, in a shocker, Jerry Neuheisel. Richard Brehaut took the fourth snaps, and T.J. Millweard rounded things out.

Prince actually looked pretty rusty to start the practice, but came on strong toward the end of practice, and actually made a few really nice throws in the 7 on 7. He hit Devin Lucien on one ball where he hit him perfectly in stride on a throw that traveled about 30 yards in the air, over a trailing Anthony Jefferson. Jefferson looks like he still has some work to do to get his mobility back to where it was, pre injury.

Hundley had his moments, and shows a pretty strong arm, but still needs some work on his accuracy. His big issue seems to be overthrowing guys. Neuheisel actually has a pretty good motion, but threw a few grounders.

Brehaut was probably the best quarterback on the day, and the ball showed some zip coming off of his hand. The big issues for him, and all the other quarterbacks, will be hitting short passes. Most of the quarterbacks on the team can hit long balls, but the short ones tend to cause them some issues. In Noel Mazzone's offense, that could prove fatal.

There should be two big caveats with Millweard. First, it's his very first practice at UCLA. Second, he just entered college yesterday and has to be feeling a little bit of culture shock. That being said, he's got a pretty big hitch in his throwing motion, and it seems to affect the power of his throws and how the balls come off of his hand. He threw one that didn't appear to be tipped that just kind of knuckled out of his hand, and Lucien actually made a pretty spectacular recovery to grab it before it hit the ground. Walk on quarterback Mike Fafaul was actually a nice surprise. He has a good throwing motion, and seemed to have the arm strength to hit most of the throws.

On the offensive line, Xavier Su'a-Filo, Jeff Baca, Greg Capella, Alexandru Ceachir, and Brett Downey got the first team reps, from left to right on the offensive line. Ceachir is a work in progress at guard (having played tackle mostly before this) but he showed some nastiness inside, which is something that has been missing for the offensive line for years.

At receiver, it looked like Shaquelle Evans and Jerry Johnson were the first guys in at the X and Z, but it's hard to derive much from that because the rotation is so constant. The receivers were the biggest highlight of the day. Between Lucien, Ricky Marvray, Evans, Johnson and Joe Fauria, there just seems to be a greater level of effort and concentration from the entire receiving corps. Marvray, in particular, had a very good practice, but Lucien probably had the two best grabs. Jordon James, working at the F, showed off some very impressive speed.

At running back, as expected, Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones were the first two guys to play, but Dalton Hilliard actually looked pretty good at running back. He might be a little too stiff to play it full time, but he showed some great hands out of the back field, so it might be the kind of thing where you want to see how he does at receiver.

On defense, Brandon Willis got the first reps at nose tackle, and then it seemed like Kevin McReynolds and Seali'i Epenesa were more or less splitting reps with the two's. Datone Jones and Cassius Marsh were the two starting ends. At linebacker, from right to left, the starters were Damien Holmes, Eric Kendricks, Patrick Larimore, and Jordan Zumwalt, and in the secondary the starters were Sheldon Price, Tevin McDonald, Andrew Abbott, and Aaron Hester.

Damien Holmes, in making a move from defensive end to linebacker in the 3-4, looks substantially different physically, having slimmed down quite a bit, probably in the 235-240 range.

It was announced that Wesley Flowers, the defensive end who was dismissed from the team in January, was re-instated. We had reported earlier that he would be participating in spring practice with the stipulation the coaching staff could re-instate him to the program afterward, but the staff went ahead and re-instated him.

In terms of injuries, you can add Luke Gane and Todd Golper to the list of injured. Golper tore his meniscus last week and will be out 4 to 6 weeks. Gane has a hernia, and will be out for the spring.

Some of the incoming freshman were present, including Ellis McCarthy, Colby Cyburt, Kenny Orjioke, Taylor Lagace, Randall Goforth, and Jordan Payton. Former Bruins in attendance included Nick Crissman, Randall Carroll, Nelson Rosario, Milton Knox, Derrick Coleman, Anthony Dye, and Jamie Graham.

One mammoth recruit was in attendance, in Serra offensive tackle Emerald Faletuipapai, who runs 6'6, 335.

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