On the first day in pads, there was a slightly slower tempo and pace as the team got acclimated to wearing more weight and also dealing with a much hotter time of day. Naturally, it was also one of the more vocal practices for the coaching staff, as they tried to keep the tempo up amidst a sometimes flagging energy level.
At one point toward the latter half of practice, Coach Mora drew the entire team to midfield and gave an intense talk to drive up the energy level. After that, despite the fatigue, the team generally practiced a bit faster.
Still, it should be said: even with the tempo a little bit slower, it would still have been the best day, by far, of practice last year. Expectations are just much higher from the coaching staff.
Given the heat and the first day of pads, it was an unfortunate time for a few guys to not be able to practice. As Mora discussed, Ricky Marvray (back), Joe Fauria (hamstring), Jordon James (hamstring) were not in practice for the offense, and it really depleted the receiver rotation.
Darius Bell took the majority of the snaps at Y, and again had a great practice catching the ball. He looked fatigued by the end of practice, probably as a result of taking so many snaps, but even when he was very tired, he caught most everything thrown his way, even making a one handed grab during 11 on 11.
Malcolm Jones again took the majority of the second team reps, and in the first day of pads, he looked about the same running the ball as he did without pads, given his frame. He probably runs a little too high, which gets him tackled easier, and doesn‘t have great quickness, but that could have been the product of the heat. He said afterward that this is the fastest he's ever had to practice, and he's still working on getting himself physically better for the season in the fall.
In terms of a guy who just looks like things are finally clicking, Owamagbe Odighizuwa is having a really nice spring thus far. He's physically about the same (a monster), but he seems to finally be getting down how to play the position. At times, he worked with the 1's at defensive end, over Datone Jones, but there was a ton of rotation today to compensate for the heat.
In the 11 on 11, the defensive front just looks a lot better in pads. Jordan Zumwalt, Keenan Graham, and Damien Holmes all look pretty effective rushing. Without Capella, the offensive line has a tough time getting much of a push against the defensive front. Brandon Willis looks pretty good at nose tackle thus far, and was getting a good push during the 11 on 11. Donovan Carter still isn't getting a ton of work at nose tackle, with Seali'i Epenesa working the most with the 2's.
In an interesting twist, with Greg Capella still nursing the calf issue, Jake Brendel is with the 1st team at center and newly minted offensive lineman Tre Hale was taking the snaps at center with the second team. As Mora talked about after, Hale has a lot to work on with his exchange, which should be expected with a guy who was a defensive end earlier this week. There were probably at least a dozen botched snaps during team periods, and that really affected the tempo with which UCLA could practice.
In the quarterback battle, once again, it was really very close between the top 3 guys, Richard Brehaut, Kevin Prince, and Brett Hundley. All three looked very good in the 7 on 7, with Prince probably making the toughest throws, threading one to Darius Bell on a pure timing route. If we had to handicap it at this point, we'd probably still put Prince and Brehaut in a virtual tie, with Hundley maybe just a little behind.
Hundley has improved in the offseason, but he still has some technique issues that might need to be cleared up. He has a tendency to kind of cock the ball back, which makes his release longer than it needs to be. But his accuracy is much improved on shorter throws over what it was last year.
There's still no real depth chart in place. At times each of the quarterbacks took reps with the first team.
On the offensive line, there was also a lot of movement between the first and second teams, with Jeff Baca and Xavier Su'a-Filo both taking snaps with the 2's at various points. I wouldn't take too much from that because, again, the heat and pads.
Dalton Hilliard is showing a nice burst from the running back slot, and, while I thought it was a virtual guarantee he'd move back to safety at some point, now I'd guess it's much more likely that he stays on offense. He's got very good hands, and has pretty decent acceleration.
Anthony Barr doesn't quite look like he knows exactly what to do at outside linebacker yet, but he's certainly not afraid of hitting. All the blocking last year seems to have done him a service, because during 11 on 11, he probably had some of the more violent collisions with offensive players.
Aramide Olaniyan looks like he's put on a little bit of weight in the offseason, which has him looking a bit more like a linebacker.
There were quite a few recruits in attendance, including quarterbacks Tyler Bruggman and Brandon Cox, defensive tackle Kenneth Clark and defensive end Kylie Fitts, among others.
Former players Nelson Rosario, Chris Horton, Morrell Presley, and E.J. Woods took in practice as well. Petros Papadakis was there as well, wearing maroon. It was actually a very big crowd for practice, with the bleachers full and fans lining the tops of the parking lots.
Saturday Practice Report
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