While the spring probably hasn't gone exactly as Jim Mora hoped heading in, what with the sheer number of injuries suffered, you get the sense that he considers it a success, if only as a tone-setting period for the way the program will run from here on. Mora promised a physical spring, and the results have fulfilled that.
Now, we take a look at the storylines from the 4th week of practice.
For the first time all spring, this past week saw some significant movement in the quarterback competition. As we detailed throughout the week, Kevin Prince really struggled in all three practices, culminating with limited reps on Saturday while nursing a sore shoulder. At this point, given his play this week and his overall lack of any real standout performances throughout the spring, he has to be running third in the competition. And with his shoulder possibly ailing him, it doesn't look like he's going to be able to make much further noise in spring.
That leaves Richard Brehaut and Brett Hundley. Through the first three weeks of practice, we probably would have given the nod to Brehaut, because he is a slightly more accurate passer and he has more experience. But given the much improved play of Hundley over the last week, and the significant leadership qualities he's displaying as he's grown more confident, it looks like it may be Hundley's job to lose.
We have also heard that, much like with the last coaching staff, the current coaching staff has been at times befuddled by Brehaut's decision-making, and considers him extremely inconsistent. So unless something drastic happens over the last week, we'd have to guess that Hundley is going to be the guy.
UCLA finally settled on a potentially decent combination of offensive linemen this Saturday, running out a first team line (from left to right) of Xavier Su'a-Filo, Greg Capella, Jacob Brendel, Albert Cid, and Jeff Baca. Just looking at the offensive line before spring ball, it looked like Baca was going to have to end up at right tackle. Given that he's played tackle before, though, it behooved the coaching staff to exhaust all other options before leaning on Baca. After Brett Downey failed to earn the job, and Torian White got nicked up, the pickings slimmed.
Not coincidentally, this Saturday was the first time all year that the offensive line has looked OK in both pass protection and run blocking. The two weaker points are Brendel and Cid, but both of those can be worked on. Brendel needs to add some weight and get stronger in the off-season, while Cid could probably stand to lean up a little, while also getting stronger. And if Wade Yandall can make it back to full health, he'd probably take over the right guard slot and make the line that much more athletic.
It's not a deep unit by any means, and one or two injuries could cause some serious issues, but at least on Saturday it looked like the elements are there for a decent enough offensive line.
We guessed before spring practice that it would only be a matter of time and injuries before Dalton Hilliard was back at safety and, unfortunately, we were proven right. With so many players in the secondary down (Librado Barocio, Brandon Sermons, Dietrich Riley, Andrew Abbott), Hilliard took it upon himself to volunteer to take some snaps at safety.
Even with Hilliard, though, the secondary can ill afford any more injuries. Anthony Jefferson, Tevin McDonald and Anthony Thompson were all nicked up at various times on Saturday, and one more guy going down for any length of time could make the spring game decidedly uglier than it needs to be.
Jeff Ulbrich has to be losing his mind with the number of injuries sustained by the linebackers this spring. Of the starting four linebackers, only one (Damien Holmes) remains healthy. The other three (Patrick Larimore, Jordan Zumwalt, and Eric Kendricks) are all not participating in team drills, with Larimore out with a concussion, Zumwalt out with a kidney bruise, and Kendricks suffering from shoulder soreness. Of the second-team linebackers, Todd Golper (knee), Isaiah Bowens (knee), and Aaron Wallace (head) have all been significantly injured, with only Wallace potentially back for the spring game.
It stands to reason, then, that with the entire starting two-deep of inside linebackers gone, the run defense has been porous. With Jared Koster and Ryan Hofmeister as the starting inside linebackers, UCLA's running game was exceptional on Saturday, routinely driving into the center of the defense for 10-yard gains.
While there was talk of the spring game being a very game-like atmosphere this year, you have to figure that with the number of injuries suffered by the entire team that Saturday will be a more restrained affair than anticipated.
Fourth Week in Review
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