Wednesday marked the first day of pads for UCLA, and with that, the first day to get a good look at how the offensive line would actually perform. And at this point, it looks like there are some big question marks there.
Health is a concern, as Greg Capella went down today with what Coach Mora termed a calf issue. But also sitting out practice were Simon Goines, Torian White, Brett Downey, Tre Hale, and Jeff Baca. In their absence, the line had difficulties, as Mora talks about in the post-practice interview. Aaron Wallace and Aramide Olaniyan both registered three sacks apiece, and the defensive linemen got their fair share as well. Ben Wysocki still got the primary reps at right tackle, with Alexandru Ceachir and Albert Cid working in at guard.
Of course, if you're looking at it optimistically, the defense has looked pretty good thus far in camp. Despite injuries at both inside and outside linebacker, that unit seems to have not missed much of a beat, with Eric Kendricks, Olaniyan, an d Keenan Graham all having a huge impact today. Graham had two sacks himself.
Defensive back seemed to be an issue of concern during the spring, in terms of depth, but it's becoming less of a worry as camp wears on. Aaron Hester seems to have elevated his game this fall, with much less handsiness in coverage. Additionally, he is taking on a leadership role, frequently coaching up the other defensive backs. On Wednesday, he was even providing some encouragement to Kenny Walker after Walker made a nice catch.
The defensive backs and receivers faced off against each other in one on one's in a best of 5 toward the end of practice, the defense took the competition 3 to 2, with Andrew Abbott tipping the last pass intended for Darius Bell. Walker was really impressive during his rep, running a very nice post that left Tevin McDonald a few yards behind him. Walker looks like he could make an impact this year, depending on the depth ahead of him. He has good hands, good speed, and his route running is solid.
During the official period of 1 on 1's, the defensive backs were pretty dominant, with the offense registering no completions during the first six reps. Ishmael Adams looks like he's getting very comfortable, picking off a pass intended for Jerry Rice Jr. Adams has very good instincts, and Abbott has taken him under his wing a little, with the two rooming together in camp.
In other good news, Mora said after practice that Ellis McCarthy is coming along well in his recovery, though he stopped short of giving a time table. Ricky Marvray is also scheduled to do more than he has tomorrow, after going through the first weeks of camp in a red jersey.
On the quarterback side of things, none of the quarterbacks had an especially good day. Brett Hundley had a bit of an "off" day, frequently throwing behind receivers during individual drills, and then having issues even having time to throw during team drills. His first throw during 11 on 11 was an interception to Eric Kendricks over the middle of the field. It still seems pretty obvious that he's going to be the starter, and the other quarterbacks haven't done much to combat that notion. Even today, not looking particularly good, he was probably the best quarterback.
T.J. Millweard, though, looks much improved from where he was at the beginning of the spring. His throwing mechanics changed quite a bit by the end of spring, and it looks like he's getting a bit more consistent this fall. He's a long way from being ready to play, but he looks a lot better than he did.
Johnathan Franklin's kryptonite reared its ugly head during run game drills, when he had an unforced fumble that bounce off his knee while he was making a cut. Paul Perkins also had a fumble, after giving up a couple during the first day of camp.
Perkins has really been impressive running the ball, though. During the run game period, where the offense was having a hard time even gaining positive yards, Perkins took one for about 15 yards, looking pretty shifty.
Ka'imi Fairbairn was more impressive today, hitting from all but 48 yards, and that kick was only a little wide, hitting the right goal post. He looks to have the leg to kick it from 50+. Justin Moreno also displayed a pretty strong leg, although with a little less accuracy.
Offensive lineman Chris Ward announced on Twitter that he's taking a medical retirement: "After 3 knee dislocations, 2 back fractures, a couple of degenerating discs, a narrow spinal canal, MPFL reconstruction, and a tibia tuberosity transfer.....I have officially medically retired from football. It's been a great experience and I'm going to miss it but I can't wait to be able to walk when I'm older."
Tomorrow is the first day of two a days, with the first practice at 8:30 and the second at 5.