First Week of Fall Camp in Review

We review the first week of fall camp, recapping what's happened thus far with some analysis of the current position groupings...

While the biggest story out of the first week of camp was the naming of Brett Hundley as the starting quarterback, that piece of news has been more or less a foregone conclusion since the end of spring practice. Hundley was the most impressive quarterback in spring, and through the first week of camp, he has demonstrated the best command of the offense, coupled with clear leadership abilities that belie his age. It was a question of when, not if, Hundley would be named the starter.

Of course, this being UCLA football, Hundley has struggled over the last few days, but we're going to chalk that up to the nasty head cold he appears to be suffering from. Through the first few days of camp, he was exceptionally good, and leaps and bounds ahead of Richard Brehaut and Kevin Prince, and there's no reason to assume that was an anomaly.

Brehaut and Prince have been up and down through camp, as they've been through most of their time in school. While Jerry Neuheisel has played well, at times, during camp, it's pretty clear that either Brehaut or Prince will be the primary backup to Hundley, given their experience.

At running back, UCLA seems particularly stacked, with several different weapons to work with. Johnathan Franklin has looked good through the first week, as he usually does, but did have an unforced fumble, which you probably just have to call the cost of using him at this point. He hasn't shown the ability to really control the fumbling, so it would probably be foolhardy to expect it. Behind him, Jordon James and Damien Thigpen have both looked very good thus far, with Thigpen especially breaking out as a home run threat out of the back field. After sitting out all of last year, it's taken Thigpen a little bit of time to get back up to speed, but now it seems like he's finally putting everything together. With his speed, and pass catching ability, you can guess that he'll be a weapon in this offense.

There hasn't been much from Steven Manfro during camp, but a lot of that is due to a reduced workload. He simply isn't getting as many touches as he received in the spring, possibly because the coaches see him as a known quantity at this point. Largely, Thigpen and Paul Perkins have been getting an inordinate amount of reps, almost as if the coaches are just trying to get an extended look at both. Perkins has had some very good moments, but has also shown himself to be prone to fumbles as well. Malcolm Jones hasn't gotten much work yet, as he's been in and out of practice.

Depth on the offensive line has been a huge concern, as the heat and a spate of concussions have halved the amount of available bodies. The good news is that it's given Adrian Klemm a longer look at some younger guys. The bad news is that the team is less than three weeks from the start of the season, and the starting offensive line, whomever that ends up incorporating, hasn't had time to gel.

Xavier Su'a-Filo has held down the left tackle spot since the beginning of spring, and looks like he's rounding into form. He looks less gassed during practice than he did in the spring, which is especially impressive considering the location. Jake Brendel has done enough to make it onto Klemm's short list of definite starters, and his snapping has not been a problem for the most part (getting off a couple of clunkers in the last couple of days). Jeff Baca, when he was in, looked as dependable as always. Beyond that, though, there are a lot of unknowns, especially at the right tackle slot. Torian White, Brett Downey, Baca, and Simon Goines all figured to be competing for the slot, and all have sat out significant portions of the fall. It would be fair to say that Goines is out of the running, considering he's a true freshman, the amount of time he has missed and his struggles during the first two days, but other than that, the position is still a huge question mark. As Tracy Pierson wrote, our guess is that it will end up being Baca, considering the (relative) depth at guard.

Receiver is another position where UCLA appears to have pretty good talent. Aside from his seemingly customary absences from practice, Joe Fauria has looked dominant when he's played during camp. If there's a true star on this team, it's Fauria. Behind him, Darius Bell has picked up where he left off, catching nearly everything thrown his way. He's not fast, not quick, and not tall, but he uses his body to box defenders out and presents a good target to quarterbacks. That, along with solid route running and good hands, has made him a dependable receiving option.

Jerry Johnson hasn't engaged in the feats of strength he performed in the spring, but he, Shaquelle Evans, and Devin Lucien look like they'll form a good top three at the X and the Z. Lucien has been a little inconsistent, making a spectacular catch one play and then dropping an easy slant on the next, but his natural abilities outweigh the occasional concentration lapse. Behind them, Ricky Marvray is still working back into form after suffering two herniated discs over the spring and summer. Marvray's return to full health really seems critical, if UCLA plans on running three or four wide on most plays.

Kenny Walker, Fabian Moreau, and Jordan Payton have all had good moments during the fall. Walker has been the most impressive, running very good routes and looking extremely fast. Payton, in terms of his body, looks the most ready to come in and play, but there have been issues with consistency.

Tyler Scott is not your average walkon, and has made some nice plays this fall after putting in some good work during the spring. It wouldn't be a shock to see him play in a game this year.

Javon Williams is very skinny, and looks like live tackling would possibly snap him in half, but he's made some very nice plays during camp. He's about 6'4, with really long arms, and utilizes that height well.

Defensively, the Bruins are probably deepest along the defensive line, and that looks like it's going to be the strength of the defense- even if Ellis McCarthy were to redshirt. Brandon Willis has had another great camp, and despite being a tad undersized, has been a force on the inside.

Owamagbe Odighizuwa is finally looking like the player his physique says he should be. It looks pretty clear that, even if he doesn't end up stealing the starting defensive end job from either Cassius Marsh or Datone Jones, he's going to cut significantly into their playing time. With his size and strength, he's contributed to making the offensive line look as rough as it's looked. Marsh has had an exceptional fall camp.

Kevin McReynolds has looked good through the first week from the nose tackle spot. While there might be too much depth in front of him to provide much impact this season, the future looks bright for him.

At linebacker, the Bruins have suffered some more injury hits, most notably the loss of Patrick Larimore. With inside linebacker depth being a big concern, Damien Holmes has moved inside opposite Eric Kendricks. Kedricks, though, has sat quite a bit, with Jim Mora saying it's not an injury or heat-related, but just giving him rest. It's given the coaches a chance to develop other inside options. Ryan Hoffmeister, who has received praise from the coaches for his work ethic, looks like the Gutty Little Bruin who could be the first back-up inside. Todd Golper, who looks considerably bigger physically, hasn't made a dent yet.

On the outside, that has left Keenan Graham, Jordan Zumwalt, and Anthony Barr taking the majority of the reps. Barr has been a force through the first week of camp, breaking up several passes behind the line of scrimmage and also looking good in coverage. If Coach Mora had questions about him becoming an outside linebacker, it's safe to say that many of those concerns have been alleviated by his strong showing to open the 2012 season. With Barr coming on and there be good depth at outside LB, and the medical retirement of Patrick Larimore, we could see Zumwalt possibly being an option inside.

Nate Iese has had some moments as a true freshman, and looks to be a guy who has a chance to contribute. Aaron Porter has looked a little out of his element at times, having some trouble in coverage, which is expected of a true freshman.

At defensive back, the Bruins are much healthier than they were in spring, which has paid off in the quality of play. Part of why the receivers haven't looked as spectacular is the improved play at DB. Andrew Abbott's return has been critical. He had interceptions in each of the first four practices, and looks like he's taken to the strong safety role very well. Aaron Hester looks a little less handsy, while Sheldon Price has developed into a very high-level cornerback. Physically, Stan McKay looks good, and he's had a couple of nice plays through camp, disrupting plays behind the line of scrimmage. Tevin McDonald looks so much more polished than he was a year ago, and doesn't free-lance quite as much, staying with his assignment much more consistently. He's also had a few picks during camp. Dalton Hilliard has been in and out of practice, mostly out, and it's been tough to get a bead on how he's doing.

Much like in the spring, Anthony Jefferson started slowly, but unlike the spring, he snapped out of it in the first couple of days, stringing together a nice set of practices during the latter half of the week after being moved to safety, where he looks comfortable. When he can use his strength to body up a receiver, he's very effective. Ishmael Adams has quietly worked his way into the nickel back conversation. He's short, but is built very strong, so even when he's giving up a few inches, he manages to play effective coverage. Brandon Sermons, the long-time not-used cornerback, deserves a mention. After being moved to safety he's looked like a player who could contribute, making a number of plays in fall camp. True freshman Taylor Lagace has looked confident and comfortable at safety, but with UCLA's depth it's looking unlikely he'll make the season's depth chart.

The freshmen corners have been impressive. Randall Goforth has been up and down, with the typical issues you'll see out of a freshman defensive back -- not looking for the ball, a little too much use of the hands. Physically, he looks the part, and he's improved considerably in just the last few practices.

Marcus Rios has filled out a little more, after looking very skinny during the spring, and he looks more comfortable out there. It appears that the coaches are confident that either Goforth or Rios will develop enough to be a solid back-up at corner for the season. We can't see them burning the redshirt of both, unless it was forced because of injury.


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