UCLA went through its second practice of the spring on Thursday, and it's clear that the team is ready to be in pads, with a great deal of physicality even in shorts.
With no tackling, the defense was clearly focused on getting as physical as possible stripping the ball. On every play, the defensive backs would practice ripping at the ball as the ball carrier ran past, generating a few fumbles that way.
There may actually be a running back competition this spring, rather than the foregone conclusion of Paul Perkins. Although Perkins has looked good, Jordon James had a pretty nice day on Thursday, breaking off two of the best runs of the day and showing off some of the juking ability that earned him the Joystick nickname. Malcolm Jones appeared to be running strong, but it's always difficult to tell before the teams put pads on. We'd still guess that Perkins carries the load, but James could make some noise.
Although it's a difficult thing to say with a full spring and summer ahead, and four heralded freshmen coming in, Ishmael Adams might nail down a starting cornerback spot this spring. He's been absolutely lock down through the first two days of practice, even with a red jersey on. He's short, obviously, but he times he's a good enough leaper, and has good enough timing, that much of the height disadvantage is mitigated. He's strong enough to body receiver up at the line, and then quick enough to run with them. It'll be really fun to see him once he can take the red jersey off and participate in contact.
Devin Lucien had an impressive day of practice and had his way with Fabian Moreau during one on one's, catching three consecutive passes for touchdowns over the sophomore corner. Lucien is clearly hungry for a starting spot, as he shouted to the media after one catch. He might be the best pure receiver on the team, but he'll need to improve on the mental side of the game to take the starting gig from Jordan Payton.
Kylie Fitts was very impressive during the 11 on 11 period, mostly for his strength. He bull rushed repeatedly by Carl Hulick, and showed a decent enough swim move. With an offseason of working on his hands and body, you could see him having a good chance to be in the two-deep come Fall.
After looking a little iffy on Tuesday, Eldridge Massington looked much better on Thursday, especially in the receiver footwork drills. He has very quick feet, good flexibility, and even with the knee brace on and limited mobility, you can see that he has very good change of direction. We still haven't seen his top end speed, which is likely limited due to the knee brace, but he's surprisingly quick for, again, wearing a knee brace. He might be a little thick through the upper body, which typically happens with guys who are rehabbing leg injuries since they work out too much on their upper body. Our guess is that he'll lean out a bit during the offseason.
Aaron Wallace is clearly bigger than he was a year ago, having filled out through the shoulders quite a bit. He might be a step slower than he was a year ago, but he's the type of player that looks a lot better in pads anyway, so it'll be interesting to see how he looks on Saturday. Ryan Hofmeister got some time as the first string inside backer opposite Kendricks, and he too looks like he's filled out a bit more this year. Most of the inside guys look more stout than a year ago, with even Kendricks looking like he's put on five good pounds or so.
Brett Hundley looked better than he did on Tuesday, and he's throwing even more effortlessly than he did last year. He also is running well, and it looks like the little bit of weight he's added in his upper body is helping there. T.J. Millweard showed that Tuesday wasn't a fluke, looking, again, much improved in his throwing motion and arm strength. If he can continue on this trajectory, he could factor into the competition for the backup quarterback spot.
Darius Bell had an impressive day, running very crisp routes that left Brandon Sermons flummoxed a number of times. As we've said many times, Bell isn't fast, but he makes up for it with great body control, good route running, and very good hands.
Keenan Graham pulled his hamstring yesterday and was held out of practice today for treatment. Eric Kendricks sprained his ankle toward the end of practice and it's not certain how serious the sprain is yet.
Anaheim (Calif.) Servite sophomore offensive lineman Clayton Johnson was in attendance. He's a tall kid, probably 6'3 or 6'4, but is still pretty skinny. The word is that he might have a chance to develop into a UCLA level player. 2013 signees Alex Redmond and Tyler Foreman also took in practice. This was Redmond's second practice of the spring.
Thursday Practice Report
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