Thursday Practice Report

UCLA's second practice of the fall is better than the first, Asiantii Woulard had another good day, and Steven Manfro had the best day of the running backs...

The second practice of fall was a much longer one, but the tempo and pace were better than yesterday, and it seemed that the team had clearly regained its legs from Navy Seal training in San Diego. Having the same scheme on both sides of the ball for the second year in a row is a rarity, and it seems that it's allowing the experienced players to provide some tutelage to the younger ones, which is allowing the team, overall, to play very fast for the first couple of days of fall camp. For someone to look up: when was the last time UCLA had the same offensive and defensive coordinators two years in a row?

The big news from the day is that Priest Willis has been cleared by the NCAA and will be eligible for the coming season after correcting an academic issue this offseason.

Asiantii Woulard, after the exploits of yesterday, looked arguably better through the individual periods, but faltered a bit during team drills. A large part of his issues had to do with the offensive line. He didn't play much with the first string, and UCLA's variety of left tackles (ranging from Simon Goines to Conor McDermott to Colby Cyburt) really struggled to contain the pass rush on that side. Deon Hollins got free a couple of times for tipped balls in the back field on Woulard. In general, though, his passes looked a bit off when faced with a pass rush, which you'd expect.

Still, Woulard threw two of the prettiest deep balls we've seen recently, and he probably puts better zip on the ball than any of the quarterbacks. He and Brett Hundley were going throw for throw during the non-team drills, with both throwing darts, but it definitely looked as if Woulard's ball has a bit more oomph.

In fact, all of the quarterbacks looked better than yesterday. T.J. Millweard still didn't have his motion down, but the ball flew out of his hand better and he connected on some throws. Jerry Neuheisel looked good throughout. Hundley had a very good day, maybe better than the majority of his practices in spring.

On the running back front, Steven Manfro had the best day. He had three really good runs up the middle, flashing the same kind of agility he showed two springs ago during Mora's first year. Craig Lee showed flashes of some real playmaking ability, but he did fumble the ball twice in about fifteen minutes at one point, and after that, he didn't look as decisive. Jordon James had one really nice Joystick-esque run up the middle during team drills, and Malcolm Jones also had a few moments, laying his shoulder into Tahaan Goodman during a long gain in the early team period. Right now, it looks like there isn't a real depth chart at this point, with even reps going to most of the running backs.

The offensive line that got the most first team reps was probably Torian White, Caleb Benenoch, Jake Brendel, Xavier Su'a-Filo, and Simon Goines from left to right. Benenoch is still picking up assignments and such, but when he could get his mitts on defensive linemen, he showed some good strength. Torian White is clearly bigger than a year ago, having completely reshaped his upper body, and looks like a pretty intimidating tackle.

Goines, as we mentioned several times last year, had some work to do in the offseason redistributing some of his weight from his upper body to his lower body. He's clearly done a good job in that department, and the overall effect is that he looks a bit shorter. He's moving much better than a year ago, and still looks strong.

Hollins, as we mentioned, was disruptive in the backfield, but we should caution that he is pretty small (probably exactly his listed 6'0, 216) and also looks like he could use some conditioning work. He was gassed during team drills after only a few consecutive reps. It's clear, though, that he has a potential role in this defense as a designated pass rusher.

Kenny Orjioke had a bit of a freaky day during team drills. If the team had been going live, he'd have had at least four or five sacks. McDermoot had an impossible time blocking him, frequently not even touching him before Orjioke made it into the back field. Orjioke primarily worked as the second string right outside linebacker, but got some looks on the first string on the left side.

Myles Jack looked good during linebacker cover drills. He can actually break out of his backpedal and accelerate forward without too much time in between. He told us after practice that the coaches have talked to him about playing some offense, but he's not sure when that would start.

Eldridge Massington's body is improved from where it was in the spring, as he looks leaner, but we didn't see him do much full speed cutting still. He did make a couple of nice catches, using his body to shield the catch away from the defender on a couple of slants.

Jayon Brown looks like he's already about 205 or 210, and he has real room to grow. He's shown great instincts so far in camp, with a couple of picks already, and good closing speed on the ball and ball carriers. While his body might project bigger as he gets older, which might make him look more like a linebacker, we've heard he's making the switch to safety, and has a chance there.

Thomas Duarte has a real chance to play significantly this year. He has a very good pair of hands, and is a smooth athlete and route runner. He is definitely more of a pass catching Y, but looks like he has room to grow in his body and could fill out pretty well over the next year or two. Nate Iese is not as natural of a pass-catcher, catching the ball more with his body than with his hands. He was getting some extra tutelage from Coach Yarber on the side.

Ishmael Adams and Shaquelle Evans continued their one-on-one war from the spring. Adams won the first rep, covering Evans well down the sideline and breaking up the pass, and then on the next rep between the two, Evans made an excellent play on an underthrown ball to beat Adams. Tehir battles were one of the highlights of the spring, and there seems to be some legitimate competitive fire between the two.

Fabian Moreau has been one of the better corners in coverage so far, and he looks much more confident than he did when he made the switch last year. He's a smooth athlete and he looks like he could make an impact this year in the cornerback race. Johnny Johnson also had a nice day, and has significant strength for a smaller corner, jamming receivers and taking on blockers pretty well.

Taylor Lagace had two picks as the mini-linebacker, and it seems pretty clear with Stan McKay's switch to strong safety that he's going to be the main guy at that spot.

At this point, the offensive line is a mild concern, but it's difficult to say how good or bad it is until we see them in pads. The first string offensive line looked OK, but there was a dropoff in quality after that. We're interested to see how Kenny Lacy, Alex Redmond, Scott Quessenberry, and Benenoch look in pads, because those seem like the most likely four to earn some playing time this year. All four are currently playing guard, too. Right now, Poasi Moala looks good, but needs to add weight, and Christian Morris and John Lopez need to drop weight. We'd guess all three would be candidates for redshirting, but it's tough to say that definitively until we see them in pads.

We have heard, though, that there's a feeling within the program about the offensive line that it could be a strength of the team much like the defensive line last year, so it'll obviously be interesting to see the unit in pads.

Practice tomorrow is at 4.

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