UCLA's third day of practice was another very good one, and should be the last one without pads. Tomorrow morning, we've heard UCLA will have its first day in pads, though we haven't yet heard if it'll be just shells or full pads.
Spent much of today watching the defense go through drills, and it's apparent that the extra 15 pounds isn't slowing Anthony Barr down considerably at all. He moved through drills better than most of the other linebackers, and it's clear that he's the absolute leader of the unit, being the first in every drill and frequently being called out for how technically sound he is. It seemed like he, Jordan Zumwalt, Kenny Orjioke, and Aaron Wallace were the first four through pretty much every drill.
Orjioke is a physical specimen, and spent a good portion of practice working with the 1's on the left side. His technique needs some work, but he's such a physical freak that he can make up for it much of the time. As long as we're talking about freaks, Myles Jack really moves well. There's some thought within the program that he could have the most upside of the young linebackers. Aaron Wallace worked primarily with the 2's on the right side, but also looked good throughout the day. He might be just a touch less mobile than the other outside backers, but he makes up for it with his strength.
Isaac Savaiinaea spent some time working with the 1's at inside linebacker with Jordan Zumwalt resting his hamstring for the second half of practice. Savaiinaea moves really well sideline to sideline, and in pass coverage it's actually a little shocking how well he can cover. The linebackers, in general, matched up really well against the running backs and tight ends in one on one's (except when Jordon James or Paul Perkins were running routes, since they were more or less uncoverable).
For the second straight day, Caleb Benenoch worked in with the 1's at right guard, and looked better than yesterday. He looks a little like Simon Goines did at this time last year—a little raw in terms of knowing what he's doing, but when he can get his hands on someone, he drives really well. What's really encouraging is that even as big as he is (and he's well over 300 pounds), he didn't appear to get too winded during practice. The rest of the first string line was the same as yesterday.
As a compare and contrast, Simon Goines is just a different guy than he was this time last year. While he's having some issues in pass coverage, his body is just completely different. Last year at this time, he looked completely out of shape, struggling to even get through drills. This year, he jogs between every drill, and never looks tired. He's made really good progress on his body.
Eddie Vanderdoes sat out most of practice, working with Sal Alosi on the sideline for much of it. He's moving better than he was yesterday with the sore back, so we'll see how he's doing over the weekend.
The defensive backs are constantly rotating at this point until they find a good combination. Today, the first string was Priest Wiillis and Ishmael Adams at corner and then Anthony Jefferson and Tahaan Goodman at safety. During 1 on 1's, Jefferson was almost certainly the best cover guy, so it'll be interesting to see if he sticks at safety for the next several weeks.
Brandon Sermons, during 1 on 1's, might have been the second best defensive back. After reports of Sermons running the fastest 40 on the team this offseason, and then how good he looked this spring, a solid fall camp could put him firmly in the rotation at defensive back. He has some versatility too, which you have to figure the coaching staff will like, having played corner prior to switching to safety.
On the offensive side, the two Devins were far and away the best receivers during both individuals and team drills. Lucien made a few spectacular catches, including a couple where he had to make his patented leap over the cornerback to make a catch on an underthrown ball. He has playmaking ability downfield that is rare. Fuller is just uncoverable on short patterns in the middle of the field. His quickness off the snap will make him an easy outlet for Brett Hundley this year.
Hundley had an excellent day, probably his best since last year. He made some pretty incredible deep throws, and it just seemed like everything was working for him. Asiantii Woulard also looked good, and better in the team drills than he did yesterday. In fact, once again, the quarterbacks all looked very good, with T.J. Millweard improving on his already improved play from yesterday. His motion looked a little tighter, too, at times, so it's possible he was just fatigued through the first two practices.
Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Steven Manfro, and Malcolm Jones got most of the reps today at running back, with Craig Lee not doing as much. James probably had the best run of the day, but it was pretty uncanny---once he broke through the defense and got into the open field, Goodman was able to go stride for stride with him, and if the drill had been live, would have probably wrapped him up well short of the endzone.
Taylor Lagace is a pretty instinctual player, as is Jayon Brown. Both of them have shown a knack for getting their hands on the ball. Lagace had another pick Friday during 1 on 1's, making a nice play to step in front of a route.
Eldridge Massington had a nice day during receiver 1 on 1's. His mobility looks better than it did in the spring, and you could definitely see him contributing this year if he continues to develop at this rate. He uses his body well to block out defenders.
Fabian Moreau is definitely making a case to be in the starting lineup. He had an interception for the third consecutive day and is showing just a much better feel for the position than he had last year. With his progress, at the very least you can see him contributing this year and potentially starting in a year or two. Score one for the coaches on the position change last year.
Jordan Payton had one of the best catches of the day, a spinning one handed catch near the sideline on an underthrown ball. He's shown some of the best hands on the team throughout camp, which could help to hold off Lucien.
Eli Ankou worked mostly at defensive end with the 2's. Keenan Graham worked with the 1's at points at defensive end, and had a really good day. We've always liked Graham for his quickness, but we had some worries about his ability to work as a 3-4 defensive end. So far this camp, he's shown that at the very least he'll be able to be a situational guy at the spot, using his pass-rushing skills. He told us after practice he's about 255 pounds now, which is a good size for him.
Seali'I Epenesa continues to work with the 1's at nose tackle, while Ellis McCarthy and Kenneth Clark have split reps with the 2's, for the most part. Kylie Fitts got a good amount of work with the 2's at defensive end. His body looks better than it did in spring.
Tomorrow marks the first double day, and we've heard the morning practice should be in pads of some sort. Practice starts at 8:30.