UCLA's final practice of the second two-a-day was generally a pretty energetic one. Early on, UCLA went live for the first time in camp, this time while doing team goal-line situations. During the period, Myles Jack had, without much doubt, the play of fall camp thus far, standing Steven Manfro up two yards behind the line of scrimmage on a run, pushing him back five yards, and then throwing him to the ground. Jack was impressive all day, looking good once again in pass coverage as a dime and nickel linebacker.
Anthony Barr, once the pads were on and everyone started hitting, had some of his more impressive plays of the fall. He had at least one virtual sack during the live period, and also had two run-stopping tackles right at the line of scrimmage. The added bulk seems to really help him in run defense. Kenny Orjioke also had some nice moments during the live periods.
UCLA actually dropped the pads midway through practice after a few offensive linemen, namely Caleb Benenoch, Ben Wysocki, John Lopez, and Alex Redmond went down. It was a hotter day, in general, than the previous five days of camp, which could have attributed to some of the attrition. Redmond got hit in the head, but the others were likely just heat-related.
Near the end of practice, there was a scuffle between several players. After the players were broken up, Coach Mora had the entire team run 10 to 15 minutes of gassers across the field, excoriating them for their discipline all the while. Practice ended a bit early due to the fight and subsequent conditioning work. Anthony Barr, for one, showed some nice leadership after the fight, as did Xavier Su'a-Filo and, maybe not surprisingly, Asiantii Woulard.
Otherwise, it was a pretty good practice, actually. Brett Hundley showed off much of his improved accuracy on crossing routes, hitting players in stride right in the hands. He just seems more polished, in general, than he was a year ago, and this might be a sign of the leap we were expecting him to take this fall. It's not as if he's gotten worlds better in any specific area, but there's seemingly a general improvement in most aspects of his game. He's a little faster, a little more decisive, a little more accurate, and, seemingly, a little more aware. He's never been a good practice player, but he's had very few slipups so far in fall camp.
Nate Iese looks like he has a real chance to impact this year at tight end. At 6'4-ish and 240 pounds, Iese is a load who can both block and catch passes. As Mora mentioned earlier today, he looks good catching swing passes out of the backfield. He needs to learn to run with a better pad level, as players who were smaller than him were able to stand him up for tackles. By and large, though, it looks like he's found a good fit for him position-wise, as we suspected from his play on the scout team last year.
Today, UCLA worked quite a bit on kick returns, and it looks like a wide variety of players will fit in there, including Ishmael Adams, Fabian Morea, Roosevelt Davis, Steven Manfro, Devin Fuller, Damien Thigpen, Jordon James, Ahmaad Harris, and Darren Andrews. In one scary moment, walkon Charles Dawson actually hit Thigpen on a kick return, and Thigpen came up a bit lame. He worked with a trainer for about 20 minutes on the sideline, and then went back into drills and looked like he was OK by the end of practice.
Jordan Zumwalt looked very good today during live periods, and seems to have developed a better feel for blitzing from the inside positions. He actually had one blitz during goal line periods where just slightly mistimed it and got offsides, but it looked like he'd just about blow up Brett Hundley if it had been a game situation.
Jayon Brown continues to impress. He's looking better in coverage as camp goes on, as he's gotten more comfortable in the defense. During 7 on 7, he stood up Grayson Mazzone at the line, threw him off his route, and then made a tackle at the line of scrimmage on the receiver at the line of scrimmage—all on the same play. He's about 200 pounds, so he packs a pretty mean punch against most receivers and slot players he'll match up against.
Shaquelle Evans had the offensive play of the day, catching a deep pass from Hundley over Priest Willis for a long catch down to the one yard line. Willis is learning, a bit, that he's going to have a harder time pressing more experienced receivers.
With Zumwalt back in practice, interestingly enough, Isaac Savaiinaea stayed with the 1s and Ryan Hofmeister moved down. Savaiinaea looks like he's pretty clearly the number three inside backer at this point, and you can see why. He carries himself like a leader, and seems to belong talent-wise.
Devin Lucien had a nice play during team drills, taking a short curl route all the way to the goal line and seemingly showing off an improved burst. If Lucien can consistently turn short passes into long gains like that, that would obviously be huge for an offense that could really use a dynamic playmaker.
Jerry Neuheisel had a pretty bad practice, throwing a couple of interceptions, one of which was pretty inexplicable, throwing right into coverage without a receiver in sight. The No. 2 quarterback job is fairly open at this point—Asiantii Woulard has the most talent of the bunch, but it's hard to have a true freshman as the backup when he's still learning the offense. T.J. Millweard has been up and down, so it'll be interesting to see how that shakes out over the next two weeks.
Jordon James ran well again this evening, but Steven Manfro probably ran with the most North-South authority, which we know the coaches value. Malcolm Jones struggled a bit to push the pile during team live periods.
Practice tomorrow starts at 4 PM.
Monday Evening Practice Report
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