After the altercation from yesterday, UCLA had a long and fairly good practice in shorts on Tuesday, as the team worked extensively on situational drills and kickoffs. Anthony Barr sat out practice with a sore hamstring, but he's expected to be fine. Simon Goines sat down midway through practice with a sore neck, but he, too, should be fine. Kylie Fitts sat out all of practice with dehydration, after having full body aches yesterday. Coach Mora said that they pumped enough fluid into him that he gained eight pounds.
Practice opened with the first live kickoff period of camp—the first day when the kickoff specialists actually practiced full kickoffs. The competition is between Ka'imi Fairbairn and Sean Covington, but it looks like Fairbairn might have the better leg for it at this point. Fairbairn's kicks actually looked like they were coming off the jugs machine, all of them high arching kicks that landed a few feet into the endzone, which might actually be the best place to put a kick with last year's rules still in place (a touchback bringing the ball out to the 25 rather than the 20). Covington's kicks were also strong, but he didn't have the hang time of Fairbairn, so if he doesn't hit it perfectly, the returner would have a lot of room to work.
Jordon James, Steven Manfro, and Fabian Moreau were the primary kickoff returners, and James certainly looked the part. He had a couple of full speed cuts through the kickoff team that looked like they would have broken through even if the period was live. Moreau also has nice shake and seems solidly built enough to deal with the rigor of taking hits on kickoff.
On the offensive side of the ball, Brett Hundley didn't have a particularly sharp day, but still threw several nice passes. With so many offensive linemen down, UCLA had to mix and match a first string unit, which might have caused some of the issues. With Goines out for a stretch, and Caleb Benenoch in and out of practice with heat-related issues, Carl Hulick worked in at right guard and Conor McDermott moved up to starting left tackle. McDermott has a real chance to be a player. On Tuesday, he looked like UCLA's best offensive lineman, repeatedly blocking Keenan Graham, who was even giving Xavier Su'a-Filo fits, one on one. He's probably not much more than 265 pounds, but he moves really well and seems to carry a lot of strength on his tall frame.
As we said yesterday, James is doing a much better job of running North-South, and it seems like he's finally embracing the idea of being a between-the-tackles runner. He had a couple of nice runs where he kept plowing forward using the creases in the middle of the field.
With Barr out, Kenny Orjioke worked with the 1s at right outside linebacker, and Isaac Savaiinaea continued to work with the ones at Mike linebacker on the inside. Savaiinaea is a really instinctual player, and he blew up a couple of swing passes right at the line of scrimmage, getting to the receiver before the ball was even in his hands. Myles Jack also worked on the inside at times, as well as at outside and in nickel and dime situations. He's such a versatile player, flashing the cover ability of a safety once again, that it's clear he'll be used in a variety of ways.
Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams, Anthony Jefferson, and Randall Goforth once again comprised the starting secondary, but Priest Willis, Tahaan Goodman, and Tyler Foreman worked in at times. Coach Martin said afterward to not read too much into the first string unit, because he just likes to start off each period with the more experienced guys so that they can do a few reps perfectly before the young guys come in. Goodman had an up and down day, struggling during the one on one period and then looking good during team drills, with a few near picks. Judging by his body and comments from the coaches, he might get a shot at corner at some point this year. He has a long, skinny frame, and moves well with good flexibility.
Jefferson was once again one of the more impressive cover guys during one on ones, but even he couldn't slow down Devin Lucien, who was probably UCLA's best receiver on Tuesday. Lucien has made so many spectacular leaping catches over players that it's becoming relatively commonplace. Darren Andrews also looked good on Tuesday, and is another slot receiver who looks almost uncoverable in one on ones. Matched up against Stan McKay, he got open a couple of times by about 7 yards.
Ishmael Adams had a good day during both 7 on 7 and team drills. He had a great interception during team drills when, matched up one on one with Shaquelle Evans, he got position on him and caught a deep pass in front of him down the sideline. Adams seemed like he was covering receivers with some extra zest.
Eldridge Massington had probably the route and catch of the day over Fabian Moreau during one on one drills. Despite excellent coverage from Moreau, he caught a perfectly thrown ball diving into the endzone.
Cassius Marsh was back in practice on Tuesday and instantly made an impact. He probably had four sacks during the many team periods, and even Su'a-Filo had trouble blocking him. Su'a-Filo actually moved to left tackle when Goines went down for a few plays and, to be honest, looked a little rusty. Marsh and Keenan Graham both were able to get around him pretty well, which, actually, should speak well to both of their pass rushing abilities.
Eddie Vanderdoes sat out practice again, but Mora said that he is feeling better and could participate relatively soon.
Nate Iese is progressing well at the Y position, and it seems like every practice, they're adding a little bit more to what he can do. Today he caught a seam pass up the middle that looked very natural, and he actually looked like he was practicing lowering his pads a little more. He seems to have found a position where he can make a real impact. In fact, the Y position in general looks fairly stacked. Iese, Darius Bell, and Thomas Duarte all looked good today, even if Bell is still in a red jersey as he gets back from a broken bone in his hand. With those three, Devin Fuller, Darren Andrews, Eldridge Massington, Shaquelle Evans, Lucien, and Jordan Payton, UCLA might have its receiver rotation more or less locked up.
Practice tomorrow will be another two-a-day, beginning at 8:30. The second session has been moved, again, to 6 PM.
Tuesday Practice Report
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