Wednesday's morning practice was the second practice with refs, and like the last practice, was probably one of the sloppier mentally of the fall. There were 11 penalties throughout the practice, and only one of those was not due to a mental error (which I believe was Priest Willis hitting a defenseless player above the waist).
That being said, the practice itself saw some of the best linemen play of the fall, and as Mora termed it, was probably one of the best physical practices of the fall—which is saying something, considering the practice was in just shells, not full pads.
The physicality was pretty striking, actually. On one play during team drills, the first string offensive line effectively stoned the entire pass rush of five guys, with Simon Goines actually knocking Cassius Marsh to the ground and dinging his knee a little. Marsh was fine, though, and after sitting out a play or two, went right back in.
Anthony Barr once again sat out practice with a tight hamstring. Again, Kenny Orjioke worked in at his spot. On the inside, Jordan Zumwalt and Isaac Savaiinaea once again got the majority of the reps, but Ryan Hofmeister worked in a couple of times in the latter half of the practice in Zumwalt's stead. In the secondary, the first string unit was unchanged, with Ishmael Adams and Fabian Moreau at the corner spots and Anthony Jefferson and Randall Goforth at the safety spots.
Moreau and Adams both had really good moments during team drills. Moreau, in particular, had a picture-perfect pass breakup on a pass to the sideline where he ranged to his right out of zone coverage and tipped the ball with this left hand, keeping his body moving toward the defender. For a guy who hadn't played corner prior to coming to UCLA, he looks pretty damn natural.
On the offensive line, the first string unit was back practicing fully. Caleb Benenoch sat out a few reps since it was a particularly hot morning, but it seems that they are fully healthy. Simon Goines was back practicing after sitting out most of yesterday with a sore neck.
Eddie Vanderdoes did more today than he's done the past few days, and actually worked in individual drills. The expectation is that he could practice with the team as early as tonight, which would mean that he's only lost about a week of practice. The word is that he's doing much better with his back. Kylie Fitts once again sat out practice after suffering from severe dehydration the other night.
Brett Hundley didn't have a great day throwing the ball, but mixed in at least three fantastic throws, one down the sideline to Shaquelle Evans during the first team period that quite literally couldn't have been thrown better, landing just over the outstretched hands of Ishmael Adams, who actually covered well on the play. He had another similar pass down the other sideline to Jordan Payton in a later period, and then also a beautiful seam pass to Devin Fuller for a touchdown.
Darren Andrews looks potentially electric as a receiver, with good speed, hands, and quickness. He's probably among the fastest receivers on the team. He did have a number of mental mistakes during team drills, likely due to the variety of ways the team is using him, both in the backfield and along the line of scrimmage. Caleb Benenoch also had a number of the mental mistakes, false starting a couple of times.
In an interesting moment during linebacker/running back 1 on 1's, Jordan Zumwalt knocked Craig Lee over on a blocking drill and then gloated over him for a second—just long enough for Deshaun Foster to come over and admonish Zumwalt forcefully. On the next rep between the two, Zumwalt blew up Lee again, with no gloating, and then on the final rep between the team, Zumwalt covered him really well to the sideline, but then gave him a pat on the butt and encouraging words after the play, which earned a hug from Foster. Also, Zumwalt is just a really good athlete—outside of maybe Myles Jack, he might be the best athlete in the linebacker corps.
During kickoff drills at the beginning of practice, Ka'imi Fairbairn once again had the best kicks, but Sean Covington was a little better than he was yesterday. Both guys look like they could be solid options, with good power that drives the ball into the shallow part of the endzone. For us, Fairbairn looks like he has better hang time on his kicks, which would tip it in that direction.
Steven Manfro and Jordon James got the primary reps as the kick returner, with Manfro, actually, returning more of the kicks. Not sure yet how much you can take from it at this point, but it's pretty clear that the coaches haven't lost confidence in Manfro after he struggled some at the beginning of last year.
T.J. Millweard had one of his better days of camp. His motion is back down to the tighter, quick motion of the spring, and, naturally, he's throwing a much better ball. He still has a weird nose-dive action on the ball, but he's throwing much tighter spirals. Still, there's no real clarity in the backup quarterback competition. Jerry Neuheisel has had been up and down, Asiantii Woulard is still learning how the offense works, and Millweard has the tendency to lose his throwing motion when he gets fatigued. It'll be interesting to see if anyone really seizes the competition over the next several weeks.
Marsh has been unblockable over the last two practices, aside from the one rep where Goines pushed him to the ground. He had at least two sacks today after tallying four or so yesterday. He looks like he's really become comfortable making plays from the 3-4 defensive end spot. Seali'I Epenesa worked primarily with the 1s at nose tackle, and Keenan Graham and Brandon Willis switched off at left end. Willis had easily his best practice of the fall, getting a tackle for a loss and a sack during team drills. Still, it's clear the line could really use a player of the caliber of Vanderdoes.
Practice tonight will begin at 6 P.M., and should be in full pads.
Wednesday Morning Practice Report
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