Malcolm Bunche participated in his first practice on Monday night, and he was well worth waiting for. In pads, he is mammoth, looking all of 6'6 and 310+ pounds. What was most shocking about him is that he can really bend. He's an inch taller than Caleb Benenoch, but he was able to bend lower than him. Bunche slotted in at left guard on his first day, and he looks like he has a real chance to play the position effectively. He moves well for his size, looking OK when he had to pull out of the position.
His real strong suit, though, is going toe-to-toe with defensive linemen. On his first rep, he more or less pancaked Kenneth Clark, and throughout practice he matched up with Ellis McCarthy's strength very well. His one issue right now is that he is not in the kind of shape that UCLA requires with the high tempo practices. Every fourth or fifth rep he needed to take a breather. But once that gets figured out, he's an obvious starter, and potentially one of the best offensive linemen on the team.
The rest of the offensive line was much the same, but with the extended live periods, Alex Redmond (who's still sporting a club on his hand) got more of a breather, with Scott Quessenberry stepping in for him. Looking at the group, with Caleb Benenoch, Bunche, Jake Brendel, Alex Redmond, and Poasi Moala lined up from left to right, it looks like it has the makings of a pretty good starting crew. Moala didn't have his best day during 1 on 1s, giving up inside position to Kenny Orjioke and Zach Vinci on consecutive reps, but he did a nice job against Owamagbe Odighizuwa during team drills. Redmond looks like he's trimmed up his upper body a bit in the offseason, while still maintaining very good lower body strength.
At running back, Craig Lee is clearly getting a good deal of coaching from both Kennedy Polamalu and Deshaun Foster, with Lee looking like the most talented back on the team. He got significant individual attention from both coaches, and he also got vocal feedback on several of his reps, much of it positive. Consistently, he's the running back making the biggest plays out of the backfield in practice. He had one blemish today, dropping a swing pass at one point, but otherwise he looked very good again.
The drills Kennedy Polamalu is running are clearly designed to teach the running backs to learn to deal with contact and imperfection. He'll have them run close quarters pass drills where they have to catch the ball high, low, behind them, or way in front of them, all while navigating a series of trash can obstacles. Then, later, he ran them through a distracting side-stepping drill with four running backs all running at once. Watching his drill has been one of the highlights of spring so far.
At receiver, we had a chance to watch some of the guys we haven't mentioned as much. Devin Fuller and Jordan Payton look much the same as last year, which is to say they look good. Jalen Ortiz looks like he's added a little bit of weight to his upper body, but has still retained his quickness, and is the No. 2 slot receiver behind Fuller right now. Eldridge Massington had a good day, and again used his physicality well to get open in the red zone. He's so big and strong that it's difficult to bump him off his route.
It's getting boring writing about Mossi Johnson, but he was once again very good on Monday, looking like a potential playmaker out of the Y position. Thomas Duarte also looked very good, and made some very difficult, well-covered catches during 1 on 1s.
Asiantii Woulard had one of his best days of practice this spring, throwing the ball tight and with good velocity during individual drills and during team stuff. Brett Hundley also had a good day, and he's clearly working on a variety of different throws, including some back shoulder stuff during individual drills.
On the defensive side of the ball, Tahaan Goodman continues to impress, again coming in as the fifth defensive back in nickel, with Randall Goforth dropping down to cornerback rather than Anthony Jefferson today. Fabian Moreau also had a good day, and actually ripped an interception away from Massington in the red zone during 1 on 1s. Ishmael Adams also showed his physicality during 1 on 1 drills, bodying up Massington and Mossi Johnson at two points and doing well against them.
At linebacker, Jayon Brown has been working in with the first team at inside linebacker alongside Isaako Savaiinaea, and actually looked pretty good today. Zach Whitley got his first really extended look at outside linebacker. It's going to be interesting to see how all of these guys get moved around in the defense, because looking at it, there are a good amount of those inside linebacker types who are between 6'0 and 6'2. Kenny Orjioke had a pretty good practice, beating Moala during 1 on 1s, and using his strength and speed well during team drills.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa had a really good rep against Kenny Lacy during 1 on 1s, beating him right off the snap on a nice swim move. Clark continues to look like the best defensive lineman in spring, even with his very rare pancake against Bunche. McCarthy was matched strength-for-strength by Bunche, but it's a credit to McCarthy that the work he's done on his body and with his conditioning allows him to play rep after rep. Even after his reps with Bunche, which were exhausting to even watch, he was ready to go on the next play. Kylie Fitts looks a step slow right now, or perhaps just tentative, but he's struggling to provide much of an edge rush.
Ka'imi Fairbairn hooked two of his field goals at the end of practice, and both looked like they were within 40, but it was hard to tell from the other side of the field. He made the other four or five kicks he attempted.
2015 offensive lineman Bar Milo and 2016 defensive back Micah Croom both took in practice.
Clearing out the notebook with some impressions of other guys…
Marcus Rios had a nice rep against Devin Lucien in 1 on 1s, even though Lucien still caught the ball (he catches virtually everything). As Rios gets his feet back under him, he could be a contributor…Taylor Lagace was working with the twos at inside linebacker and made a couple of nice plays during live team drills. He looks like he's added some weight too…Ron Robinson doesn't look out of place on the field, and did a nice job during 1 on 1s staying with some receivers. He's a big dude, looking like an easy 6'2 with a frame that can still fill out, so linebacker may be in his future, but he moves well, so we'll see…Ian Taubler had some nice moments during team drills at outside linebacker, and moves surprisingly well for a guy his size.
Monday Practice Report
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