It was another shorts and shoulder pads day out at Spaulding Field, and the team seemed to spend a fair amount of time on installation again. There were a few fights, including one particularly scrappy one between a group of defensive backs and a group of receivers, which drew a Jim Mora tongue-lashing at midfield with the whole team assembled.
UCLA spent much of the early practice doing special teams work, with the team practicing bad snap situations and various rare game situations, like Mora has done in spring practices his first two years here. Ishmael Adams, Steven Manfro, and Kenny Walker all got work at kick returner during the period.
Malcolm Bunche returned to practice after sitting out yesterday with an undisclosed injury. With his return, the starting offensive line was mostly Caleb Benenoch, Scott Quessenberry, Jake Brendel, Najee Toran, and Bunche from left to right, but there were multiple variations throughout the practice, with both Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala working in at tackle at points. Lacy also got some considerable work at guard again, so it's pretty clear the coaches are trying to build some versatility there. Bunche didn't have a great day at right tackle, with Owamagbe Odighizuwa causing him a lot of trouble, but it's really difficult to judge offensive linemen when they're not wearing pads.
Devin Fuller sat out most of practice, spending the majority of the time on an exercise bike. It's probably safe to assume he's still feeling the back tightness he had early in spring. Thomas Duarte left practice on crutches with what appeared to be an ankle injury toward the beginning of the day, but we'll hear a full update on Saturday. Jayon Brown returned to the field, but spent most of practice on an exercise bike. John Lopez was out again. Colby Cyburt was also not at practice.
After Fabian Moreau was the best player on the field yesterday, fellow cornerback Ishmael Adams had probably the best day of any player today. He had three interceptions, including one in the end zone during 11 on 11 that drew a dog pile from the entire defense. He's drawn some complaints for holding from the receivers throughout camp, but his physicality in the red zone is an asset.
Mossi Johnson also had another standout day, and with Duarte sitting, he got the lion's share of the reps at the Y position. It's no hyperbole to say that he has a very good connection with Brett Hundley already and has seemingly earned Hundley's trust thanks to his ability to get open and catch most everything thrown his way.
We spoke to Kenny Walker after practice who said that he spent most of the offseason working on his hands since he couldn't do all the physical work he wanted to. It shows on the field, as he's greatly improved in that department. The next step will be refining his route-running, but with his speed (he claims he's the fastest guy on the team), his routes don't need to be picture-perfect.
I have a pet theory that you can tell how good a program is from the quality of its walkons, and UCLA has some good ones. Zach Hernandez, the walkon receiver, once again had one of the nicest catches of practice, and Sam Handler, another walkon slot receiver, looked very good during drills against the defensive backs, making a nice touchdown catch in the corner of the end zone after getting separation from Priest Willis. Between those two, Tyler Scott, and Logan Sweet, UCLA could actually field a better receiver corps than some lower level Mountain West teams simply from its walkons.
Asiantii Woulard had another poor day, just looking off in his mechanics, which resulted in some throws that went into the middle of nowhere. At one point, he was attempting to throw a swing pass to Craig Lee and the ball sailed about ten yards out of bounds. He's been up and down this spring, but today was definitely another of the down times.
Brett Hundley was sharper today than yesterday, and actually wasn't helped much by his receivers. At one point toward the end of practice he threaded a perfect pass into a narrow window to Jordan Payton, who dropped the ball.
Sean Covington actually kicked field goals to end practice, and it wasn't super pretty. He missed three, each from beyond 40, but even the makes from shorter distances were a little ugly. It'll be interesting to see if that was just an experiment or if there is something up with Ka'imi Fairbairn.
There were many recruits in attendance again, and Brandon has the full list up on the message board. Probably the most significant of the bunch was Rasheem Green, the five-star defensive end from Gardena (Calif.) Serra.
Thursday Practice Report
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