UCLA wrapped up practice with the Spring Showcase on Saturday night at the StubHub Center with a resounding 28-0 shutout by the first string O/second string D. The game itself was probably the closest representation of an actual game that you can do in a scrimmage situation, with much of the game full-speed and fully live.
Owamagbe Odighizuwa was the obvious standout from the entire game. He was virtually unblockable from the edge, with Caleb Benenoch having a huge amount of difficulty dealing with Odighizuwa's strength and speed on the edge. Based off my own informal statistics, he had at least five sacks, and a number of hurries.
On the offensive side of the ball, the quarterbacks were a mixed bag. Brett Hundley only got one series before moving off the field to call plays. Asiantii Woulard was up and down, completing a few nice passes and actually having his two best passes dropped by Tyler Scott (both throws came on long rollouts). Otherwise, though, he was generally inaccurate, sailing the ball high a number of times downfield. If you had to pick a best quarterback of the day, actually, it'd probably be Mike Fafaul, the walkon. Fafaul twice led the team on scoring drives and looked comfortable moving around the pocket and making the necessary throws. Jerry Neuheisel was hit or miss, looking good on a couple of drives, but ending two others with really bad interceptions.
The first string offensive line had its share of struggles, but much of that was due to the strength of UCLA's defensive line. Still, Malcolm Bunche had some issues on the edge, as we've seen in practice, and looks more suited to playing at guard (he started at right tackle). A few times, Zach Vinci, the walkon defensive end, was able to get past him for sacks. The interior of the line was better, but Ellis McCarthy and Kenneth Clark were still both able to gain fairly consistent push.
Kenny Orjioke, as we noted on the message board, was not in attendance for the game, and we've heard that the reason wasn't a particularly serious one that would keep him out for any length of time beyond this game. Without him, Odighizuwa actually spent most of the game on that side of the field, and a few times actually dropped into coverage. Myles Jack and Ryan Hofmeister spent most of the game as the inside linebackers for the first string defense, and Jack looked very comfortable playing that spot.
The first string secondary was a little spotty at times, particularly on Priest Willis' side, but overall looked good. Tahaan Goodman, running with the second string, made quite a few plays throughout the practice.
Tyler Scott, who seems to constantly make his presence felt in these spring games, looked good again on Saturday, using his physicality over the middle to fight through tacklers (like Goodman, a few times). Scott did have a couple of drops, but, judging by the past couple years of watching him, he wouldn't look out of place if he had to play this year.
Craig Lee looked good at times, showing flashes of the electricity we've seen from him in practice. He had at least two drops out of the backfield, though, that might lead you to question his hands a bit. Jordon James also had two drops, including one on a flare down the sideline that could have gone for a touchdown. Paul Perkins probably had the best day of the backs, catching a couple of passes and using his good body control to avoid getting tackled early.
Devin Lucien and Jordan Payton looked like they've looked all spring: the two obvious starters on the outside. Kenny Walker and Mossi Johnson didn't do a whole lot, as the offense on both sides went fairly vanilla for most of the game (as Noel Mazzone said afterward).
The defense for the first string through most of the scrimmage was a 4-2-5, but we'll probably have to wait until fall before we'll call that UCLA's base defense. When Orjioke returns, he provides a bit more versatility, and if another outside linebacker emerges (or Aaron Wallace returns) that could push UCLA back into more 3-4 alignments. That said, with the obvious success Odighizuwa has from that edge rushing spot, and the improvements UCLA had made to the pass rush over the last few weeks while using this formation, we could see UCLA sticking with the move.
There were plenty of recruits in attendance, and Brandon has the full list up on the message board. We'll update it if we hear more. Announced attendance was just over 15,000 people, and it looked like that was a legitimate total. It was actually probably a similar total to last year, which is pretty good considering the cost and distance for many people.
Spring Showcase Recap
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