More Observations from the Spring Game

A few more players stood out to us from watching the spring game again on replay...

Offensive Line: The first string offensive line was much better than the second string, but still had some struggles. Caleb Benenoch looked better than he looked live. Yes, he struggled at times with Owamagbe Odighizuwa, but we have a feeling most teams are going to struggle with Owa this year. He was, more often than not, actually able to block Odighizuwa effectively, and a couple of the "sacks" Owa got probably wouldn't have been real sacks in a game. On the right side, we were a little concerned live that Malcolm Bunche had some issues with walkon defensive end Zach Vinci, but watching the game again, while there were a couple of times that Vinci got around him, Bunche mostly dominated the matchup.

The interior of the offensive line actually looked much better than it did live. They did a great job adjusting to Kenneth Clark and keeping him from penetrating into the backfield. With the focus on Clark, Ellis McCarthy was able to make more plays, which will probably be the story for much of the year. Kenny Lacy had some really nice moments when he slotted into Alex Redmond's spot at right guard.

Poasi Moala did an excellent job against Kylie Fitts in the 2's vs. 2's battle. Fitts had a good close to his spring, but Moala mostly ate him up.

Defensive Line: Owa is a potential freak. His strength and speed have completely returned, but he is much better technically than he was during his junior year. He showed a variety of inside and outside moves against Benenoch that had the sophomore tackle looking flummoxed at times. We'd be pretty surprised if, barring injury, Odighizuwa didn't have a big year.

As we knew, the interior of the line is strong. Clark, as Jeff Ulbrich opined after the game, might have an argument for being the best player on the team. It was clear that the offensive line's focus was Clark, and keeping him from playing too much of a disruptive role. The thing is, Ellis McCarthy is more than capable of taking advantage of offense's shading toward Clark. McCarthy had a very nice spring game, and got consistent pressure and penetration up the middle. The second string defensive line actually did a great job as well, with Eli Ankou making some nice plays, and Deon Hollins looking good off the edge against Colby Cyburt.

Quarterbacks: Watching it again, Brett Hundley's first series was nearly flawless. He had one slightly off throw to Jordon James on the would-be swing pass, but other than that, he was on the money. The flare out to James out of the backfield could have potentially gone for a touchdown. Asiantii Woulard was up and down, and showed a few of the worrying signs from practices, like the occasional bizarrely overthrown ball, but also showed why he has such immense potential. His consecutive sideline throws dropped by Tyler Scott showed very good arm strength with good ball placement and solid awareness of the field. He throws really well on the move, and if his mechanics can become truly consistent over the next few months, that'll go a long way for him.

Jerry Neuheisel had a nice first series, leading the team to a touchdown, but struggled afterward. His two interceptions were egregious, with the first just a bad decision to the ball, and the second just a puzzling misread of the coverage. Aside from those two moments, he managed things fairly well, but if he's going to be the steady option at backup quarterback, he'd have to eliminate those kinds of interceptions.

Mike Fafaul had some nice moments, and seemed to be the most consistent of the backups, not throwing much that looked like it had a real chance of being picked off.

Running backs: Watching the game again, the two most effective running backs were Paul Perkins and Steven Manfro. Manfro got the lion's share of runs from scrimmage and consistently generated tough yards. Perkins was the best weapon as a pass catcher out of the backfield (and it seemed like the design of the offense was to keep Nate Iese's talents under wraps). Craig Lee certainly had some moments, showing off some of his nice burst, but he had two drops out of the backfield on swing passes, and we know that's been an area of emphasis by the coaching staff with him. He's made progress this spring, and it'll be interesting to see if he can continue to develop over the next few months.

Jordon James had a nice run for a touchdown, bouncing a ball to the outside and outrunning the defense. Other than that, he was fairly quiet. If he had caught the pass down the sideline from Hundley early in the game, it'd probably be a different story. Honestly, at this point, the starting running back job appears pretty wide open heading into the fall.

Receivers: Jordan Payton and Devin Lucien were the best of the receiver corps on Saturday. Payton had a number of excellent routes, including one double-move on Priest Willis that left him wide open for a pass from Jerry Neuheisel. Lucien found the soft spots in zone well, and worked well as a safety valve for the variety of backup quarterbacks throughout the day. Mossi Johnson didn't get open quite as often as we were expecting, but he did have a few moments where he was just missed by the quarterbacks. There were actually a number of times where the receivers got wide open on crossing routes over the middle and the quarterbacks just didn't see them.

Secondary: Fabian Moreau had about the game we expected, showing nicely in coverage on Lucien and others. Priest Willis looked better than he looked live, and though he was beaten by Payton twice, he actually covered him and Lucien credibly in man coverage at times. The pass interference against him looked like a questionable call on replay.

Tahaan Goodman had some moments for the second string defensive backs, looking physical in coverage on Tyler Scott and others over the middle. He provides a bit more of that bruising safety role than either Anthony Jefferson or Randall Goforth can provide. Ishmael Adams also looked good against the slot receivers. Adarius Pickett showed great anticipation on the interception.

Linebackers: It's scary, but Myles Jack looked on Saturday like he's made some real improvements since last season. He was a little more under control than he was at times last year, which put him in position to make even more plays. He has incredible range on the inside, and looking at this 4-2-5 setup, we'd actually be a little surprised if this didn't end up being a huge part of the defense this year. UCLA has the range from its group of athletic inside linebackers to cover wide swaths of the field. With the pass rush looking stout on Saturday, UCLA and Jeff Ulbrich might have found the best formation fit for this personnel.

Isaako Savaiinaea also had a good game, and, if UCLA does opt for three or four linebackers at times this year, we could see him competing for one of the inside spots. With Eric Kendricks coming back this summer, though, it seems obvious that if 4-2-5 is the alignment, Kendricks and Jack will get the starting nods. Jayon Brown also had some nice moments.

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