Tempo was the order of the day for UCLA’s second practice of the fall, with Jim Mora emphasizing it constantly during drills. After a few transitions between plays where the defense or offense didn’t run off the field fast enough, he made them come back on the field to do it over.
The first string offensive line was the same as yesterday, with Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Malcolm Bunche, and Conor McDermott rounding it out from left to right. Redmond was dropped to the 2s for a stretch after getting into a scuffle, and Scott Quessenberry worked in for him. Quessenberry also rotated in for Brendel when he needed a breather, while Najee Toran rotated in for Bunche when he needed to sit for a minute.
Physically, Tahaan Goodman looks bigger than he did even in the spring, and, as he did in spring, looked good during 1 on 1 drills. He seems to be working mostly with the 2s at safety, but does have a few packages where he’s with the 1s on defense.
The defense itself showed off a lot of variations today in terms of front, with personnel mixing and matching depending on the package. Deon Hollins worked with the first team in certain situations. Hollins has lost some weight since spring and is moving much better than he was then. It’ll be interesting to see how he does once the pads come on, but he does look more agile. On the flip side, Aaron Wallace isn’t moving quite as well as we’re used to, and it might serve him well to lean out a bit. Wallace did work with the 1s in nickel over Kenny Orjioke, who spent time with the 2s.
Interestingly, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner both got some work with the outside linebackers during individual drills, with both working on their drops and back pedals. Odighizuwa looked a bit more natural than he did in the spring, and looks like he could play the role in a pinch, even if it isn’t a perfect fit. Tuioti-Mariner has probably not spent a good deal of his life back-pedaling, and it showed. His change of direction for a big guy is impressive, though, and he had nice straight ahead speed.
Cameron Griffin, after looking impressive in his pass rush the other day, looked a little less fluid back-pedaling, which might be where the inexperience bites him. He also injured his shoulder during practice, so we’ll get an update on him tomorrow. Myles Jack and Kenny Orjioke both look leaner than they did in spring, with Orjioke in particular looking like he lost five or ten pounds. Jack worked mostly with the inside guys during individual drills, and then during team stuff, UCLA mostly ran nickel packages, so he was working primarily inside.
UCLA unveiled yellow quarterback jerseys for the first time, and it was clearly a better look than the red jerseys, or the black ones from the Neuheisel years. In terms of performance today, we’d rank the quarterbacks from best to worst as so: Brett Hundley, Asiantii Woulard, Jerry Neuheisel, Mike Fafaul. Fafaul and Neuheisel both really struggled in general today, with both struggling to complete passes during 1 on 1s. Woulard was a bit better than yesterday, as was Hundley.
Eldridge Massington had probably the catch of the practice on a beautiful ball from Woulard during 1 on 1s. Fabian Moreau had Massington well covered a deep post, but Massington stretched out, tipped the ball with his finger tips, and then reeled it in when he crossed into the endzone. On the defensive side, Myles Jack had a very impressive play, jumping a simple two-yard out route and intercepting a pass. His reaction to the play was shocking.
Ishmael Adams also showed great reactions during 1 on 1s. The coaching staff was emphasizing short patterns, so there weren’t too many excellent breakups, but Adams has a rare ability to react to a play and change direction almost instantaneously. It was rare that a receiver caught a ball with more than a yard between him and Adams.
On the very bright side of things, Marcus Rios has clearly progressed a great deal in his recovery. He told us after practice that he’s 185 pounds now and he looks it. The best sign for him is that his speed and quickness is making a return. As he regains confidence and shakes off the remainder of the rust, he could impact the rotation this year.
Craig Lee had a couple of very nice runs during practice, and it’s clear UCLA is trying to find a way to use him. He’s been ensconced at punt returner the past two practices, with the coaches clearly trying to find a way to get his speed on the field. He looks like he’s gained some weight as well, looking much bigger through the shoulders.
Jaleel Wadood is obviously a bit undersized for a safety, looking like not much more than 5’9 and 170 pounds. That said, he’s shown good instincts and quickness already through two practices, constantly putting himself in position to make plays. He’ll need to add weight as he progresses through the program, clearly, but he looks like a candidate to play this year.
Denzel Fisher has a great body, and athletically he looks very good, with good quickness and foot speed for a guy his size. He’s still a work in progress in terms of technique, and Demetrice Martin was giving him some vocal coaching, in particularly telling him to be disciplined with his eyes. “You know what happens every time you start peeking? You get to watch the receiver catch the ball,” was one of Martin’s better Eric Yarber-esque lines.
Kenny Walker showed great jets, ran some beautiful routes, and adjusted well to a few errant throws, but had a couple of drops. It’s the one thing to watch with him – whether he can develop consistent catching technique.
Mossi Johnson did some individual work, but didn’t participate in team drills. Jim Mora did say afterward that Johnson is looking better than they even though this morning, and could return sooner than two weeks from now.
Priest Willis looks like he’s also leaned out a bit since the spring, and he is moving a bit better. He had some struggles today, particularly during 1 on 1s. He’s getting consistent work with the 1s in nickel, so the hope is that it helps him build up some confidence.
We got our first real look at Tyler Foreman playing that hybrid inside linebacker role, and early returns were pretty good. He knifed in for a sack on one play, and looks like a better fit there in terms of covering running backs and receivers out of the backfield. He’ll be one to monitor.
Devin Fuller has looked like his usual self through the first two practices, catching several slants and crossing route. Hundley threw him a beautiful slant during 11 on 11 that looked like it could have gone for a touchdown since it caught Fuller fully in stride.
Matt Mengel, who punted beautifully on the first day, shanked a few today, but even his shanks go about 35 or 40 yards since he has such a big leg. Things can change, but as of now, he looks like a more than credible Pac-12 punter.
Simon Goines and Zach Whitley were both mostly held out again today, with Goines slowly working back in and Whitley suffering from some cramps.
Day Two Practice Report
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