Friday’s practice, being the first in pads, was really fun, with tons of hitting and live periods. UCLA seemed to run a lot more team drills, which helped make it especially fun.
The 1-on-1 period was excellent for the defensive backs today. Virtually every DB won several reps. We have to mention Adarius Pickett, who had a couple of really nice moments against Kenny Walker, who’s been essentially the bane of his existence through spring. Pickett did a great job of bodying Walker up at the line, which prevented Walker from using his speed to get past Pickett deep.
Priest Willis also had a few nice moments against Logan Sweet, but really, the defensive backs were almost entirely lockdown through the period. Fabian Moreau’s battles with Devin Lucien have become really fun, and Moreau once again won virtually every rep today. Tahaan Goodman looked big, physical, and athletic and covered Nate Iese pretty well a couple of times – at least, as well as you can cover Nate Iese.
Myles Jack, in case you were wondering, is still a complete freak. He’s arguably better than he was last year or in the spring, which is frightening on an existential level. He is even more natural and fluid in coverage than he was last year, frequently beating even quicker slot receivers to the ball. During 11 on 11, he was just naturally in the right place on every play, and he had a few explosive hits on ball carriers.
We’ve said it a few times, but Kenny Young again looked very natural and instinctive. He seems to already be taking a leadership role in the defense, looking very vocal on the sidelines. For a freshman playing probably the most mentally demanding position in the defense, he has looked very comfortable. We’d be a little surprised if he doesn’t end up in the two-deep this year.
In the funny moment department, Noel Mazzone waited to count off the start of his quarterbacks’ throwing drill until the soundtrack to practice started to play the “1, 2, 3, 4…” from Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. The quarterbacks, aside from Brett Hundley, mostly struggled today, with Jerry Neuheisel again having a lot of difficulty completing passes. Asiantii Woulard was a bit better, but struggled to read the defense, especially on deeper throws. He also was inaccurate. Hundley, though, had a generally good day, but with the defense going live, took a little bit longer to make decisions.
Eldridge Massington was probably the best of the receivers today. He made one spectacular play on a Hundley underthrow, turning back on the ball and catching with arms fully extended over Jalen Ortiz. He made several nice plays during team drills using his big body to shield the defender away from the ball. He did have a few drops, with the ball kind of inexplicably bouncing off his hands, so that’ll be something to monitor.
Malcolm Bunche sat out practice after suffering a lower body injury of some kind toward the end of practice yesterday. In his stead, Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala got the majority of the reps at first string left tackle. Neither shined, in particular, but Lacy was probably the better of the two. Deon Hollins had his way with them frequently, and probably had three or four sacks. Hollins looks like he’s lost 15 pounds, and looks much quicker than he did in the spring, when he was probably carrying too much weight.
Cameron Judge is working primarily at outside linebacker at the moment, and he actually had a few nice plays rushing off the edge. His backside pursuit has been good as well. Tyler Foreman, though, looks like a different human playing linebacker as opposed to safety. He made several plays in the backfield today, and again looked more comfortable in coverage playing in the box. It’ll be very interesting to see if he can get some meaningful playing time this year with such a stacked linebacker corps, but the early returns look good.
He may not play, but keep an eye on Charles Dawson at slot receiver. He’s shown good speed, wiggle, and catching ability so far, and is making plays every practice.
Craig Lee is a mixed bag at this point. A good half the time today, he ran into his blockers or tried to hit the wrong hole. The thing is, when he actually gets into the right hole, he is so electric that he is almost uncatchable. It's going to’be very interesting if they can get him into a situation mentally where, by the season, he’s able to play a significant role.
Marcus Rios had a big day today, grabbing two interceptions, including one off a ball that Massington tipped. He looks completely healthy and ready to play, which is probably one of the most significant developments for the team this fall.
Sam Handler, the walkon receiver, went down with what appeared to be a bad ankle or knee injury. Jordon James and Thomas Duarte both sat out most of practice, working on the sidelines with Sal Alosi.
Jacob Tuioti-Mariner had a nice spin move at one point during team drills, beating Caleb Benenoch on the inside. He’s had some moments so far in camp, and looks to be doing a lot of the same things Owamagbe Odighizuwa is doing in terms of occasionally dropping into coverage.
Zach Whitley again sat out practice and was actually spotted wearing a neck brace, so we’ll hear more on what his injury is later.
Ka’imi Fairbairn was once again 7 for 7 on field goals, with the long looking like it was from about 48. The ball is exploding off his foot so far in camp, with even the one from 48 looking like it would have been good from 60.
Friday Practice Report
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