Saturday Evening Practice Report

The Saturday evening practice was a good one, with plenty of team periods and a solid showing from the defense...

UCLA’s first evening practice of fall camp was a good one, with plenty of live hitting and a good amount of team periods. Today, it looked like the defense probably got the best of the offense, but much of that was likely due to the continued fall camp attrition on the offensive line.

Malcolm Bunche and Caleb Benenoch (who has been experiencing tendonitis in his knees) started warmups at left and right tackle respectively, but were held out for the majority of team drills, with Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala filling in, for the most part. Alex Redmond again sat out, so three of the probable starters for the opener spent most of practice on the sidelines. That left an offensive line of Lacy, Scott Quessenberry, Jake Brendel, Najee Toran, and Moala from left to right for most of the night.

Eldridge Massington.
Toran had a great block off of a pull during the first period of 11 on 11, sealing the outside linebacker on the edge for a big Paul Perkins run. Toran’s mobility and mean streak could be enough to get him some meaningful playing time this year.

The defensive side of the ball was not without its own limitations. Owamagbe Odighizuwa sat out the evening practice, not even going through individual drills, so we’ll get more on what happened with him later. Randall Goforth went down with an apparent shoulder injury at the end of practice, but it’s believed to just be a stinger, which shouldn’t hold him out for too long. The rest of the injured remained mostly the same, with Jordon James, Ellis McCarthy, Alex Redmond, Zach Whitley, Carl Hulick, and Thomas Duarte all out. Mossi Johnson worked with a red jersey on, but sat out team drills.

We don’t mention veterans all that often in these since they’re such known quantities, but Eric Kendricks deserves a shout out. He is such an intelligent player, virtually always putting himself in the right position to make a tackle. He stood up a few runs at the line during practice today, and it’s clear his command of the defense rubs off on other players. It’ll be very valuable to have a healthy Kendricks in the lineup every game this year.

On the quarterback front, Asiantii Woulard had another positive session, putting together a few nice drives during 11 on 11. He sailed a few balls and there was some inconsistency, but he generally threw with better zip and made better decisions with the ball than he has at times this camp. Judging by the last few days, he might be overtaking Jerry Neuheisel for the primary backup spot.

Kenny Orjioke, to our eyes, looked the best of the outside linebackers today, blowing up a few plays in the backfield. Deon Hollins also had some moments, using his speed rush off the edge to be very disruptive in the backfield. We’d just worry, again, how he’d hold up against the run when a tackle or pulling guard gets two hands on him, but as a pure speed rusher, he definitely adds value. Aaron Wallace actually had his best pass rush moment of the fall during team drills, taking Poasi Moala for a ride on the edge with a bull rush that would have likely resulted in a sack. Wallace is built so solidly that he almost gives a defensive end-type presence on the edge. If you could somehow combine the athleticism of Orjioke with the first step of Hollins and pure strength of Wallace, you’d have an NFL all-timer.

Jordan Payton.
Myles Jack has clearly improved a great deal since last year. He’s much stronger, with the ability to pull running backs down one-handed from behind. He’s arguably moving better in coverage, frequently drawing the assignment of covering 5’6 Ahmaad Harris. He blew up Nate Starks on one run play where he cut through the offensive line as soon as the ball was snapped.

Devin Lucien also had a big practice, and finally won a bunch of reps against Fabian Moreau during 1-on-1s. He had a few drops, but he clearly came in with a plan of using his physicality to finally get a few catches on Moreau. To his credit, Moreau adjusted and did a better job of covering him toward the end of the period, but it was nice to see one of the receivers have a good day against No. 10.

Kenny Walker had a few nice grabs during 1-on-1 drills, but he just needs to consistently catch everything. He does appear to be putting in the work, so the hope is that he can develop better hands with repetition. His speed makes him a tough cover for anyone, but Jalen Ortiz actually did a nice job of staying with him a couple times.

Priest Willis had his third straight practice where he looked legitimately good. He was effective during 1-on-1s, which translated into team drills. If he continues at this rate, he will be a valuable contributor in the cornerback rotation.

Starks had a few nice moments, but he has a tendency to run too high, and gets a bit tentative before hitting the hole. It’s always a learning process for running backs, and he’s still clearly learning the scheme and where the hole is going to be on every play.

One note on Brett Hundley, who had his usual day throwing the ball: he looks faster than last year. His acceleration off of designed runs looked very good. It’ll be interesting to see how the offense uses his legs this year. He threw a beautiful fade to Lucien in the corner of the endzone during an 11 on 11 series as well.

On the defensive line, each of the freshmen linemen flashed today, with Ainuu Taua looking good on the inside, and showing surprising athleticism for a guy built like a vending machine. He made a few athletic plays to pull down running backs from behind. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson both had nice moments as well, with Dickerson looking pretty strong on the edge.

Lokeni Toailoa, DeChaun Holiday, and Kyon Clark were all in attendance at practice.

The team will take a day off tomorrow from practice and then will be back with another two practices on Monday.

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