Friday Morning Practice Report

UCLA had a light practice Friday morning with several injured players making their way back to the practice field...

UCLA had another relatively light morning practice, working mostly through situational special teams drills as well as a few light team periods. The team was in spider pads and shorts, which allowed some injured to make their return to the field.

Marcus Rios came back after suffering headache issues the last few days and worked out on a bike for most of practice. Jake Brendel also came to practice without the knee brace and now just has his knee wrapped. He also spent time on a bike today. Zach Whitley returned to the field for the first time since his injury and also spent practice on a bike. Randall Goforth returned to practice in a red jersey. Mossi Johnson looked like a full go, finally ditching the red jersey and transitioning back to blue.

Jordan Payton.
In other injury news, Jim Mora told us after practice that he is hopeful that each of Devin Lucien, Scott Quessenberry, and Whitley will be back in practice on Monday. Caleb Benenoch started practice at right guard but went down with an apparent leg injury about halfway through practice and moved over to the bikes.

When Benenoch was in, the offensive line was Malcolm Bunche, Najee Toran, Alex Redmond, Benenoch, and Conor McDermott from left to right. After Benenoch went down, Toran flipped to right guard and Kenny Lacy came in at left guard. Redmond worked at center and actually looked like he could play there in a pinch. Only one or two snaps looked bad, and he seemed to fire off well once he snapped it.

It certainly appears as if UCLA is solidifying a nickel rotation, with Anthony Jefferson slotting in at cornerback and Tahaan Goodman starting at safety, but Mora said not to read too much into it since they’re so flexible with different formations and positions. Kenny Young also looks like he’s more or less solidified the inside linebacker spot opposite Eric Kendricks, and the competition for the open outside linebacker position looks all but over, with Aaron Wallace taking the lion’s share of the first team reps.

One competition that could get interesting is at punter. Transfer Matt Mengel has looked inconsistent through the last week of camp, which has opened the door for walkon Adam Searl to get a good amount of reps. Searl doesn’t quite have the leg of Mengel, but he’s been a bit more consistent through the last couple of practices. It’ll be interesting to see what happens there, but Mora said he’s very comfortable with the punting situation after being worried about it coming into camp.

Logan Sweet.
UCLA practiced a wide variety of special teams situations, from safety punts to short kicks to bad onside kicks to a variety of other things. As such, it was a very installation-heavy practice, with plenty of vocal coaching from Kennedy Polamalu and Jeff Ulbrich, who seem to be handling most of the special teams work. Polamalu in particular seems to be showing great attention to detail in the drills. Jordan Payton drew loud praise at one point during the situational drills for pushing an onside kick out of bounds.

Randall Goforth, Jordan Lasley, Devin Fuller, Jordon James, and Ishmael Adams all worked at punt and kick returner. Fuller muffed a kick at one point, but otherwise there were no noticeable drops for the group.

Adarius Pickett had a great run during team drills, looking very natural turning upfield and cutting through the defense. The running backs in general looked good today, but there wasn’t much hitting from the defense, so take it with a grain of salt. Pickett has gotten a lot of work over the last week or so, which is likely an effort to get him up to speed with the offense. He does look as if he’ll have a chance to break into that top-three rotation at running back.

Logan Sweet had probably the catch of the practice, somehow pulling down a ball in the corner of the endzone with Denzel Fisher blanketing him. The level of concentration he showed on that play was pretty incredible, since he had to basically anticipate where the ball would go since Fisher was blocking his vision. Sweet’s had an excellent camp, and at this point, we’d anticipate that he plays this year in non-blowout situations.

UCLA will go full pads this evening and then do a mock game on Saturday.

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