Thursday Practice Report

Apr. 2 -- Thursday marked Josh Rosen's turn in the quarterback rotation, and he didn't disappoint...

As we wrote prior to the start of spring practice, UCLA is rotating the quarterbacks, at least through the first week or two, so that on one day, Asiantii Woulard and Jerry Neuheisel will get the majority of the reps, and then on the next day, Josh Rosen and Mike Fafaul will get the majority of the reps. Thursday was Rosen's first day getting a big portion of the 11-on-11 reps, and it was an impressive showing.

There's a marked difference between the way Rosen gets the ball out to the sideline on swings and receiver screens and the way the other quarterbacks do. Where Fafaul and Neuheisel might float the ball a little, and Woulard might gun the ball a little bit behind the receiver, Rosen threw perfectly accurate rockets to the sideline. It's one of the best measures of arm strength, how quickly a quarterback can get the ball to the sideline on those types of throws, and Rosen showed that he probably has the strongest arm on the team.

What stood out most about him today was his decision making. It's really uncanny that, despite being in just his second college practice ever, he was getting to his second or third read in both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 at different points. He definitely made a couple of mistakes, including one interception to Willie Green where he didn't see the linebacker dropping into a short zone, but he was able to check down to swing passes and easy throws to his running backs really well.

There's definitely a competition brewing between Rosen and Woulard, with the two already looking like they're competing for reps during the Pat-and-Go portion of the early practice. Woulard, for his part, looked decent again today, though perhaps not as good as he looked on Tuesday. His arm strength has returned, but he's also been a little inaccurate, throwing behind on slants and crossing routes, which is dangerous.

Paul Perkins looks already like he's in midseason form with his cuts. He made a couple of really nice moves during the 11-on-11 portion that had the linebackers flummoxed. The running backs as a group, though, struggled to catch the ball during 1-on-1s with both Nate Starks and Craig Lee dropping balls. Kennedy Polamalu had the entire group do pushups every time a running back ran a poor route or dropped a ball, and it was about every other rep during that period that the running backs had to do pushups.

Jordan Lasley stood out today as one of the quicker and more explosive receivers on the team. He made a few really nice plays during the one-on-one period, and then, during 11-on-11, seemed to already be developing a pretty good rapport with Rosen, who was working with the 2s most of his periods. Comparing him to Jordan Payton, Lasley is probably an inch taller, so he's probably in the 6'2 to 6'3 range.

Devin Fuller also looks a bit quicker than he did last year, which reinforces the idea that he might have been a little dinged up last season. Mossi Johnson, his understudy in the slot, is going to push him, though. Johnson continued his battles with Myles Jack during one-on-ones and looked exceptional, catching one ball with Jack blanketed around him basically under Jack's armpit. He's a little quicker and more explosive than last year as well, as he gets further removed from his knee injury.

On the offensive line, the first string was much the same as Tuesday, but the second string changed a bit, with Zach Bateman getting a look at left guard instead of right tackle, and Poasi Moala flipping to right guard. We figure they are just trying to see the different positions Bateman can play and where he might fit best. Bateman had one really nice rep where he got his hands under Ainuu Taua's pads and nearly lifted him off his feet on a block.

Simon Goines, we'll note again, is a changed man, and it was even more apparent today. He looks phenomenal physically, as he's finally redistributed most of his weight so he doesn't look so top heavy. He's never going to be the most flexible tackle in the world, but his power allows him to play a little higher and stiffer than a typical lineman. He was able to beat Takkarist McKinley and Deon Hollins at points with his powerful punch.

Something to consider: three years ago, if UCLA had been missing two starting offensive lineman (Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry) to start out spring practice, they'd be having a really difficult time filling their spots. Now, UCLA has an offensive line that goes Conor McDermott, Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, Kenny Lacy, and Simon Goines even in the absence of two starters from last year. We're finally starting to see some actual depth.

Jordan Lasley
On the defensive side of the ball, one of the more interesting transformations has been Deon Hollins. While he looks pretty similar physically (maybe a little more weight), he's moving much better in space, to the point where he was probably one of the more impressive linebackers in coverage during the linebackers vs. running back one-on-ones. He had three good reps, culminating with a rep against Nate Iese where he had him covered pretty well, Iese had the initial catch, but Hollins was close enough to get his own hand on it and rip it away before Iese could control it. If Hollins can actually be decent in pass coverage, it would drastically change his ability to stay on the field and be more than a third down pass rushers.

Cameron Griffin and Cameron Judge both had moments in coverage as well. Griffin looks like a very good athlete, and we wouldn't be shocked if he earns some playing time this year as long as he's healthy. Physically, he looks completely ready, but it'll just be a matter of picking up all of his assignments.

Kenny Young is not going to make anyone forget Eric Kendricks in pass coverage at this point. He doesn't quite have that change of direction yet, and had to resort to holding a lot during one-on-one drills. He has the athleticism to be decent enough there, but he needs to learn to anticipate moves better, which should come as he gets more reps.

The linebackers, it should be noted, were also doing push-ups after every poor rep during one-on-ones, but they had to do fewer than the running backs.

Priest Willis once again had a pretty nice showing, and again, he showed up in team drills, which has never been his strong suit. He had a nice play when he was in as a second string nickel, jumping a swing route and blowing up the play. If he can somehow put it all together, that would help considerably. Johnny Johnson again had a couple of moments, and if UCLA can get anything out of him this year, that would be a huge bonus.

Dwight Williams once again had a decent showing at safety, and Nate Meadors looked pretty good as well. Building safety depth is critical, and hopefully one or both of those guys will be able to play meaningful snaps this year.

2016 TE Cary Angeline, 2016 DE Breland Brandt, 2016 WR Javon McKinley, and 2017 DB Keith Taylor were at practice today, along with 2015 signee Tevita Halalilo.

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