UCLA went full pads on Saturday for the first time this spring, and there were the usual nice fireworks that come with full hitting. Eddie Vanderdoes probably had the most physical play of the practice, bursting through the offensive line during 11-on-11 to upend Roosevelt Davis. There was a good deal more chippiness throughout the practice than through the first two days, as you’d expect after two days of no contact.
The offense didn’t have a great day, particularly when the second string offensive line was in. Without Caleb Benenoch and Scott Quessenberry, there are a couple of walk-ons on the second string that had some issues against the physicality of UCLA’s defenders. Often, the second string OL was matched up against the first string DL and that wasn’t exactly a recipe for offensive success.
There was a period of OL/DL one-on-ones and the offensive line pretty much got the best of the DL. The DL who did the best was defensive end Takkarist McKinley and he probably won just two of four against left tackle Conor McDermott. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner beat Poasi Moala, but other than those three winning reps for the DL, the OL won every other match-up. Guard Kenny Lacy, who is with the first-string while Quessenberry is still out, was exceptional, perhaps the best of the offensive linemen, and you have to consider that he was beating Kenneth Clark in his reps. On one rep Lacy was absolutely dominant over Clark. Alex Redmond also beat Eddie Vanderdoes pretty handily. Redshirt freshman tackle Kolton Miller did well, containing his man on his reps, but it has a bit of an asterisk because he was going up against walk-on defensive linemen.
Among the quarterbacks, neither of the guys who got heavy reps had a very good day. Asiantii Woulard really struggled at times, throwing several interceptions during team drills where either he or the receiver were not on the same page. He sailed quite a few throws and underthrew some others. He had one nice touchdown strike during the last 11-on-11 period, but it was overall a pretty poor day for him. Jerry Neuheisel wasn’t much better, with his accuracy coming and going throughout the day.
Josh Rosen didn’t get a whole lot of team reps, really only getting one skeleton series. It wasn’t his best series, with UCLA using a zone that seemed to trip him up a little bit. By the final throw, though, he rocketed a ball to Kenneth Walker that split in between two defenders for a first down. His arm strength is really showing up at this level and already he looks like he has the strongest arm on the team.
Speaking of Walker, he had a really nice day at receiver. Instead of just using his speed to burn past cornerbacks, he’s actually running effective routes, and he looks like he’s done work on his hands. We said all of that last spring, though, so we’re going to wait to see what he looks like in the fall. If he can somehow turn into a real receiver, that’d provide UCLA a big speed element.
Jordan Lasley was a big source of the chippiness at a few points. During the first 11-on-11 period, he had one play where he stiff-armed two defenders in the face and then, after being run out of bounds, flipped the ball a little aggressively at Jayon Brown, who took some umbrage. Then, later, he and Johnny Johnson got into it a little bit after some physical coverage. Lasley has always had a rep of being a talker on the field, so that sort of stuff isn’t a huge surprise. He had a few excellent plays during the 1-on-1 period, making a couple of great catches in the back of the end zone where he showed great catching discipline, not giving anything away to the cornerback until the ball was nearly in his hands.
The defense, though, was probably the better side of the ball today. Kenny Young and Myles Jack took over long stretches of the 11-on-11 period, reading and reacting quickly to virtually everything the offense did. Young, in particular, looks like he’s become much quicker at reading offenses, and is usually in position to make a tackle before the offensive player even gets there. Jack is already looking natural on the inside, flashing his usual instincts, but also just being involved in more plays.
Vanderdoes was probably the best defensive lineman today. He’s shed some weight from last season, and looks quicker and more explosive. He was able to power through the offensive line several times, even when he was going against the first string. Takkarist McKinley also had a few nice moments going against Simon Goines and later Poasi Moala.
Goines, it should be noted, sat out the latter half of practice. We didn’t see if he got injured, or if he was just resting for the majority of the full contact parts of practice. In his place, Moala stepped in at right tackle. Darren Andrews also sat out most of practice, working on an exercise bike for the majority of it.
Nathan Meadors stood out today on defense, looking instinctual at safety. He had one nice interception, but also had numerous tipped balls. He didn’t look out of place during 1-on-1 cover drills as well, so he might be part of the solution to the lack of great depth at safety. Randall Goforth, despite rocking a red jersey and shying away from contact, looked like he knew where receivers were going to be long before they knew, showing that advanced feel for the game that you expect from a fourth-year player. Once he gets the red jersey off, we imagine he’ll go back to being the most valuable defensive back on the team.
Alex Van Dyke had a pretty good end of the day after a rough start. He dropped a few balls during one-on-ones and individual drills, but then during 11-on-11, he came alive, catching several nice balls over the top of the defense. He’s a really big target, and he has great jump ball ability.
Aaron Sharp took some reps during the 7-on-7 period, and he struggled a bit. He had one telegraphed interception to Jaleel Wadood, where Wadood barely had to move to catch the ball. Sharp isn't really part of the regular rotation, with Mike Fafaul and Rosen rotating one day, and Jerry Neuheisel and Asiantii Woulard rotating the next. It'll be interesting to see what Sharp decides to do, given that.
Wadood, for his part, was another of the defenders who had a particularly good day, catching the one interception but also looking strong in run support as well as good in pass coverage. As we noted earlier, he's put on a little bit of weight and it seems to be serving him well.
Nate Starks looked very good during team drills, showing his improved quickness while also looking just as powerful as last year. He drives through arm tackles with ease, and while he's still a very upright runner, he has enough power and shiftiness to avoid taking direct hits. Paul Perkins also had a good day, despite some poor blocking up front, and those two were clearly the class of the running backs.
There were tons of recruits in attendance. For a full list, go here. UCLA will practice again Monday at 4:30.
Saturday Practice Report
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