Wednesday Practice Report

Apr. 8 -- The defense generally had a pretty easy time of it on Wednesday on Josh Rosen's off day...

Today was the off day for Josh Rosen, so we got a longer look at Asiantii Woulard and Jerry Neuheisel. It wasn't a very good day for either, with both having difficulty completing passes downfield. Woulard's mechanics seemed a little off-kilter all day, even looking a little awkward during the Pat-and-Go period where his footwork seemed a little messed up. It was probably his shakiest day throwing the ball this spring, with a few throws sailing high over receivers and a few grounding in front of receivers.

Neuheisel wasn't a whole lot better, but for different reasons. He was generally able to make the right reads quickly enough, but the arm strength just isn't there to complete all the throws. On most throws beyond 10 yards or so, he doesn't get enough zip on the ball, which allows the defensive backs to break on the ball and forces the receiver to come back to the ball. If the offense were predicated on back shoulder throws, that issue could be mitigated to an extent, but that's not really the nature of the offense. He did hit a nice back shoulder throw to Alex Van Dyke (really, it was more of a back elbow throw, since it dipped down to about hip level on Van Dyke before it got to him) down one sideline and then another to Logan Sweet down the other sideline, but those throws were the only real highlights of the day for him.

Tom Bradley and Jim Mora (Photo: Steve Cheng)
There was a stark difference between the way the offense moved with Rosen on Monday and the way it moved with Woulard and Neuheisel today. It's obviously only been five practices, but there has been a noticeable difference so far.

Van Dyke might have been the most impressive receiver on Wednesday, and he's had a nice spring so far. He made an excellent adjustment to the Neuheisel throw cited above (we're not even sure that the ball was supposed to be a back shoulder throw), and then made a number of other good catches as well. He had an issue with drops to start a practice a few days ago, but we haven't seen him drop a ball since. He's consistently getting second string reps on the outside, and we'd have to imagine based on his usage this spring that he'll see some considerable playing time this year. He's not just a red zone threat either, showing some decent speed once he gets going and the ability to make plays in traffic.

Aaron Sharp switched from a yellow quarterback jersey to a blue offensive jersey today, so it looks like that one is pretty much settled. He didn't get targeted as much today, since he was running mostly deeper routes out of the slot and neither Neuheisel nor Woulard looked comfortable throwing that far. It looks like Sharp is settling into the slot receiver position, and it'll be interesting to see what number he ends up with, since Kenny Walker is also No. 10.

Caleb Benenoch worked out more today than he has in the previous four practices, going through the non-contact drills at the beginning of practice and looked pretty mobile. He split a few reps with Simon Goines at right tackle with the first string, and then spent the contact portions of practice working on the sideline. Takkarist McKinley also returned to practice after dealing with some swelling in his eye last practice. Eldridge Massington spent most of practice on a bike after tweaking his hamstring last practice. Priest Willis spent most of practice working on the side, but we're not sure why yet since we weren't able to speak with Jim Mora today.

The first and second strings on both sides of the ball were much the same, with McKinley coming back in after sitting out yesterday.

Jordan Payton had a really nice catch over Marcus Rios during the first period of 11-on-11, tracking back on a slightly underthrown ball to leap up over Rios' back to make the catch. Despite that play, we should mention that Rios has probably been the most consistent cornerback this spring, and looks great physically. He's been with the first string in nickel fairly often. He had an excellent pick during 11-on-11, tipping a ball deep down the field and then adjusting on it to make the interception.

Najee Toran (Photo: Steve Cheng)
We got a good long look at the offensive and defensive lines today, and defensively, Matt Dickerson stood out. He's put on some weight since last year and looks more powerful and explosive. He showed a nice combination of speed and strength against Poasi Moala during one-on-ones, blowing by him on the first rep and then powering through him on the second. He has a great motor. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner also had a nice rep, beating Simon Goines on a speed rush before Goines beat him up a little on the next rep with his powerful punch.

Najee Toran had a good day in one-on-ones, looking a little too quick for Zach Bateman. Bateman has taken some time to adjust this spring, it seems, and is consistently working with the second string at guard. I think UCLA's situation at right tackle is better than many would have expected a couple of months ago, with Goines and Benenoch both looking like real options for the fall, so it may be more likely for Bateman to compete with Kenny Lacy for playing time at left guard.

On the offensive line, Conor McDermott was impossible to beat. McKinley couldn't get around him during one-on-ones, and McKinley is probably UCLA's quickest defensive lineman. Kolton Miller also looked good, although he was going primarily against walkons. He moves well for his size and actually bends surprisingly well for a 6'8-ish guy. Alex Redmond also had a nice rep against Eddie Vanderdoes, throwing him down to the ground after Vanderdoes fell off balance a bit from Redmond's punch.

Jayon Brown has stood out through five practices so far for his play at inside linebacker. We heard before the spring that if Brown had a good spring, it could allow Myles Jack to move back outside, and so far, Brown has definitely had a good spring. That would alleviate some of the issues with having Jack inside, namely that he won't be in coverage as much. It'll be interesting to see if Brown can show enough to earn starting time, but he looks good so far.

Mossi Johnson had a nice day, catching a number of short passes and looking quick in the open field. Jaleel Wadood again looked solid in run support. Craig Lee had probably the best run of practice, weaving through the defense on an interior run and looking fast and explosive.

2016 tight end Nick Crabtree, 2016 defensive end Oluwole Betiku, and 2016 LB Joshua Brown were all in attendance today. Rick Neuheisel was also watching from the parking lot.

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