Another exciting couple of weeks in San Bernardino kicked off today with UCLA's first practice of the fall. As far as weather goes, it was actually fairly temperate, though there was a good bit of smog in the air. The temperature is supposed to kick up over 100 degrees by the end of the week, but today was in the mid-80s.
First, those not in camp were Simon Goines, Craig Lee, and Cordell Broadus. As Jim Mora said after practice, Goines is dealing with a medical issue that will sideline him for all of camp, Lee is taking care of some academic matters (his timeline was left open-ended), and Broadus has been given a couple of days off at the start of camp to take care of a personal issue.
Probably the biggest personnel matter was Chris Clark arriving at camp, but not in uniform. Mora said after practice that Clark has mono, and will be reevaluated later to see when he can participate. Mono can be a fairly serious issue for an athlete, and can prevent strenuous activity.
Other than that, UCLA looked fairly healthy on day one. The offensive line, as expected, went Conor McDermott, Kenny Lacy, Jake Brendel, Alex Redmond, and Caleb Benenoch from left to right. Benenoch sat out some team periods, but we didn't see him get hurt, so we'd imagine that's mostly precautionary with him still recovering from knee surgery. The second string offensive line was Kolton Miller, Josh Wariboko, Fred Ulu-Perry, Poasi Moala, and, at least today, walkon Cristian Garcia.
Benenoch has pretty substantially transformed his body, looking much like he did physically last spring, when he looked like a potential stud at left tackle. He's lost probably ten pounds since last season, and looks much better physically.
Among the freshmen, Ulu-Perry stood out with his size. He was working as the second-string center most of practice and had more than a few bad snaps, however, so he'll need to work on cleaning that up going forward. Some were rolled, some went wide right or left, some went too high, so it might just be the sort of thing where he needs more practice. Tevita Halalilo has also lost a considerable amount of weight since we last saw him early in the spring.
With the quarterbacks, Jerry Neuheisel and Josh Rosen appeared to get the majority of the reps, and they switched off with the first and second string. Both actually looked pretty good today, but Rosen probably had the best throw of the practice, a beautiful deep bomb to Eldridge Massington for a touchdown. Mike Fafaul didn't have a great day, from what we saw. We don't imagine we'll get any kind of announcement on a starter until next week, but we would continue to be shocked if it isn't Rosen.
At running back, Paul Perkins looks much the same as he looked this spring. Nate Starks looks like he's lost another few pounds, which has continued to make him a little faster and a little more explosive. He had one really nice run where he out ran several defensive backs for a touchdown.
Both freshman running backs had nice moments, but we were actually more impressed with what we saw from Bolu Olorunfunmi. He actually caught the ball well out of the backfield, and we wouldn't be shocked if he told us he spent every waking moment catching balls this offseason. Physically, he looks like he could play this year. Sotonye Jamabo looks really long, and he had some nice moments, especially when he caught the ball out of the backfield on swing passes. It's going to be impossible to judge him as a running back until they're in pads and hitting, though.
Mossi Johnson continued to work out as the starting slot receiver, with Devin Fuller continuing to play outside receiver. Stephen Johnson looked very quick and fast, and had one nice play where he bobbed and weaved his way through the defense after a short catch. Alex Van Dyke has continued to fill out and looks, physically, very little like the player who got nicknamed "Bambi" last fall for his skinny legs. Jordan Payton has continued to put on muscle in his upper body and looks great physically.
On the defensive line, the first string was basically the same as in spring (Takkarist McKinley, Kenneth Clark, and Eddie Vanderdoes), but the second-string saw Eli Ankou jump in at nose tackle after he sat out the spring. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner and Matt Dickerson lined up on either side of him. McKinley continues to look great physically, and he too has probably added a few more pounds since the spring.
Rick Wade looks bigger physically than I was expecting, but that's about all you can really say about a defensive lineman before the pads come on. He's probably more like 240 or 245 than the 230 or 235 I was expecting to see after seeing him last year.
The linebackers were the same group as in spring, with Aaron Wallace and Deon Hollins on the edges and Myles Jack and Kenny Young on the interior. The second string was interesting, with Kenny Orjioke looking healthy behind Wallace and Cameron Judge behind Hollins. Orjioke looks phenomenal physically, and we think he could definitely push Wallace if he has a nice fall camp.
The defensive backfield was also the same as it was at the end of spring, with Marcus Rios with the first string, and Ishmael Adams at nickel. It's definitely the case that Rios has risen to the top there, though, because when the second string base defense was in, Adams was with the second string at cornerback.
Octavius Spencer and Will Lockett are both getting their first looks at safety, and we generally liked what we saw out of both. Dechaun Holiday and Colin Samuel both started out at corner, and we'll say it right now: we would be absolutely stunned if Holiday sticks at corner long term. He looks huge, all of 210 or 215 pounds, and just doesn't move like a cornerback. He actually looks like he could pretty easily grow into a linebacker if he lets his body go the way it seems to want to go. Samuel had some nice moments.
The overall tempo for day one wasn't great, as a few of the players talked about after practice (videos coming). Much of that might simply have to do with the youth/inexperience at the most important position on the field (quarterback).
UCLA will practice again tomorrow at 3:00 P.M.
UCLA Football Monday Practice Report
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