In a really disconcerting sequence in the latter half of UCLA's Monday evening practice, three starting offensive linemen went down: Alex Redmond, Jake Brendel, and Conor McDermott. We have no word on the extent of the injuries. McDermott appeared to be getting his leg stretched on the field, and didn't appear to have a considerable limp, though he did not return. We'll obviously have more soon on the extent and severity.
Fred Ulu-Perry worked in with the first string at center in Brendel's absence, while Kolton Miller filled in at left tackle and Poasi Moala filled in at right guard.
Prior to the spate of injuries, the offensive line actually had a pretty nice practice, particularly in the running game. Much of the 11-on-11 periods appeared to be focused on establishing a running game, and the first-string OL seemed to do a nice job of carving out territory for the running backs. Paul Perkins, Nate Starks, Bolu Olorunfunmi, and Roosevelt Davis all had really nice runs during 11-on-11.
That said, the defense looks like it has the potential to be really good, especially in pursuit. With Myles Jack and Kenny Young, UCLA's interior linebackers can cover a ton of ground and it's been very difficult for the offense to generate anything off of runs to the outside, which has limited Sotonye Jamabo's productivity, since that's clearly such a big part of his game. The defense also spent a healthy portion of practice blitzing, as has become customary during the team periods.
The quarterback competition is getting interesting, and we're leaning toward there actually being a real competition. Josh Rosen hasn't seized the job at this point. By our count, he's had one really good day, a string of average days, and one bad day, while Jerry Neuheisel has been more consistently average to above-average. Tonight, Rosen looked like he got the most reps, and probably the most with the ones, and it was a little up and down. On one play, he'd throw off-target or into coverage (as on the third play of practice, when he lasered an interception into Ishmael Adams), and then on the next, he'd make a throw no one else can make, like a deep out to the sideline or a play-action bomb to a streaking Kenny Walker. Neuheisel made fewer bad decisions, but also missed some throws, and doesn't have the same kind of tools that Rosen has. In short, neither guy is running away with the job. We had Rosen as the clear-cut leader coming out of spring, but the situation has become decidedly more muddled through the eight days of fall.
Rosen seemed to embrace the idea of being more of a playmaker tonight, actually taking off and running a few times when his first couple of options weren't open. It's apparent that the variety of defenses Bradley is throwing out have caused some issues for Rosen, and he was caught a few times trying to adjust the play without enough time to do so.
Chris Clark got more work in individual drills, and he certainly moves well for his size. He has a brace on his knee, as Tracy noted this morning, but it doesn't seem to be inhibiting him much. If he can get into pads at some point this week, it'll be really interesting to see what he can do in actual 11-on-11 situations. Our sense is that he lost some weight while dealing with mono, so it might take him some time to be where he'd like to be physically.
Octavius Spencer made the play of practice, intercepting a Mike Fafaul throw by diving over the top of the intended receiver, catching the ball, then basically doing a flip when his foot caught the shoulder pad of the receiver he jumped over. He came up with the ball and was mobbed by the rest of the defense. Spencer and Nathan Meadors both have really natural instincts for the safety position that make them seem like older players than they are.
Andre James was working with the 2s at right tackle for a stretch today, replacing Cristian Garcia. James has improved through the last few days, and it was nice to see him getting a little bit more work in 11-on-11 periods.
Kenny Lacy and Eddie Vanderdoes had a couple of nice battles in one-on-ones, with Lacy taking one and Vanderdoes taking the other. Lacy has gotten considerably stronger in the last year, and he already moved his feet well, and the combo makes him much tougher in pass protection. Vanderdoes' improved quickness is obvious, though, and he has helped to make UCLA's defensive line much more potent through the first week of practice here.
Fred Ulu-Perry is still struggling with snaps a bit, which is understandable given that it's something he really hasn't done much of, but he's impressive in basically every other facet of the game. He's a rock in pass protection, and actually did really well against Kenneth Clark today, and the offense didn't seem to miss much of a beat when he was run blocking in place of Brendel.
Rick Wade continues to stand out physically, while Keisean Lucier-South looked extremely quick during one-on-ones, flying around James at one point for a sack. Cameron Griffin also had some nice moments today, and looks like he could find a role as a pass-rusher at least this season. Takkarist McKinley also had one of his better practices, and looked pretty tough to deal with on the edge during team drills.
UCLA will practice again tomorrow at 3 p.m.
UCLA Monday Evening Practice Report
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