After the offensive line injuries yesterday, UCLA's first-string offensive line on Tuesday was an odd assortment of players. From left to right, UCLA had Kolton Miller, Kenny Lacy, Alex Redmond, Fred Ulu-Perry, and Caleb Benenoch running with the ones. Redmond was working at first-string center in Jake Brendel's absence (Brendel went out with a calf tweak) and actually did a pretty good job, particularly with his snaps. The interesting part is probably Ulu-Perry already slotting in ahead of Poasi Moala at right guard, which speaks to the level of play Ulu-Perry has already shown through eight days here.
The most significant news is that Conor McDermott is back at UCLA awaiting an MRI on his knee. When he went down yesterday, according to Jim Mora, he felt a small pop. Mora isn't expecting the MRI to reveal anything serious since McDermott experienced no swelling overnight, but that obviously bears monitoring. We like what we've seen out of Miller, but it would be a tall order for him to start at left tackle as a redshirt freshman.
Sticking with injuries, Bolu Olorunfunmi tweaked his ankle a little bit, but according to Mora, it isn't expected to keep him out long. He actually looked like he was doing a little bit of individuals before sliding over the bikes, and from what we saw, he wasn't limping too noticeably.
Working at kick returner today were Randall Goforth, Stephen Johnson, Devin Fuller, Roosevelt Davis, Mossi Johnson, Jordan Lasley, and Ishmael Adams. It's a pretty deep group of returners, and we've especially liked what we've seen out of the two Johnsons, Goforth, and, obviously, Adams. Stephen Johnson is the most explosive of the group, but Adams and Goforth especially have really good open field vision.
The quarterback competition really doesn't appear to be nearing to a close any time soon. Not only are Josh Rosen and Jerry Neuheisel still neck-and-neck, but Mike Fafaul is still getting a significant amount of team reps. Rosen and Neuheisel both had pretty good days today. With Rosen, as it has for much of camp, it just seems that he's a beat slow with his decisions, so oftentimes the throw will arrive just a half-second late. It's completely understandable -- he isn't yet completely in-tune with his receivers, so he's waiting an extra moment to see them get open rather than assuming they'll get open. Still, he'll have to get quicker at that, and that's probably one of the biggest steps he'll have to take.
Neuheisel had a good day, and you have to give him credit -- he's making some tough throws. He threaded a couple of very nice throws in between coverage today, and timed his throws generally well so that, even if they took a little bit longer to get to the receiver than Rosen's, he was in less danger of getting picked off because he released earlier in the route. He got picked off once, by Adarius Pickett, and had a couple of other throws that went a little wobbly, but overall he had a nice day.
Pickett had his best day as a defensive back, by far. He had two interceptions during a little two-on-three WR/DB drill, and did a great job of jumping routes and playing with aggression all day. When he can get up near the line of scrimmage and use his physicality, he can be a very good DB, and it was nice to see him have that kind of day.
Eddie Vanderdoes continues to look like a completely different player from a year ago. He has significantly improved his body, and it's noticeable in basically everything he does on the field. Having a healthy offseason was huge for him, and we have to think his improvements will show up on the field this year.
Nate Iese and Soso Jamabo
The more we watch Sotonye Jamabo, the more we think that he needs to just show a little more aggression in his running style. He runs a little tentatively, and doesn't yet seem to have a great feel for where holes are going to be, so he looks a little slow hitting them. As with so many high school running backs, he's gotten so used to being the fastest and best athlete that he's prone to bouncing outside even when the run is up the middle, and that's something that Kennedy Polamalu will obviously work to correct going forward.
We have to give a little love to a walkon receiver, Brad Sochowski. Since day one of camp, he's been making plays pretty much constantly, and today he had a really nice leaping grab in the corner of the endzone for a touchdown.
With the first-string OL pretty banged up, the second-string offensive line had three walk-ons on the left side and then Moala and Andre James on the right side. James has really come on over the last few days, and seems to have moved past Zach Bateman in the depth chart, at least for today. He had some nice moments, but also got turnstiled by Keisean Lucier-South again. Lucier-South has had a nice stretch of practices, and his quickness is a real issue for offensive tackles.
UCLA spent the last chunk of practice working on end-of-game situations, whether it was clocking in for a field goal, trying to score on a 4th and goal from the nine-yard line, or trying to complete a Hail Mary. Both Rosen and Neuheisel looked good during those situations.
Ka'imi Fairbairn had one of the best days that we can remember him having, making every kick that we saw and even burying a couple of long ones that were right around 50-yards. He hit a couple of 40-yarders that would have been good from 50 as well, which is good to see. As Mora talked about after practice, they're doing field goals a bit differently during practice, with Fairbairn taking a couple at the end of every team period rather than all at the end of practice, which has helped his leg stay fresh a bit more.
There have been some administrative changes to practices for Friday and Saturday. Friday, UCLA will practice at 5:00 p.m. and it will be a real, live scrimmage, with a white team and a blue team. Afterward, the team will have an autograph session. UCLA will still have a fan appreciation day for Saturday, but practice has been moved up to 9:00 a.m. Mora said they will have something special planned, but he didn't specify.
Tomorrow's practice will be another two-a-day, starting at 8:30 a.m. for practice No. 1 and 5:45 p.m. for practice No. 2.
UCLA Tuesday Practice Report
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