Wednesday Morning UCLA Practice Report

Aug. 19 -- It's a good practice, with a good QB showing, but the edge probably going to the D...

It was a full-pad practice for Wednesday morning, and overall a pretty crisp, good one.

Dressed but only working with the strength and conditioning personnel were:

-- Offensive tackle Conor McDermott. McDermott had an MRI on his knee last night and it showed no ligament damage. He's expected back to practice within a few days.

-- Center Jake Brendel

-- Freshman running back Bolu Olorunfunmi

-- Receiver Aaron Sharp

Defensive end Takkarist McKinley left the field holding his head, so it could be either a concussive issue or heat-related.

It’s probably just as beneficial that McDermott and Brendel were slightly injured and now sit out some practices – diminishing the chances that they get seriously injured. There are probably three players on offensive that are pretty close to indispensable – McDermott, Brendel and Paul Perkins -- and there is a threshold of diminishing returns with them practicing, given the risk of injury.

The quarterbacks, as a group, had a pretty decent day. There was, again, a great deal of game simulation in the 11-on-11, and the quarterbacks managed some solid drives. Josh Rosen had a better day than recent ones, and definitely had different and more positive energy level and body language. That is, until Jim Mora got into him a little in the last period of the practice, a Hail-Mary walk-through. But for a Mora episode it was mild, and seemed even a bit calculated. Rosen did some spring practice-type Rosen things, like instinctually throwing to a back shoulder or ducking away from pressure for a dump off today. He did throw into coverage a few times, and still was slow in his decision-making, with Tom Bradley’s defense throwing a great deal of pressure at him. It’s probably very good for the freshman quarterback that he’s being challenged, by the coaching staff and the other quarterbacks on the roster, and probably better now than later.

Jerry Neuheisel was about the same in terms of his efficiency Wednesday morning, making the throws he needs to in order to move the chains.

Perhaps the standout offensive player this morning was wide receiver Eldridge Massington. He was the guy who made that back-shoulder catch that Rosen threw, and he made another diving catch on a deep ball, and generally dominated his defenders with his size.

The offensive line was the same as it was yesterday with the two starters out, and at times looked a little over-matched by the first-string DL. Kolton Miller, the redshirt freshman filling in for McDermott at left tackle, has his moments, but there are times when Deon Hollins and other edge-rushers can get a step on him. It’s especially difficult with so much pressure coming from different spots, with some stunts and delays.

Other offensive standouts were the entire Y-receiver group. Thomas Duarte is absolute money, just too big to be covered by a nickel in the slot. He looks like he’s becoming Rosen’s go-to guy. Tyler Scott, too, is having a very good fall camp, also being very physical and catching everything. Freshman Austin Roberts has done so well, they gave Duarte and Scott some time off and Roberts worked with the 1s in team. He didn’t do much in those periods, but had some nice moments in the drills.

Devin Fuller, now that he’s used to playing on the outside, is so much more at home there. He’s a better weapon when he’s running straight ahead rather than horizontally along the line of scrimmage and having, then, to turn up field.

Kenny Walker had another good day. He had one drop, but looks quite a bit more solid with his hands, and had a few reps where he should great quickness in the short-area and then blew by defenders down the field.

While Sotonye Jamabo hasn’t really flashed much so far in camp, he might have had his best day Wednesday morning, looking a little quicker and physical. He did, though, had to be lined up correctly by Rosen a number of times.

Perhaps the biggest negative for the offense were the number of penalties --- with Mora pointing out that the offense had a number of delay-of-game calls in the various game-situation periods.

You’d probably have to give the edge to the defense on the day, however. With McKinley out, Matt Dickerson filled the shoes at defensive end, and was very impressive. There were a number of reps where he used strength, quickness and a nice move to dip under the blocker. With McKinley out, Dickerson could seize the opportunity for the starting spot.

Hollins had a few virtual sacks on the day. Perhaps the linebacker who had the best day was Jayon Brown, with a couple of sacks and some nice break-ups. In the one-on-one drills in which linebackers match up against running backs, he’s one of the best cover linebackers. Cameron Judge, too, had a very good day, breaking up a couple of passes and getting a sack. Isaako Savaiinea also made some very nice plays, being very good at blowing up swing passes. Cameron Griffin blew up a couple of runs. Keisean Lucier-South got a good amount of time as the rush DE/LB, and there were reps where he just ran around the tackle. Aaron Wallace had a good practice, getting a couple of stops for loss.

While the receivers made a few plays, for the most part the defensive backs had the edge on them in the team drills. There were picks by Jaleel Wadood, Fabian Moreau, Ishmael Adams, Octavius Spencer, Nate Meadors, Dechaun Holiday and Adarius Pickett. Pickett had a number of nice break-ups, too, and continues to make a case that he belongs as a DB and not a running back. He stood up Duarte after ne catch. Holiday had a very good day, making a number of plays. He had two successive break-ups where he almost had a pick, and then on the very next play stepped in front of a receiver for one. Spencer’s interception might have been the DB play of the DB, swiftly stepping in front of short dump-off for a pick six. We have to continue to give credit to Denzel Fisher, too, who is having a very good camp – and had a good day, in both coverage and run support.

Tonight’s practice is at 5:45 p.m.

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