We are getting into the final days of fall camp out here in San Bernardino, and as such, we were due for a day like today. After about 40 minutes of practice, which seemed a little bit lethargic, Jim Mora stopped individual drills and had everyone go back to start the stretch lines over again -- essentially pressing the reset button on practice. The collective groan from the media echoed off the hills.
Other than those opening few moments, it was actually a pretty solid practice. The Bruins were in shorts and shoulder pads, so there wasn't a lot of live hitting, but there were some interesting things to watch in both individual drills and 11-on-11.
UCLA's defensive backs spent a long time doing one-on-ones as a group today, with one DB lining up as a receiver and one lining up in man coverage. It was really eye-opening to see the athleticism of some of these players. Ishmael Adams, Adarius Pickett, Octavius Spencer, Will Lockett, and, surprisingly, Tahaan Goodman all looked like they wouldn't miss too much of a beat if they switched to offense at some point. Spencer was impressive, at one point making a leaping grab over the top of Colin Samuel. Goodman's athleticism really shined during the period as well.
We have to say -- Lockett had a really nice practice today. As both a DB and a WR in that drill, he looked good. It was probably his best sequence so far in camp.
Pickett, though, was probably the best on both sides. He could easily make an impact as a slot receiver if UCLA felt like he was needed there, but he's also shown much more confidence as a DB in the last few practices. He's playing faster and doesn't seem to be thinking as much on the field, which is a very good sign.
Paul Perkins was probably the best offensive player today, looking very decisive in his cuts, as he usually does. He very much fits what Kennedy Polamalu wants in a running back, and his style has certainly been emulated by Nate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi, both of whom show real decisiveness when they run. It's particularly impressive from Olorunfunmi, because it's rare to see that sort of decisive running from a true freshman. Olorunfunmi had another good day, though he did have another fumble, which is something to monitor. His hands could use some work, both in terms of catching and carrying, but his attributes as a runner make him a net positive on the field.
The injured remained much the same today. In Takkarist McKinley's stead, Matt Dickerson and Jacob Tuioti-Mariner both worked in with the first string. Dickerson in particular seemed to have a nice practice, getting into the backfield a couple of times. We have continued to be impressed by Tuioti-Mariner's explosiveness, though. He looks so much more powerful in his lower body, and it's allowed him to become a pretty tough player to deal with from an offensive lineman's perspective.
UCLA spent the early portions of practice doing special teams work, with an emphasis on doing some onside-kick practice. That occupied a healthy portion of the first 20 minutes or so of practice. It's still always interesting to contrast the practices of the Mora era with those from the previous regimes, but one of the most distinct notes is the emphasis in practice on situations. In the last few days, we've seen 4th and long practice, 4th and short practice, end of game practice, Hail Mary practice, onside-kick practice, and a variety of other things of that nature.
During individual drills for the linebackers, both Keisean Lucier-South and Cameron Griffin stood out. Griffin, as we've noted before, is a really good athlete, and guys as big as he is (about 240 pounds) shouldn't be able to move the way he does. Lucier-South was more surprising, though. We've always seen him as more of a straight-ahead athlete, without a bunch of lateral agility, but he looked great back-pedaling and swiveling his hips today during drills. He also caused Zach Bateman and Andre James some real problems during 11-on-11. He might be a year and 15 pounds away from contributing at a super-high level, but he's had a nice camp.
Alright, onto the quarterbacks. As with most days out here, I had it as a pretty even showing between Josh Rosen and Jerry Neuheisel, maybe slightly favoring Rosen. Neuheisel was over-throwing a bit more than he usually does, and also had a few throws that just arrived too late and probably should have been picked off. Rosen actually did throw a pick, on a tipped drag to Devin Fuller that was thrown to Fuller's back shoulder, but was otherwise pretty good. He's not hitting the easy throws as well as he did in spring, and it just looks like a timing issue. Mike Fafaul was back to getting reps during the 11-on-11 period, and actually had one of the better throws of the day, a deep touchdown into the corner of the endzone.
Tyler Scott appeared to pull his groin on one deep throw from Rosen that he had to track back on toward the end of practice. No word yet if that's anything serious, but we didn't see him go back in afterward.
Sotonye Jamabo continues to lack that decisive style of running that we talked about above. It's going to be a learning process for him if he stays at running back, because Polamalu really does like his running backs to get up field quickly, and that's clearly not Jamabo's style of running. He's gotten a lot of time during practice, and has been pretty firmly in the running back rotation, but it looks like Olorunfunmi is starting to get the No. 3 reps.
A handful of defensive players really stood out in 11-on-11 for their pass rush, including Deon Hollins, Dickerson, Najee Toran, and Lucier-South. Each of them appeared to have sacks. The defense is much trickier than a year ago, with guys rushing from odd spots and using the big defensive linemen almost as screens. There seems to be a real plan to every blitz, rather than linebackers just running willy-nilly into offensive linemen.
Dechaun Holiday and Jordan Lasley had some nice matchups today, and we'd say Holiday actually got the better of the receiver. The more we watch Holiday, the more we think there's a decent chance he stays at corner, Despite his size, he plays with a nice edge and actually moves pretty well. If he gets much bigger, he could have issues, but if he stays close to his current size, he might be able to play there long-term.
The first practice tomorrow will be at 8:30 a.m. and it should be a pretty light practice. The evening practice, at 5:00 p.m., will be a real scrimmage, and afterward there will be an autograph session. If you wanted to catch one of the remaining practices in San Bernardino, that would be the one to attend.
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