UCLA took the Intramural Field for the second time this spring Thursday, again practicing in shorts and without pads.
It’s a big tough to take too much from it, especially with the amount of teaching that is going on during drills, but coaches and players sound pleased with how the first week has gone.
The offense was better Thursday than it looked in the opening practice, appearing a bit more comfortable and in sync. Josh Rosen was better, throwing a number of perfect balls, particularly deep down field and over the top, and showed good timing on crossing routes even if balls weren’t caught. He did a great job of keeping his feet moving and fighting to stay in the pocket rather than rolling out, which was somewhat of an issue last season, and new quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo said he’s been impressed with Rosen in all facets. Early entrant Matt Lynch also was better Thursday, making more accurate throws and working with Tuiasosopo on his motion.
As is usual early on in spring and summer, pass protection has been an issue, causing some disruption and speeding up the pace for Rosen. That was actually a major reason why the defense won the friendly game Thursday, causing the offense (and all of its assistants) to run the length of the field as punishment for losing.
When there was time for Rosen and Mike Fafaul to patiently step into their throws, the receivers were getting open. Alex Van Dyke followed up an impressive first practice with another fine showing, looking like a viable option out wide and displaying a good feel for running routes. Kenneth Walker was a deep threat and made a number of tough catches, which should be a promising sign given his past struggles to hang onto the ball. Freshman Theo Howard, again, had perhaps the top catch of the day, beating Denzel Fisher for a jump ball and coming down in bounds to earn another loud response from his sideline. Eldridge Massington made a number of plays up the middle as well and, when asked after practice, also praised Howard for his play-making ability. Jordan Lasley had a great catch up the seam that would have gone for a touchdown in live action.
On the defensive side, junior college transfer Nick Terry was a revelation of sorts Thursday. He was tremendously quick off the snap and actually went untouched a couple times in one-on-one drills, using an aggressive first step to get past blockers. Terry also made a couple plays against the run during the 11-on-11 period, getting the best of guard Josh Wariboko inside.
Keisean Lucier-South, again, looked like he has a chance to be a big contributor off the edge. Through the first two practices, the redshirt freshman has done a good job of maintaining leverage while keeping his momentum going toward the quarterback. On that same note, Josh Woods has supreme athleticism that flashes. He’s also very capable in coverage and his length creates real problems.
Jayon Brown was all around the football, moving well toward the sideline to cut off ball carriers. He has the instincts to be a leading tackler on this team.
The line battles actually got heated midway through, which is nothing out of the ordinary during these intense competitions. Matt Dickerson and Andre James got into a bit of a scuffle during one-on-one drills, with James apparently angry that Dickerson used a bull rush when the drill called for getting around -- not through -- the blocker. All the linemen jumped in to break it up and the blowup even got a laugh out of Adrian Klemm.
In the kicking competition at the end of practice, J.J. Molson made all four of his field goal attempts, with the longest being from about 40 yards and having plenty of carry to be good from another 10 or so. He was also good from 31, 33 and 37.
Other notes: Steven Manfro looked surprisingly nimble, looking good in space and confident when planting his feet to make cuts ... Eli Ankou had good reps in one-on-ones and overpowered blockers with his strength ... Isaako Savaiinaea took most of the reps at Mike linebacker with the first unit ... Deon Hollins practiced for about 50 minutes before leaving the field to get to class. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said he was confident Hollins would make an impact in this defense.null