Passing Game Struggles, Running Backs Don't

Apr. 5 -- The passing game struggled again Monday, with even Josh Rosen not having a good day, but the running game shined -- again...

The offensive passing game might have had its roughest day of the spring on Monday. 

Even Josh Rosen struggled.  

It wasn't until the very last 11-on-11 of the practice that Rosen connected on a decent amount of passes for a series.  

The receivers, too, as a result, didn't have a great day.  

The highlights: Theo Howard caught a TD pass on a broken play.  Rosen found Darren Andrews in the back of the endzone.  Fullback Cameron Griffin caught a little slip screen for a touchdown.  There was a nice wheel route to now-tight end Nate Iese.  Stephen Johnson caught an pass on an underneath route and showed some explosiveness to get it into the endzone for a short touchdown. Freshman quarterback Matt Lynch threw a great deep ball to a wide open Christian Pabico, which might have been the one deep throw completed on the day.  Those were a few of the completed throws, but there weren't many more. 

The running game, however, looked good.  The running backs, again, were very impressive -- all three: Sotonye Jamabo, Nate Starks, and Bolu Olorunfunmi.  Jamabo had a few great runs, one in particularly where he broke some tackles and bounced outside.   Starks is showing some nice shiftiness, and Olorunfunmi is exactly what he was when he was healthy last season, a very tough runner through a small space.  

One of the standout moments of practice is when DT-turned-FB Ainuu Taua tatooed linebacker Mique Juarez on a run through the middle. Jamabo, who was carrying the ball, sought out Taua after to high-five him. 

We have to say, we do like the offense working from the quarterback under center in an I or offset I, and then throwing off of play action.  

Perhaps the most interesting development on defense was freshman linebacker Lokeni Toailoa running with the 1s at middle linebacker for a while, and looking very instinctual at it. He, in fact, had an interception when he stepped in naturally on a slant.

Senior Isaako Savaiinaea was at first-string middle linebacker for most of the practice, and had a good day, getting a couple of tackles for loss and praise from linebacker coach Scott White.

Cornerbacks Denzel Fisher and Randall Goforth both had picks. 

In the OL/DL one-on-ones, the standout was probably sophomore right tackle Kolton Miller. He stoned defensive end Takkarist McKinley a couple of times.  JC DT Nick Terry was again impressive, showing some great quickness off the snap.  He also showed some great strength in bullrushing in the one-on-ones.  

McKinley, however, had an overall good practice, being in the backfield a couple of time during team drills. The other DL that stood out was Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, who also felt pretty comfortable in the backfield.  A guy who has had four good practices is defensive tackle Eli Ankou. He had a couple of tackles for loss, and made an impact on many running plays.

Now with UCLA playing more 4-3, defensive coordinator Tom Bradley looked very at home working a period with the defensive ends.  

Kenny Lacy was demoted to second string on the OL at left guard, and replaced by Najee Toran, who looked decent.  The two tackles, Miller and Conor McDermott, have been excellent, but the interior OL still has some work to do.  It will be interesting to see what happens when Texas transfer Jake Raulerson is added to the mix in fall. With how there has been some uncertainty inside, we'd have to think he'd have a really good chance to come in and start, the question is -- where he he starts at center. Scott Quessenberry looks to be settling in there.  We'd expect both to start, one at guard, and which one to be determined. So that leaves one more guard spot to be fought for by Lacy, Toran, Poasi Moala, who hasn't so far had a great spring, and the injured Tevita Halalilo.  It might even be interesting to see if OL coach Adrian Klemm, in an attempt to get his best five on the field, gives Andre James, who looks to be the left tackle of the future, a shot at guard. 

The installation on both sides of the ball continues.  A BRO on the message boards asked about screens recently, and Monday was a day they clearly installed screens into the offense. On defense, it was our first look at nickel, with Octavius Spencer getting a chance there with the 1s, now that Ishmael Adams is a wide receiver. 

Freshman kicker J.J. Molson made three of four from 24, 34 and 41, while walk-on Andrew Strauch made all four. Molson, however, has more distance on his kicks. 

As Jim Mora said after practice, it's doubtful any of the injured will partcipate in practice. Cornerback Marcus Rios, too, spent a day with the injured.  

Running back Steven Manfro, who had worked though many injuries, including multiple ones to his shoulders, was trying to return this spring, but he re-injured his shoulder and announced his retirement on Twitter. 

Many ex-players attended practice, including Maurice Jones-Drew, Marcedes Lewis, Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks, Matt Ware, Manuel White, Ryan Nece, Cassius Marsh, Alterraun Verner, Patrick Cowan, Kevin Prince, Corey Paus, Kevin Brehaut, Shaquelle Evans, Akeem Ayers, Jarrad Page, Reggie Carter, Malcolm Jones, and more. 

Recruits at Practice


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