Wednesday morning was probably the smoothest day for the offense this spring, and it really started with much improved pass protection. Rather than being under fire for most of a practice, Josh Rosen had time to throw, and it led to much smoother team periods where the offense could actually get in a rhythm and generate some drives, especially during the move-the-ball 11-on-11 periods.
The offensive line mixed and matched a little, but it looked like the main group of 1s were Conor McDermott, Kenny Lacy, Scott Quessenberry, Poasi Moala, and Kolton Miller. Miller had one of his best days of the spring in pass protection especially, and McDermott was also good on the other end. Moala gave up one sack, and there were still a few issues on the interior, but overall it was a better day inside as well.
Rosen, after looking a little out of sync on Monday, was much better on Wednesday. He had a couple of really good throws, including a nice deep ball to Kenny Walker when he had very nice protection coming out from his own goal line. It showed off his great recognition, and if the throw had just led Walker a bit more, it would have been an easy touchdown.
The running game actually wasn't quite as successful today, but it looked like that was more a product of the defense stepping up than anything. The interior defensive line had a nice day, with Jacob Tuioti-Mariner in particular making a number of nice plays. Kenny Young also had probably his best practice of the spring, and seemed to be playing with more decisiveness overall. He and Isaako Savaiinaea split reps with the 1s at middle linebacker.
Rick Wade had a nice practice, and helped to cave in the second-string offensive line a couple of times. He and Nick Terry looked very tough to deal with today. Terry looked special today, especially in 1-on-1s, where he ran right by Josh Wariboko on three straight reps. Terry and Wade were a little too much for the second-string OL to deal with during team drills.
UCLA continues to experiment with Stephen Johnson at cornerback, and he even worked in during team drills today. It's obviously going to take a little bit of time to shake off the rust, and he lost some reps today, but there's a lot of raw material to work with there. He showed flashes of it during 1-on-1s, and his athleticism allows him to break on the ball really well. It'll be interesting to see if he remains on defense the rest of the spring.
Jaleel Wadood moved back to safety primarily today, which put Octavius Spencer in at first-string corner. Despite all the mixing and matching, the defensive backs did pretty well during team drills. Demetrice Martin actually yelled over, "Hey David Woods, the defensive backs didn't give up a completion in the red zone", so there's that. Dechaun Holiday and William Lockett were two younger defensive backs who stood out positively today as well, with Lockett in particular showing a nice nose for the ball in the run game.
A former DB, Ishmael Adams, was probably the offensive player who caused the most damage in the defensive backfield today, actually. Adams had a fantastic play from about the 25-yard line, catching a ball in the flat and then beating everyone to the edge before running down the sideline for a touchdown. He looks really impressive with the ball in his hands, and it's obvious that UCLA is going to want to get him the ball in a variety of ways.
Among the running backs, we'd again say that Bolu Olorunfunmi was probably the best. He runs the hardest among the group of three, and looks a little bit bigger than last year. Sotonye Jamabo and Nate Starks both looked good as well, but Olorunfunmi has been especially impressive the last two practices, so it's worth noting.
UCLA did some fun double-tight stuff backed up against its own goal line today, and that was fun to watch. Obviously, that sort of formation is a work in progress, but UCLA had some success out of it as well, and seeing true play action for the first time in a few years is pretty cool to see.
One thing worth noting again: Ainuu Taua moves really well for a big guy. He had another wheel route during one-on-ones where he again almost made a circus catch over his shoulder. The running back/linebacker one-on-ones were interesting to watch. Young was probably the best of the middle linebacker in pass defense, but shockingly Lokeni Toailoa didn't look bad. Toailoa's mobility was the question mark coming into camp, but he's been a pleasant surprise. He looks like he's already changed his body a good deal.
Among the receivers, Darren Andrews looked very good again, Adams was probably the best, and Theo Howard made a few nice plays. There's a lot to like about Alex Van Dyke and Walker as well, but they both need to catch the ball with more consistency. Walker did a nice job of that today, and that made him stand out. If either of those guys can become consistent pass catchers by fall camp (a big if, for sure), those five could easily emerge as a nice rotation.
J.J. Molson had a pretty poor day kicking the ball, especially to close practice, while the walk-on, Andrew Strauch, made the majority of his kicks, including a long from about 47.
Among the injured, Jim Mora told us that Demetric Felton suffered a shoulder injury which will require surgery and could affect his season. He also said that Tevita Halalilo suffered a setback with his recovery and will require another surgery on his ankle. It's uncertain what the time frame for recovery would be.null