It was a bit of a slower-paced practice on Thursday, with the team coming out in just shorts and shoulder pads.
The offense had another decent day on Thursday. There were some moments of miscommunication like you'd expect with a new offense in its third week, with receivers running the wrong routes, or running backs lining up the wrong way, but for the most part it seemed that the skill positions were in sync with the quarterback for most of the day.
The offensive line was back to the Conor McDermott, Najee Toran, Scott Quessenberry, Poasi Moala, Kolton Miller look that it's been for much of the spring, with Kenny Lacy moved back to second-string. It was a pretty good day for the first-string offensive line in pass protection, with the few sacks and hurries for UCLA's defense coming mostly due to good coverage downfield.
Randall Goforth also made his return to the practice field, supplanting Octavius Spencer for much of the practice as one of the first string corners. And, as has become customary, Isaako Savaiinaea took his turn with the ones today at middle linebacker, with Kenny Young spending most of his time with the 2s. That competition seems like it could extend into fall camp.
Stephen Johnson once again got some considerable work at cornerback, and it was another up-and-down day. He'll need some time to get comfortable on that side of the ball. He got worked pretty good by Alex Van Dyke in his first rep of one-on-ones, but looked better after that.
We've talked a bit about how surprisingly good Ainuu Taua looks running routes, but today it was a different fullback who looked great in pass-catching drills, this time Cameron Griffin. He made one crazy spinning, twisting, one-handed catch down the sideline that probably pushed him out of bounds, and then made another nice over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone. He has pretty soft hands, and great body control.
The tight ends also had a nice day. Austin Roberts seemed to have a real breakout day in the passing game, and it looks like the quarterbacks have become very comfortable with him. He had one really nice play in 11-on-11, making a leaping grab over safety William Lockett for a touchdown, and had another touchdown later in the period as well. Nate Iese had a nice touchdown catch as well, getting a great release off the line and then beating both Lokeni Toailoa and his brother Leni Toailoa to the corner of the end zone for the score.
UCLA experimented with its "big" offensive package today, with multiple fullbacks and tight ends worked into the formation. It's tough to make out how successful it would be in a game since the team wasn't even in full pads today, but it'll be interesting to see how those sorts of formations evolve over the coming months.
Ishmael Adams continued his great camp, making another explosive play out of a nothing drag route and turning it into a 25-yard touchdown. He looks like he's regained some of that open-field playmaking ability that made him such a dynamic threat as a kick returner two years ago.
Two defensive backs who haven't had great camps, Dechaun Holiday and Denzel Fisher, both made some nice plays today. Fisher closed really well on a deep ball from Mike Fafaul to Theo Howard, and batted the ball away at the last minute, while Holiday made a great over-the-shoulder interception during skeleton.
The backup quarterback competition actually could end up pretty interesting. Fafaul hasn't looked great the last couple of days, with his arm not getting quite enough juice on the ball much of the time. Matt Lynch, on the other hand, has looked a bit more comfortable over the last couple of practices, and had probably his best throw of the spring today, throwing a 30-yard rope to Jordan Lasley down the right sideline. Factoring Devon Modster and Dymond Lee into that competition could make it a fun one to watch this fall.
The pass protection was better, but there were some snap issues. A few times, Josh Rosen looked like he would have had a better chance of kicking the ball for a completion than picking it up and throwing it. It has to be a big transition to go from an exclusively shotgun offense to one that mixes and matches between a lot of different formations throughout a practice.
Tight end Moses Robinson-Carr, out of Antelope Valley, was out at practice, and he actually got the red carpet treatment, with Jim Mora taking a quick break from practice to walk him around a bit and chat with him. Robinson-Carr looks great physically, and with Mora taking some time out of the practice day to spend some time with him, it's pretty obvious how seriously UCLA is recruiting the tight end position.
UCLA will be back out on the practice field Saturday morning.