Soso Jamabo (Blair Angulo)

UCLA Fall Camp: First Week Review of the Offense

Aug. 15 -- We take a position-by-position look at how the UCLA offense has shaped up through the first week of fall camp ahead of its move to San Bernardino...

Quarterbacks

The big development at the position has been the steadiness of former walk-on Mike Fafaul, who certainly looks like the clear No. 2 behind Josh Rosen. There was the question following spring how the true freshmen would factor into competition, but Fafaul has done enough through Week 1 to solidify his spot on the depth chart. Devon Modster and Matt Lynch have each had good moments, with Modster particularly looking capable on the deep ball and Lynch showing improvement on his timing, yet Fafaul has stood out thanks to his ability to operate the offense. He's developed a good rhythm with the second-team receivers and, for the most part, has made smart decisions with the football, which would be the top priority if he were to see game action this season.

Mike Fafaul (Steve Cheng)

Rosen, meanwhile, has been good despite having to deal with a substantial amount of dropped passes. It's been interesting to monitor his work with position coach Marques Tuiasosopo on the field, as Rosen almost always seeks immediate feedback to correct even the smallest details with his timing, delivery or footwork. Rosen has also shown a good grasp of the new offensive system and gone through his progressions fairly well, looking far more comfortable rolling out of the pocket than he did last season. 

Running backs

Soso Jamabo has cemented his place as the starting tailback and, though he still runs a bit too upright, he's been more assertive in between the tackles than he was in spring and has a bit more power to his game than last year. The former five-star has that game-breaking ability when he gets to the second level, with the speed and wiggle to evade defenders, but he's also been a formidable option for Rosen out of the backfield and should be a factor through the air.

Soso Jamabo (Blair Angulo)

Nate Starks has displayed very good vision and patience, and Bolu Olorunfunmi has continued what he started in spring, combining to make the position a productive one. Perhaps the most notable revelation through the first week has been Olorunfunmi's improvement in catching the football. Newcomer Jalen Starks is a big power back that could be a situational contributor given his size and fellow newcomer Brandon Stephens has been impressive in spurts, though he's most certainly headed for a redshirt year.

Fullbacks

With blocking packages becoming much more prevalent in Kennedy Polamalu's offense than they were under Noel Mazzone, it's made former linebacker Cameron Griffin an important piece heading into the season. He has fared well given his physicality and thirst for contact, but Griffin has also looked capable in the pass game as an underneath outlet for Rosen and the other quarterbacks. The backup, Ainuu Taua, had probably two of the bigger plays of camp thus far, using his overpowering size to level a helpless cornerback on a catch-and-run and, later, sneaking out of the backfield to beat a linebacker to the end zone on a wheel route. Both should see their share of playing time in different packages.

Ainuu Taua (Steve Cheng)

Offensive line

The big news came midway through the week when assistant coach Adrian Klemm ended the talk of potential position battles at the guard spots, naming Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala the starters along with center Scott Quessenberry and tackles Conor McDermott and Kolton Miller. The group as a whole has been rather impressive given how much it struggled early on in spring, but it's been evident that they made strides in the summer. Lacy looks noticeably bigger and stronger, and doesn't appear to have lost any of his flexibility since he's been able to pull nicely. Moala, no longer hampered by hand injuries, has also been a bright spot of sorts, particularly in pass protection.

The depth, of course, remains the big issue. Andre James would likely be the top option at the tackle spots, with walk-on Cristian Garcia behind him for that role. At guard, Najee Toran and Josh Wariboko have worked with the second unit. Alex Akingbulu is one newcomer at the position that has opened some eyes, though physically he's not quite ready to contribute and needs at least a year to bulk up. Paco Perez, who earned rave reviews during summer workouts, has not practiced as he recovers from a knee injury suffered in high school.

Kenny Lacy

Tight ends

Nate Iese is the starter at the spot after moving around quite a bit throughout his college career. He and Austin Roberts have been too inconsistent catching the football, though, despite looking solid in the run game. Iese has the ability to high-point the football and should create some matchup problems for linebackers, but he has to do more to get open consistently. Roberts, on the other hand, has good speed but, again, probably a bit too up and down, which could be a concern since Rosen relied on Thomas Duarte so much last season.

The newcomers to the position, Jordan Wilson and Caleb Wilson, have been better than anticipated as pass catchers. Jordan Wilson has a good frame and looks physically ready, but he might have some way to go as a route runner. Caleb Wilson, a former quarterback, seems to be developing nicely given his athleticism in open space. Walk-on Giovanni Gentosi has worked with the twos and probably has set himself up to have a role this season, showing good hands in passing drills.

Josh Rosen to Nate Iese (Steve Cheng).

Wide receivers

UCLA has a major void following the departures of Duarte, Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller, and that concern is no closer to being remedied through the first week due to the ongoing struggles of veteran Eldridge Massington, who has had a case of the drops.

Darren Andrews is the leading returning receiver and has done well working the slot with the first-team offense in some packages, while Kenny Walker has continued to be a deep threat and shown better hands. Theo Howard, the early enrollee, missed a majority of the first week due to a hamstring injury, but Alex Van Dyke and Mossi Johnson have done enough to prove that it's a deep group, even if the star quality might not be there. Van Dyke has the size to be a matchup nightmare in the red zone, though he has fought the football quite a bit. Johnson looks fully healthy and might be unmatched at the position from an athleticism standpoint.

Alex Van Dyke

Ishmael Adams has stated his case, too, looking unguardable at the slot and getting open with ease. He has stayed after practice every day to work on his hand-eye coordination and it appears to be paying off. Jordan Lasley has been known as a great practice player the last couple years and he's had some really good moments the first week. Audie Omotosho, the other four-star freshman, has looked smooth in his route running and shown a reliable set of hands but, like Damian Alloway, might be in line for a redshirt year.

It's a good-looking group as a whole, but the go-to guy has yet to emerge.


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