Nate Meadors (Photo: Steve Cheng)

UCLA DBs Win Monday Night Practice

Aug. 15 -- While it was a very uneven practice offensively, the UCLA secondary really shined, in the one-on-ones and team drills, essentially making it difficult for the offense to execute...

Of course, the biggest news of the night was that linebacker Mique Juarez never made it to the practice field. 

We had sources that told us earlier in the day he intended to practice. Coach Jim Mora said in an afternoon radio interview he would practice. And Juarez tweeted from one of his Twitter accounts that he was in San Bernardino and was looking forward to practice. 

But he no-showed.

The second practice of the day was in full pads, and it wasn't greatly sharp offensively, but good defensively.

You'd have to say that the UCLA secondary won the practice. They looked fantastic in 1-on-1s, they smothered passing lanes in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7, and forced numerous coverage sacks.  Sophomore cornerback Nate Meadors was especially good, stopping down just about everyone he faced in 1-on-1s, and he's consistently matched up against UCLA's first-string WRs. He showed great maturity and instincts in staying with his man, and does so with great fluidity and balance.  Senior corner Fabian Moreau was also very good in one-on-ones, and back-up senior corner Marcus Rios used his physicality to body up receivers at the line. True freshman corner Keyon Riley surprised a bit by how good he was in the one-on-ones also.  And you have to give credit to Charles Dawson, the walk-on who has seemingly been at UCLA for this entire century; he had a good night in coverage.  Sophomore safety Octavius Spencer also flashed, getting in a couple of nice break-ups.  Senior safety Tahaan Goodman had a good break-up on a wheel route to fullback Ainnu Taua that prevented a touchdown. 

The play of the night came from sophomore safety Adarius Pickett when he perfectly timed jumping a slip route for a pick.

There really is a good amount of talent in the secondary. When you see two big-time high school recruits, DeChaun Holiday and Brandon Burton, as the third-stringers at safety, you know there's good depth on the roster. 

The DBs were so good they disrupted the offense the entire night. Quarterback Josh Rosen struggled to find an open receiver in team drills, hesitating quite a bit, with the DL getting a good amount of coverage sacks. In his first two 11-on-11 periods he went two for five.  Toward the end of practice he was better, especially in one 7-on-7 series when he went five for five.  In that series, he threaded a perfect ball to a well-covered Alex Van Dyke on a slant, and then hit Jordan Lasley for a touchdown on a well-led out pattern. 

Back-up QB Mike Fafaul again had a good practice. In his first two 11-on-11s, Fafaul went 7 for 9, and 5 for 5 on one series.  Fafaul, too, threaded some needles, hitting Darren Andrews in a very small, closing window, and he did it with Andrews clearly being his secondary receiver. 

Fafaul has been more productive in just about every practice over Rosen, but you have to consider Fafaul is benefitting from more open receivers running the second-string offense.  There were a few wide-open targets tonight that Rosen just simply isn't getting. 

Freshman quarterback Devon Modster continued to get third-string reps, with freshman Matt Lynch getting time after him. Both had their moments, In fact, in one 11-on-11, Lynch went 4 for 4, and finished it off with a slant to freshman receiver Audie Omotosho, who used one move to take it up the sideline for a touchdown.  in one-on-ones, freshman receiver Damian Alloway also made an athletic over-the-shoulder, one-handed catch in the endzone for a touchdown, 

Caleb Wilson (Photo: Steve Cheng)

The offense is definitely looking to exploit its fullbacks and tight ends in short swing passes and underneath routes.  Tight end Nate Iese was a consistent target, as was sophomore tight end Caleb Wilson. 

Andrews again had a good practice, catching balls from both Rosen and Fafaul, appearing like he could be a go-to option.  Stephen Johnson also had a nice night, benefitting from some open real estate and good throws from Lynch. 

The offense, though, did have some execution issues.  It appeared there were some problems getting personnel and plays in, and Mora let the offensive sideline know about it.  Back-up center Markus Boyer had a couple of miscues, and then after one muffled snap, Mora made him run. Another walk-on, Gyo Shojima, took over his reps for the period. 

We want to give a little shout-out to fifth-string tailback Kahlil Muhammad, the 5-8 walk-on who is a workhorse in practice, and was again Monday night. 

Tailback Nate Starks ran the ball well, especially in the red zone.  Freshman Brandon Stephens continued to look good, and in fact looked like he was running with more confident Monday night.  On a goal line, jumbo freshman tailback Jalen Starks was stopped behind the line by a penetrating Isaako Savaiinaea, but he kept his momentum and scored. 

Other than the DBs, the defensive line had a good practice, with defensive end Takkarist McKinley picking up where he left off, with virtual sacks and tackles for loss, and back-up defensive tackle Nick Terry getting a couple of big stops. 

Middle linebacker Kenny Young probably stood out the most among the linebackers, with some nice stops, particularly showing some good pursuit on stretch runs. 

In a punt coverage drill, Iese had Mora laughing with the way the senior tight end was literally picking up blockers and throwing them aside. 

Offensive lineman Andre James suffered an injury and spent some time in the injury tent but details weren't known.

On the sideline with the conditioning crew continued to be WR Theo Howard (hamstring), DE Marcus Moore (back) and offensive lineman Paco Perez (knee).  

Both defensive end Deon Hollins and fullback Cameron Griffin are out due to concussion, with Hollins expected to return sometime while the team is still in San Bernardino. 

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