UCLA was back in spider pads Tuesday afternoon for its third practice in San Bernardino, where temperatures reached 103 degrees by the time the horn sounded for warmups.
It was another relatively light one as opposed to when the team is in full pads, with very minimal tackling and players doing their best to stay on their feet. There was also about a 10-minute water break under the shade of the surrounding pine trees at around the midway point of practice, and it appeared to pay off as it didn't look like anyone encountered heat-related issues.
The big news was the return of true freshman Theo Howard (hamstring), who had missed nearly a full week of action and participated fully Tuesday, going through drills and making a couple nice grabs in traffic. He did exit with what looked like a right ankle injury, though, and was tended to at the trainers' table, but it didn't appear serious. His presence, of course, is considered paramount for a position group that continues to search for consistent playmakers.
Ishmael Adams has essentially cemented his place in the conversation with a strong camp and that continued Tuesday, making perhaps the play of the afternoon on a deep ball he tipped to himself for a touchdown. Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu smiled when he was asked about Adams in the post-practice interview, saying he's had fun incorporating Adams into the offense. Adams has proven to be very dynamic with the ball in his hands and that was evident again on a designed screen play that featured 6-foot-9 offensive tackle Kolton Miller paving the way out in front of him.
True freshman place kicker J.J. Molson was tested at the conclusion of practice and drew a big reaction from the sideline when he sank a 50-yard field goal, going five for five before missing a couple feet left from 54 yards out. He had plenty of leg on that one, though. Andrew Strauch, the lefty redshirt sophomore, made all of his field goals, hitting from about 50 to cap his sequence.
The special teams unit worked on punting again and true freshman Austin Kent unloaded a few beauties with good hang time. It should be noted, too, that scholarship long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker has been money all camp along with Kent serving as holder on field goal attempts.
Josh Rosen and Mike Fafaul took a majority of the 11-on-11 and situational reps, as has been the case throughout camp. Rosen, in fact, seemed to be specifically working on his mechanics in the pocket, making off-balance throws and switching arm angles quite often. Without full pads and the defensive line able to put pressure consistently, it looked like Rosen made the most of the situations to make difficult passes under duress.
Fafaul had another good practice and Polamalu said he has been pleased with the smart decisions he makes with the football in his hands. There was a great throw Fafaul made to his left to the far sideline, anticipating that Alex Van Dyke would break on an out route, but the ball was dropped. Polamalu and Marques Tuiasosopo applauded him for the read. Fafaul and Van Dyke later connected for a touchdown on a beautifully thrown ball.
The running backs had a good practice, too, and Bolu Olorunfunmi particularly stood out in one-on-one pass drills against the linebackers. His hands have improved tremendously since he arrived on campus and it's going to be a key component for him getting snaps this fall. In one rep, Olorunfunmi reached over true freshman Krys Barnes to come down with the ball in the corner of the end zone.
Aside from Adams, leading returning receiver Darren Andrews stood out most among that group. He dropped his first pass, but bounced back to put on a show in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11, at one point catching a sidearm pass from Rosen before turning up field for a big gain. Andrews also put Will Lockett on skates in one-on-one battles and also made an impressive diving catch on an out route toward the sideline. He added a diving touchdown catch from Rosen.
Eldridge Massington has looked better in San Bernardino than he did last week in Los Angeles, and he had probably his best rep of camp Tuesday, turning Fabian Moreau around on a skinny post that went for a touchdown.
A few interceptions highlighted the defense's effort. Dechaun Holiday picked off Matt Lynch in the back of the end zone on a 4th-and-goal from the 10, returning it for a good gain. Jaleel Wadood also had an impressive interception matching up against Walker in one-on-ones to prevent a touchdown, and Nate Meadors made an acrobatic interception near the sideline and appeared to keep his feet in bounds. The first-unit secondary has been steady all camp.
Eddie Vanderdoes had one of the better plays along the defensive line, bursting into the backfield to record a phantom sack on Rosen and force a field goal attempt. Boss Tagaloa continued to get reps with the second team and has shown enough that he should factor into that rotation this season. He teamed up with Josh Woods for a big tackle-for-loss on running back Brandon Stephens during one drive.
With Cameron Griffin (concussion) not in San Bernardino, fullback Ainuu Taua continued pulling double duty in getting work with the ones and twos.
True freshman quarterback Dymond Lee got his first look in San Bernardino, completing one of four passes in half skelly.
The Bruins are scheduled to hold another two-a-day on Wednesday, with the first session set to kick off at 8:30 a.m.