Ishmael Adams (Photo: Steve Cheng)

Uneven Wednesday; Two Standout Players

Aug. 17 -- The offense was a bit rough again in its execution, while Josh Rosen looked good in individual drills. A couple of receivers are stepping up, but the two real stars of the practice were on the defensive side of the ball...

Starting left guard Kenny Lacy injured his left knee and had it wrapped in cellophane at the trainers' tent. He walked off on it. 

Receiver Alex Van Dyke was at practice, and went through drills initially, but then didn't participate. 

Freshman receiver Theo Howard returned to practice fully. 

The practice was in full pads, and fairly uneven for the night. There were a good number of team periods, with down and distance and referees. There were some problems again getting the correct plays and packages in, and there were some delay calls and illegal motions.  Head coach Jim Mora was fairly calm about it, though.

Josh Rosen looked sharp in drills, one-on-ones and 7-on-7s, but struggled again in 11-on-11s, not able to find open receivers and having to scramble often -- too often. .  The best throw of the night was the first one in 1-on-1s, when he hit Kenny Walker on a deep ball in stride for a touchdown.  

It appeared Matt Lynch might have gotten more reps with the 3s tonight than Devon Modster. One thing interesting about Lynch is that he's pretty athletic and quick.  Out of a zone read, he scored a touchdown.  

Some receivers are separating themselves -- literally and figuratively: Darren AndrewsIshmael Adams and Theo Howard get open the most consistently.  Jordan Lasley got into the rotation more with the absence of Van Dyke, and had some moments, looking strong on comebackers where he can use his strength to shield defenders. 

More packages and plays are being installed to exploit Adams, lining him up in various places on the field.  As of right now, he's probably UCLA's most effective receiver.  He showed great concentration in catching a deep ball through the outstretched arms of Tahaan Goodman, and just consistently gets open.  One cut and he has a few yards of separation.

Andrews is right there with Adams. He's probably not as explosive, but he has some good quicks, and has refined ball-catching skills. He caught at least a few nice crossing routes Monday, and hauled in a TD pass in the corner of the endzone on a well-thrown ball from Mike Fafaul.  

Tight end Austin Roberts got in a rhythm in one period, catching a few underneath routes with precision, as did fellow tight end Nate Iese

The top trio of running backs -- Sotonye JamaboNate Starks and Bolu Olorunfunmi -- got some relief tonight, with the bottom of the running back depth chart shouldering the bulk of the carries.  Brandon Stephens had some moments, and looks like he's starting to get even more comfortable, unleashing some new cuts in the last couple of days.  He had some nice yardage after a dump-off where he used a couple of moves to get up the sideline, and scored a touchdown on a stretch run where he sliced through a small hole.  Walk-on Khalil Muhammad had a few nice runs.  The 250-pound freshman tailback Jalen Starks came around end on a stretch play and had a huge collision with Goodman.

Before Lacy went out, one 11-on-11 period was all 3rd- and 4th-and-ones, and the offense got every first down except one.  That got the offensive sideline pretty pumped up. 

Najee Toran stepped into the starting OL at the left guard spot in the absence of Lacy. 

The standouts overall for the practice were defensive end Takkarist McKinley and defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes. In one 11-on-11 drill, the two traded off making big plays. Vanderdoes had a sack, and then Takk had a sack. Both were explosive in the OL/DL one-on-ones.  

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner has become the swing guy on the DL.  He'll line up at defensive end and then move inside at the three-technique in certain situations. He had a sack and a tackle for loss tonight. 

Defensive line coach Angus McClure is definitely mixing and matching his personnel in different situations.  Defensive end Rick Wade showed out tonight, getting some nice stops on runs and some penetration on passing downs.  He also had his way with Andre James a couple of times in the one-on-ones. Freshman DT Boss Tagaloa appears to be a definite fixture on the second-string DL. 

Boss Tagaloa

In the on-on-ones, Nick Terry bullrushed Toran a couple of times, but then Toran regrouped and contained Terry. 

You can start to see some fatigue setting in with the younger guys.  Breland Brandt, in the OL/DL match-ups got the best of freshman OT Alex Akingbulu, with Akingbulu looking sluggish moving his feet compared to just a couple of days ago. 

It was Kenny Young's turn to run with the second-string at middle linebacker, but he made the most of it, getting some big stops in run pursuit. 

Back-up safety Adarius Pickett again looked good in run support and coverage, getting a couple of near-picks.  It was generally another good night for the secondary, even though Adams and Andrews won most of their on-on-one reps.  

The punt returners were Adams, Howard, Stephens, Randall Goforth, and Damian Alloway Monday night.   

Kicker J.J. Molson was 4 for 5 on his kicks, missing the 48-yarder but making the 52-yarder. 


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