Saturday marked the end of the two-week period of open practices as UCLA prepares for its Sept. 3 matchup against Texas A&M, and it also was the shortest session as the Bruins held a fan appreciation event at Cal State San Bernardino.
UCLA again worked out in spider pads and shorts with minimal contact ahead of its move back on campus. The offense wasn't particularly productive in team drills, failing to establish rhythm as receivers had several drops and the coverage down field was very good. Josh Rosen had to throw the ball away a few times despite having a few seconds to scan the field in the pocket.
Jaleel Wadood has had a steady two weeks manning one of the two starting safety spots with the first-team defense, and he made perhaps the best play of the afternoon, reacting quickly to a ball that was intended for Ishmael Adams in the end zone but was deflected by Adarius Pickett. Wadood then broke out to his left for a big gain down the sideline.
The defense again was without two of its most dominant linemen -- Takkarist McKinley (knee) and Eddie Vanderdoes (rest) -- but the replacements fared well. Keisean Lucier-South got into the backfield on one play and, after meeting fullback Ainuu Taua, made a heads up decision to reach over him and deflect a throw from Rosen. True freshman defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa also made a similar play, having the awareness to raise his arms when he was not going to be able to get to the quarterback and knocking down a pass.
Head coach Jim Mora said the team is looking good on the injury front. Vanderdoes had the last two days off, but it's a decision to preserve him since he's coming off last year's knee injury. Jacob Tuioti-Mariner (appendicitis) was back but not suited up as he continues to take antibiotics, with the plan to re-assess where he is in a couple days. Deon Hollins (concussion) is expected back Monday and Cameron Griffin (concussion) could also resume workouts next week.
Tight end Austin Roberts (nausea) was an observer Saturday and McKinley is expected back Monday.
Mora said the staff would continue to evaluate Dechaun Holiday at outside linebacker given that his skill set fits well at that position and the need to have another body at that spot.
Place kicker J.J. Molson was perfect on his field-goal attempts during the team portion, hitting a long of 40 yards, but Mora said he'd like to wait until the season to begin grading Molson and the other true freshmen specialists.
Rosen and the offense worked on some no-huddle concepts to pick up the tempo and moved the ball fairly well, with Adams making the best catch when he beat Randall Goforth on an out route. Adams has undoubtedly been the biggest game breaker among the receivers, and Mora said he was more impressed than surprised.
Three freshmen had some good moments as well. Devon Modster pulled the ball on a zone-read play and ran off tackle to his left for a big gain. Damian Alloway, who has shown steady improvement the last week, beat Pickett up the middle for a touchdown on a pass from Mike Fafaul. Middle linebacker Lokeni Toailoa is almost certain to play this season and continued his ascension Saturday by jumping a throw from Matt Lynch and nearly coming away with it.
Adams, Goforth, Brandon Stephens and Alloway rotated on punt return duty.
USC commit Stephen Carr, a five-star running back from nearby Fontana (Calif.) Summit, was in attendance.null