UCLA closed its first practice of the fall Thursday morning, with the media only allowed to view the first 30 minutes of practice and then interview the coaches and players after practice.
The practice was light, with the coaches mainly running through game situations and doing more special teams work.
Freshman receivers Joe Cowan and Alex Ghebreselassie practiced more today, doing more individual work, while recovering from hamstring injuries. Freshman safety Chris Horton, who is also hindered by a hamstring, did a bit more work also. Freshman running back Derrick Williams continues to be held out due to his knee injury. Some veterans were in the redy, no-hit jerseys, but Head Coach Karl Dorrell said that none have serious injuries that could potentially keep them out of the opener against Colorado next Saturday.
"We have some guys banged up that are in redshirts but they practiced," Dorrell said. "But they're just trying to stay away from contact. Our health is actually pretty good at this point and hopefully nothing freaky happens between now and next Saturday."
More Comments from Karl Dorrell...
On Thursday's practice: "Practice went really well today. Players are starting to get focused. I saw a different frame of mind coming on the field today, and that was a positive change. We're trying to lock in at getting better at our systems, and doing some Colorado work. Getting ready to go, and freshen up our legs."
On specifically how the defense and offense did: "We didn't do much physical work today. It was a lot of assignment issues, a lot of preparation and down an distance. I thought the defense was pretty locked in on what we're trying to get accomplished, learning our assignments, having great execution and getting to the football without tackling but wrapping them up. We were doing that a lot better today. I was impressed with that. Offensively we're starting to get things timed up from a tempo standpoint by using a 25-second clock, getting the quarterbacks familiar with getting in and out of the huddle and understanding the time constraints. I thought for the first time doing both of those things today, getting into a game plan mode, it was very positive."
On using Asi Faoa at defensive tackle: "We're trying to get some depth on the defensive line. I think we're hoping to utilize Junior Lemau'u and Kevin Brown this year. So we're trying to get some people some rotation in there. Again, we'll have our depth chart done by tomorrow at sometime."
On how the quarterbacks performed in practice: "I was encouraged by how they managed the 25-second clock. There was only once or twice when the time ran out. Obviously you don't want that to happen at all. But for a first time doing it, they established a pretty good tempo at running the offense. And that's something we need to do so they understand it on game day. I was encouraged today."
On determining starters on special teams: "The punt returner is going to be Craig Bragg. I think for kick returners we're still looking at Maurice Drew heavily there, and also Akil Harris. And Tyler Ebell is back there, and some other guys, too. I think the ones, though, are Drew and Harris. The longsnapper is Riley."
On Matt Moore getting the majority of the reps today with the #1 offense: "Matt is still the one running with the #1 offense right now. He gets a few more reps every period than what Drew Olson gets. We're pleased with where both of them are right now. We just need to continue to now operate from a game standpoint. So we're still training those guys to learn the time constraints of a game that we have."
On the possibility of platooning, Dorrell first said it was still a possibility, but then said, "No, it will be one quarterback."
When asked when the starter will be named, he said, "Soon."
On whether UCLA is at an advantage playing Colorado, a team that has already played a game: "Sure we are. They have a game under their belt and have gone through a game format, where we haven't. The only thing we can do is try to manufacture those similar situations in practice. But you know how different that is when you're going into your first game away, with a crowd against you, and it's going to be loud, and all of those things. It's going to take some preparation on our part for getting our team ready for that. Yeah, we might be able to see them in terms of what they're going to do this Saturday. But they still have the greatest benefit of having a game under their belt. We know things aren't going to go quite so smoothly in our first game, just like it won't for them this coming weekend. Those are the issues that out-weigh everything else. Just having that experience."