Josh Rosen

More on UCLA's Spring Practice Week 1

Apr. 10 -- With one week of UCLA spring practice in the books, we examine some of the storylines that we may have missed overlooked or just needed more emphasis in the week’s practice reports, like Mossi Johnson, the offense, and more...

1.  Mossi Johnson was nearly flawless while playing safety/defensive back

It was pretty wild watching Mossi Johnson casually switch from an offensive huddle to the defensive backfield in a matter of seconds on Thursday. On one play, he was running a post-corner; then, about a minute later, he was wearing a different-colored jersey and playing as a single-high safety on defense.

We’ve seen this juggling act before from Johnson – most notably back in fall camp, 2015. But this week was the first time where it legitimately felt like Johnson could permanently switch to defense.

The reason why? Because Johnson didn’t just flash for a couple plays – he consistently flashed in just about every moment where he was tested.

Over the course of his two spring practices playing defensive back this past week, Johnson didn’t appear to allow one long-yardage completion. In WR/DB 1-on-1s during Saturday’s practice, he bodied up the smaller Damian Alloway at the line of scrimmage, didn’t allow Alloway to break free over the middle, and then snatched a clean interception.

Then, during the 11-on-11 portion of Saturday, Johnson was out wide in single coverage against Stephen Johnson. This was the first time we’ve seen Johnson lined up out wide in a cornerback role, and he was tested right off the bat. Jedd FIsch dialed up a play-action bootleg that put Mossi Johnson and Stephen Johnson on an island outside the left hashes.

At first, the play looked to clearly favor the offense. That assumption was quickly proven wrong.

As the play-action bootleg unfolded, QB Devon Modster keyed in on his lone receiver to the bootleg side: Stephen Johnson. But Stephen Johnson just couldn’t break free from Mossi Johnson’s coverage – not even on a double move. With Mossi Johnson blanketing any possible passing lane, Modster had to pull the ball down and run for a short gain.

Johnson later punctuated his impressive Saturday practice with a solid pass deflection during the final session of 11-on-11s.

The bottom line is: Mossi Johnson has tremendous instincts playing DB. Whether it be single-high safety or out wide at corner, he has the ability to match up and execute his assignment. Granted, it’s only been one week of spring ball, but Johnson appears well on his way to making a difference in UCLA’s defensive backfield.

2. Bubble screens were a bit of an issue for the offense

During the first week, Josh Rosen had two passes intercepted via the bubble screen – one by Jaleel Wadood on Tuesday and another by Josh Woods on Thursday.

Sure, the UCLA defense may be ahead of the offense at this point in the year; but there’s no way the defense could have already mastered Jedd Fisch’s almanac-sized playbook if the offense is still just learning it.

What we’re saying is: The defense likely didn’t get these interceptions just because they guessed correctly on the playcall. In reality, UCLA’s wide receivers didn’t do the best job of blocking and setting up the play as it was designed.

Coincidence or not, UCLA ended up devoting a small portion of Saturday’s practice to bubble-screen blocking. Two wide receivers lined up outside the left hashes and were tasked with blocking downfield for a receiver running a flat route out of the backfield.

With the offensive line being somewhat of a question mark heading into the fall, the Bruins will need to find out how to execute these bubble-screen passes on the perimeter. These quick passes will take the pressure off Rosen and the offensive line for at least a few plays a game.

As of right now, however, it seems like these wide receiver screens are not quite ready for in-game use.

http://www.scout.com/college/ucla/story/1769497-full-pads-ol-vs-dl-battles 3. UCLA needs more production out of Keisean Lucier-South OR it's just a matter of time with Jaelan Phillips

Right now, it seems like Angus McClure, Tom Bradley and Jim Mora really want to give the edge rusher position to Keisean Lucier-South – providing him with almost all the first-team reps in week one of camp – but Lucier-South just isn’t seizing the reins at the position.

Through one week of camp, we didn’t see Lucier-South make much of an impact at all in either the pass-rushing game or in run defense. Furthermore, Lucier-South didn’t look overly powerful or quick in the OL/DL 1-on-1s.

It would be one thing if KLS was going up against an imposing two-year starter at offensive tackle, but he’s mostly been going against Kenny Lacy, who hasn’t really played the offensive tackle position for a couple years.

With Jaelan Phillips recording multiple phantom sacks and TFLs in the first week – albeit against mostly back-up offensive tackles, there probably should be a countdown clock on when Phillips appears at that razor position with the 1s. McClure has to make him earn it and not feel like it was handed to him, but we suspect it's not going to take long.

Marcus Moore, too, showed a great of promise as a complementary edge rusher and it appears that Lucier-South definitely needs to up his game to stake his claim at the position -- or even in the two-deep.

4. The fullback position still exists in UCLA’s offense

Many believed that the departures of Cameron Griffin (to retirement) and Ainuu Taua (to the defensive line) signaled the end of the brief fullback renaissance at UCLA.

Not so fast.

Jedd Fisch showed some offset-I formation looks in Saturday’s practice, using tight ends Giovanni Gentosi and Austin Roberts in the fullback spot. Gentosi actually looks like a good fit there, providing a strong lead block to spark a successful stretch run by Bolu Olorunfunmi during Saturday’s padded practice.

Fisch’s insistence on using a fullback – even without a true, natural fullback on his roster – comes as no surprise. During his final season as Jacksonville’s O.C. in 2014, the “21” personnel grouping (2 RB, 1 TE, 2 WRs) accounted for over 15 percent of Fisch’s offensive sets.

It will be interesting to see if and how Fisch incorporates Jalen Starks into this fullback mix once Starks returns from his hand injury.

5. The procedural aspects of the new offense look fairly clean so far

Everyone knows that penalties have been a thorn in UCLA’s side during the Mora era, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. And with a new offense being installed once again this year, it seems apt to worry about procedural penalties.

But in UCLA’s first padded practice of the spring – which included referees – there was only one false start called during the primary 11-on-11 period. That’s an encouraging sign for an offense that Jim Mora admitted was still “thinking” a lot in its first week with Fisch.

6. Josh Rosen is still throwing across his body

One of the more interesting aspects of Jedd Fisch’s offense this year will be the play-action bootleg. It’s interesting not because the play itself is revolutionary, but because the QB running the play – Josh Rosen – has a tendency to make iffy decisions when rolling out of the pocket.

On Saturday during 11-on-11s, Rosen was back to his old self again – rolling out of the pocket to his right before throwing the ball back across his body to the middle of the field.

The pass wasn’t intercepted, but very well could have been.

Yes, it was only one play. But in the first week of learning an offense, Rosen should have been trying his best to execute the plays the way they are called. It’s unlikely that FIsch’s play design included a roll-out to the right and an across-the-body throw to the left.


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