UCLA Spring Practice Report: Day 5

Apr. 12 -- For the first time this spring, UCLA's offense moved the football effectively, sustaining some drives and reaching the end zone on a number of occasions Wednesday morning...

After struggling to generate any rhythm the first week of practices, the offense appeared to take a step in the right direction Wednesday morning, with quarterback Josh Rosen orchestrating long drives and the offensive line opening some holes in the run game.

Rosen's best throw of the session came late when the defense was pinned at its own goal line. He found Eldridge Massington with a beautiful back-shoulder throw to the front pylon, and the veteran receiver managed to get his feet down after beating Denzel Fisher for the ball. With Darren Andrews getting a rest day of sorts, at least from most individual drills, Massington worked with the first-unit offense all morning and really seized the opportunity. Rosen had an earlier completion to Massington when he rolled right off a play-action fake that would have gone for a first down. Massington shook Nathan Meadors in coverage to get open.

Rosen also used the middle of the field well Wednesday, at one point moving the pocket to get a wide passing lane and find Jordan Lasley on a post route for a big gain. It's obvious that, despite having to recover from shoulder surgery in the offseason, Rosen made sure to keep his footwork tight and that's allowed him to get up to full speed early on in spring.

The offensive line, too, seemed to play with a bit more fire and confidence, as would be expected once players become more and more familiar with concepts and verbiage. Sotonye Jamabo had a big hole to dive through in a goal-line situation and the offensive line finished that sequence by paving the way for another rushing touchdown. Bolu Olorunfunmi also had some very good moments, demonstrating his assertive style between the tackles before breaking it out wide once he got to the second level to punish defenders. It usually takes two or three players to bring him down.

Although the offense did show some improvement, the defense still had its moments of dominance. The linebacker group in particular has been impressive in coverage through the first five practices. Kenny Young is reading plays quickly, Josh Woods is a bonafide playmaker on the weak side and Dechaun Holiday has really exceeded expectations, showing major upside with the first unit. On one play, Woods anticipated a bubble screen and jumped into the backfield to disrupt the timing of it all.

Meadors might have made the defensive play of the practice early in 11s, jumping a Lasley slant route to get his arm in the way and deflect the ball, which Jaleel Wadood easily picked off and took it the other way for what would have been a score.

ONE-ON-ONE BATTLES

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner really came on strong in the back-half of the season last year and has carried that momentum over into spring. He completely dismantled Kolton Miller during their one-on-one pass-rush battle, using his hands to knock back the mammoth left tackle and storm into the backfield. On the other side of the line, Kenny Lacy and Jaelan Phillips had a couple fun battles. Lacy won the first, flipping Phillips on his back when the true freshman tried a spin move inside. Phillips responded, though, using his speed and quickness to dodge Lacy's lunging block attempt and blow right past him.

In the RB/TE vs. LB pass-blocking battles, Young really popped for how aggressive he was going against Jamabo, using his strength to through the No. 1 back. Lokeni Toailoa also had success against Jamabo using the same method. To his credit, Jamabo bounced back nicely and held his own later in the drill.

Caleb Wilson had his way with Breland Brandt, who unsuccessfully tried to use his quickness off the edge. That strategy did work against the bigger and slower Jordan Wilson, though. Starks obliterated Krys Barnes, pushing him back some five yards, and Devin Asiasi easily bottled up Mique Juarez.

QUICK HITS

• Tight end Austin Roberts (undisclosed injury) joined Poasi Moala (hip) with the training staff...

• Running back Nate Starks took a big hit from Holiday and Adarius Pickett late in practice and had to be helped up. He did return a play later...

• Darnay Holmes took the first reps at punt returner during special teams drills and, so far this spring, has looked more electric than any other player on the roster. Lasley and Damian Alloway followed Holmes, in that order...

• J.J. Molson made all five of his kicks, including a 47-yarder after the offense stalled. Walk-on Andrew Strauch was four of four, while Crawford Pierson made two of his three...

• Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline three-star offensive tackle Matthew Cindric, who holds an offer from UCLA, attended practice. Incoming freshmen Rahyme JohnsonMartin Andrus and Morrell Osling were also present.


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