Adarius Pickett (Blair Angulo)

UCLA Spring Practice Report: Day 10

Apr. 20 -- Redshirt junior safety Adarius Pickett continued his impressive spring Thursday, grabbing two more interceptions and returning one for a score, while the offense again mixed in some new wrinkles that left coach Jim Mora pleased...

It's been a recurring sight this spring -- Adarius Pickett, much like he did last season, making a play here, closing on a receiver there and haunting every quarterback that has lined up behind center.

The redshirt junior fittingly capped Thursday's practice with his second interception of the day, jumping a short pass by Josh Rosen before storming down the right sideline for what would have been an easy score. Earlier in practice, Pickett reacted to a tipped pass and laid out to snag the ball just before it hit the ground. Pickett's ability to find the football has been a theme all spring, a promising sign for a defensive unit looking to equal the production of Takkarist McKinleyJayon Brown and Fabian Moreau. The replacements at those particular spots will obviously have to fill the void, but Pickett appears to have taken an extra step as an impact player.

Head coach Jim Mora spoke Thursday about planning to field an actual spring game next Saturday at Drake Stadium and mentioned that there has been a conversation about possibly holding a draft to split the roster. Although it doesn't appear that the staff will create teams in that fashion, we'd have to imagine Pickett would be right up there with middle linebacker Kenny Young on the defensive board.

The red zone defense was particularly impressive at the end of practice, and it wasn't only Pickett and Young making plays. Denzel Fisher had a huge deflection on a fade intended for Jordan Lasley.

While there were some issues through the air near the goal line, Rosen seemed very comfortable in 11-on-11 with more room to operate. He dropped a 45-yard dime to Darren Andrews, who made a beautiful diving catch as he landed at the goal line. Rosen followed that up with a bullet to Theo Howard on an out route while rolling to his right, and then hit Lasley deep between Fisher and Jaleel Wadood for a touchdown that drew some oohs from the sideline.

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch mixed in quite a bit of play action on Thursday and it seemed to work. On one play, Rosen faked a hand off, settled his feet and lobbed a perfect pass to Caleb Wilson over the top of Wadood, who won't ever win that battle against the bigger target. Jalen Starks finished that drive with a tough touchdown on a fullback dive, making his presence felt for what seemed like the sixth consecutive practice since he had the protective club removed from his right hand.

Jalen Starks (Blair Angulo)

The goal-line period went to the offense, with all three series ending in touchdowns. Starks had a score on another dive up the middle, while Rosen again made use of misdirection to hit Andrews while rolling right. Jimmy Jaggers also caught a touchdown from Devon Modster, doing well to box out a linebacker for position in that tight window.

OL VS DL BATTLES

Osa Odighizuwa was the star of the linemen one-on-one battles Thursday, but Rick Wade was right there with him. Both did an excellent job of getting a nice push on their blockers, but then also using their hands well to make that second move. Odighizuwa maintains his eyes on the quarterback and, on more than one occasion, has baited the offensive lineman to lean one way only to counter and beat him to the ball.

Osa Odighizuwa (Blair Angulo)

Wade, meanwhile, has been very impressive in the last week or so, using his speed to get offensive tackles on their heels and extending his arms well to keep blockers at length. He drives his feet well and just doesn't stop until the whistle sounds.

Among the offensive linemen, Najee ToranKolton Miller and Scott Quessenberry each won a majority of their reps. Toran has been getting his share of work at center during 11-on-11, but has been somewhat up and down in pass blocking drills. Thursday was a definite up, with Toran handling a few defensive tackles and holding his ground.

The tight ends also got a look in pass-blocking drills and Caleb Wilson might have had the best showing of the group, although he was matching up against the lighter of the defensive ends, Keisean Lucier-South.

QUICK HITS

-- Wadood was back working with the first unit defense after getting run with the twos throughout Wednesday's practice. He was ejected midway through Monday's session...

-- Defensive tackle Boss Tagaloa appeared to be limping on right leg and wore a brace on his knee, but Mora said he didn't believe it was anything serious...

-- Tight end Austin Roberts, who had been sidelined and working with the training staff this spring, returned to drills for the first time Thursday...

-- Redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Lynch had a nice 25-yard scramble during 11-on-11 and it would have gone for that gain even without the yellow jersey. He told reporters afterward that, even despite the new offense, he feels much more comfortable this spring than he did last year as a midyear enrollee...

-- Damian Alloway, Lasley and Brandon Stephens got reps at lead returner during kickoff drills, with Lasley breaking off the best run...

-- Outside linebacker Dechaun Holiday (shoulder) no longer had his right arm in a sling, but it remains to be seen if he will return to contact in the last week of spring...

Tommy Brown with UCLA offensive linemen (Blair Angulo)

-- The following recruits attended practice:

http://www.scout.com/player/202587-tommy-brown

http://www.scout.com/player/203433-andre-hunt

http://www.scout.com/player/215382-casey-kline

-- Zack Sweeney and Morrell Osling were the two incoming freshmen to make it to the early-morning practice.

-- UCLA returns to the Intramural Field for its 11th practice of spring on Saturday morning.


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