Brandon Stephens

Rosen, Offense Improve Wednesday

Apr. 26 -- Quarterback Josh Rosen had a bit of a bounce-back day Wednesday, the receivers get a rare advantage on the DBs, and a freshman defensive end stands out (and it's not who you might think)...

It was a better day for the offense Wednesday, with the quarterbacks making some nice throws, and the receivers and offensive linemen winning more reps in the one-on-ones.

After a couple of mediocre practices, quarterback Josh Rosen bounced back a bit.  He had a number of highlight throws throughout the practice, in 11-on-11s, 7-on-7s and one-on-one drills.  His first-team offense didn’t necessarily move the chains at will, but Rosen threw a number of big-time balls.  You could see it at the beginning of practice – that Rosen was going to have more of an on day than off – when he was connecting in timing drills with his receivers and throwing very accurately.  He started off a bit slow in the 11-on-11s, not getting a first down in his first series, but then got warm by throwing a pretty post into the outstretched hands of Alex Van Dyke. It was a perfectly-thrown ball and Van Dyke did a good job of hanging on to it.  He connected with Theo Howard a couple of times on deep balls, and then threw a perfect strike to tight end Devin Asiasi on a deep out and it felt like from there Rosen had a rhythm.

Second-string QB Devon Modster also was mostly on for the day, like Rosen starting off throwing well in the timing drills at the beginning of practice.  He looked good in the one-on-ones, and he definitely benefitted from the receivers getting more separation today than they had in recent practices.

Devon Modster

Quarterback Matt Lynch didn’t have the flashier throws on the day, but was solid in moving his offense in the team drills, mostly by completing his shorter throws, particularly to his running backs and tight ends.

True freshman Austin Burton, actually, made one of the best throws of the day when he hit Dymond Lee down the sideline over his should in a very tight window, and Lee did a great job of hauling it in while keeping one foot in bounds.

The running game had a fairly good day, too.  Sotonye Jamabo saw some daylight and hit holes pretty quickly, even though he looked a bit hobbled throughout practice, favoring a right leg that he got tangled up in one tackle out of bounds.  Bolu Olorunfunmi and Nate Starks took the reps with the 1s in most of the 11 periods, and both combined for some good yardage.  Olorunfunmi looks a bit bigger in his arms and shoulders and slightly quicker.  Again, perhaps the running back making the most noticeable plays was Jalen Starks.  On one stretch, he plowed through what looked like a stunned Keyon Riley and then carried Leni Toailoa a few yards before being gang-tackled.  He broke a couple of 20-yarders on stretch plays.  Brandon Stephens probably displayed the most explosiveness on the day, accelerating through holes on a couple of stretch plays.  He made one cutback on a stretch play that opened up the field for him.  The running backs were really featured in the pass game Wednesday, catching many balls on swings and slip routes, and gaining good yardage after the catch.  Fullback/Y Giovanni Gentosi caught a slip route for a touchdown in redzone.  The group looks better when they’re in space rather than running from scrimmage, actually, so they could be most effective catching the ball out of the backfield.

There are a lot of wrinkles in Jedd Fisch's running game, and it's fun to watch. There were a few misdirection pitches that seemed to take the defense by surprise, and we saw a couple of read options.  

It was perhaps one of the best days overall for the receivers.  It might have been because UCLA’s two starting cornerbacks, Nathan Meadors and Denzel Fisher, sat out the practice, so they had more opportunity to gain separation on routes.  No matter what it was, it was easily the best the WRs had done in the one-on-ones, perhaps this spring.  Howard might have had his best day since the first week of practice, getting open deep a number of times; tight end Jordan Wilson made a couple of nice catches, one being a one-handed grab over the middle;  Van Dyke might have had his best day in a while; Eldridge Massington again, was consistent; and Jordan Lasley and Darren Andrews got open pretty easily in one-on-ones.   Redshirt freshman Adewale Omotosho continued to look like a very good combination of size and shake, and is getting more and more comfortable, especially catching the ball in traffic, making a couple of plays on crossing routes Wednesday.  

What has been noteable among the tight ends is how they've improved their blocking this spring.  Caleb Wilson wins just about every rep in the one-on-one blocking drills against the linebackers, and Jordan Wilson is right there with him. Asiasi is particularly good.  

Even without Meadors and Fisher, the DBs still looked good as a group.  Meadors was on the sideline with the training staff for an undisclosed injury that doesn't look serious, and Fisher wasn’t on the field, still recovering from the elbow injury.   In their absence, Octavius Spencer and Colin Samuel stepped into the starting corner roles, and did pretty well.  Freshman Darnay Holmes took reps at corner with the twos, and then with the ones when they were in nickel, with Spencer moving to the nickel spot.

Perhaps the biggest development on defense was the practice put in by redshirt freshman defensive end Marcus Moore.  True freshman defensive end Jaelan Phillips took most of the day off in team drills, and that gave Moore an opportunity, and he took advantage. He was tough to contain in one-on-ones, like always, and then getting all the reps at the razor DE spot with the second string, he was making tackles for loss against the running game and recorded a couple of sacks.

Defensive tackle Nick Terry has had a solid spring, and he made a couple of plays in team drills Wednesday.  Redshirt freshmen defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Chigozie Nnoruka have played both inside and outside all spring, and today got some reps on the edge. 

Nick Terry, Marcus Moore

Among the linebackers, Will linebacker Josh Woods made the most impactful plays, stringing out a couple of stretch runs for no gain and looking tough to block in the one-on-ones.  Mique Juarez, too, had a couple of good reps pass rushing against the running backs in one-on-ones.

In the OL/DL one-on-ones, the day easily went to the offensive line and, in particular, Kenny Lacy.  Working at right ackle, he contained defensive end Rick Wade on four straight reps, and was a wash with Wade on one more.  He looked energetic and quick, using his hands particularly well.  The OL contained the DL for the first five or so reps, with Andre James, Kolton Miller and Scott Quessenberry all winning their reps.  The OL have continued to improve as spring has progressed under the tutelage of OL coach Hank Fraley.  Redshirt freshman Paco Perez and Mike Alves had good showings in the one-on-ones, both looking better. The offensive lineman who is still struggling is Josh Wariboko-Alali.

The roster has been divided into two teams for the Spring Game on Saturday, and the players said there has already been some trash-talking going on.

Kicker J.J. Molson went one for two from about 45 yards, and Andrew Strauch hit his 45 yarder. 

Head coach Jim Mora won't be at practice Thursday, traveling to Philadelphia to be with UCLA defensive end Takkarist McKinley when he (hopefully) goes in the first round.  

 


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