First Sound of Thuds

It was the first spring practice in pads, and the UCLA football team didn't waste much time in using them, going full contact in various drills, including an intense 3-on-3 goal line drill. A few players stood out, like C.J. Niusulu and Justin London...

Monday's practice was the first of the spring in pads, and there was little time wasted before they were using them.

Within an hour into practice, the offense and defense squared off in a full-hitting 11-on-11. Later there was contact 7-on-7, another 11-on-11 and also a goal-line 3-on-3 drill, which was also full contact.

Overall there was a whole lot of hitting going on.

The primary play for the practice that stood out was defensive tackle C.J. Niusulu's penetration and stop behind the line of a running back. Redshirt freshman safety Chris Horton had a nice hit on a receiver. Justin London made a nice hit. Marcus Cassel also had a nice breakup and a hit. Spencer Havner intercepted an errant pass.

The 3-on-3 goal line is a drill where three offensive linemen square off against three d-linemen or linebackers. A quarterback hands the ball to a running back at about the ten yard line and they get three downs to make a touchdown. With the coaches whooping and getting the players fired up, there were some fierce collisions. Michael Pitre, the redshirt freshman fullback, scored two touchdowns, one in which he had an open path cleared for him easily, another where he pounded his way into the endzone.

Drew Olson had an overall good day throwing the ball. David Koral shows good efficiency throwing short routes, and good mobility, while still struggling to throw the ball down the field. Head Coach Karl Dorrell said, "I've been basically pleased with Koral so far. He has a real understanding of what we're trying to do."

While Craig Bragg dropped a couple of passes today, he also made a couple of very nice catches, and runs after the catch. Maurice Drew continued to look quick, bouncing off defenders in the live drills. Jebiaus Brown, the redshirt sophomore cornerback, had a good day, playing very physically at his cornerback position, and getting a very nice hit in during the 7-on-7. Cassel, though, was mainly running as the starter at the cornerback position. "I don't want to jinx Jebiaus, but he's playing well," Dorrell said. "He's getting better every day."

Every other starting position was reflective of the most recent depth chart, only with Robert Chai starting at center since Mike McCloskey is still out of commission; various wide receivers rotating into the starter's spot vacated by Joe Cowan, who was out of for the day (mostly Idris Moss and Matt Slater); Eric McNeal subbing for the sidelined Jarrad Page; and when Ben Emanuel had to leave practice early to attend a class, Dennis Keyes stepped in to his free safety position.

"I really liked the overall tempo and energy of practice today," Dorrell said of the first in pads.

Dorrell said that McCloskey's chest condition is thought to be a bronchial issue and they hope his medication will remedy it. McCloskey didn't practice, currently too inhibited to do conditioning. Joe Cowan is suffering from a groin injury, while Maurice Drew returned from his groin injury.

Despite an early report, Michael Pitre has indeed been cleared to participate in contact, as was evident today. Pitre said he's been cleared for contact since January. Curiously, though, three of the five doctors that examined his neck condition said he shouldn't play football again. But the three who cleared him had more of a football orientation and background, reportedly.

Since last week there has been a steady stream of recruits attending practice. The committed players are regulars, including Brigham Harwell, Kenneth Lombard, Shannon Tevaga, Rodney Van and Marcus Everett. Tevaga brought along his younger but bigger brother who is a sophomore. Among the bigger-named recruits in the junior class have been Averil Spicer, Will Harris, and George Hypolite. In attendance also have been Sean Houston, a fullback from Covina (Calif.) Northview; Justin Park, a safety from Villa Park, Will Fidler, a 6-4 quarterback from Henderson County, Kentucky and Charles Ohaeri, a defensive back and younger brother of Nnamdi Ohaeri.


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