But when you have a number of key players injured and just the mention of the word "scrimmage" tends to get more injured, you don't.
So, UCLA conducted essentially a practice in front of about 2,500 overheated fans at Spaulding Field Saturday to conclude spring football practice for 2004.
The team did run a couple of seven-on-seven and semi-live 11-on-11 controlled scrimmages, but not enough to really use the word.
And even hinting at it seemed to get a couple of players Eric McNeal and C.J. Niusulu slightly banged up, but not seriously (at least that was the report after practice).
On offense, without running back Maurice Drew dressed out, it was left up to quarterback Drew Olson to carry the Drew Show (Or is that the Drew Carry Show?). He didn't get the opportunity to throw the ball much in the controlled scrimmage but when he did, he did it well, finding his first-option receivers quickly and dumping off when it was needed without hesitation.
Michael Pitre, the redshirt freshman fullback, stood out in the scrimmages, and in the drills, particularly in the 3-on-3 goal line Bruin drill, which the team conducted at the 50-yard line directly in front of the fan-filled bleachers. Pitre capped off a generally good spring, where he probably earned the #2 fullback spot behind senior starter Pat Norton.
The running backs didn't do anything of particular note, with Jason Harrison slipping into the #1 running back role with Drew and Manuel White both sitting out. There were at least a couple of fumbles, but it was difficult to recognize who was responsible for them.
Sophomore wide receiver Joe Cowan had a few very nice catches, showing his ability to use his size to get position on his defender. He had a beautiful catch on a sideline bomb thrown very well by Olson while being covered well by cornerback Trey Brown. Matt Slater, the redshirt freshman receiver, was able to get some separation from his defender at times today, but could only hold onto a few balls – his miscues more a result of poorly thrown balls by the back-up quarterbacks. Marcedes Lewis had a nice catch before he was leveled by back-up safety Chris Horton. In a redzone scrimmage, he did catch a nice 7-yard TD throw, as did JC transfer tight end Matt Raney. Chris Steck, a walk-on wide receiver, has had a good spring, using his big body to be able to physically get position well on defenders, and he had a nice TD catch Saturday.
On defense, the hit of the day came from safety Ben Emanuel, when he leveled walk-on wide receiver Andrew Baumgartner. Redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Whittington had a good day, with a nice pick and some strong tackles. Trey Brown also recorded an interception. The defensive line put pressure on the quarterback for most of the afternoon, getting what was essentially a number of sacks. Kyle Morgan and Junior Lemau'u, who stepped in for Niusulu, were responsible for at least one each.
Generally the defense again dominated the under-manned offense.
"We're limping home, but we survived," Head Coach Karl Dorrell said. "I'm really pleased with this team, their attitude, and how they're trying to work, and trying to get better as we go. We've had some injuries, particularly in our line positions, but we found a way to get through some things. I'm just pleased that the attitude and our effort is there. I'm pleased with the way spring has ended. We obviously have some work to do, but still we've made some positive steps forward."
As stated above, Eric McNeal suffered a bruised knee and C.J. Niusulu a bruised shoulder in the scrimmage. Dorrell said after the practice he didn't anticipate either would be serious injuries.
Sources are indicating that the program is very concerned about the condition of offensive lineman Mike McCloskey, and just how serious it is.
With McCloskey's situation uncertain, senior lineman Paul Mociler looks like he could be settling into the starting center position. Robert Chai, who suffered a MCL injury earlier in spring practice, very well could be moved to a guard position. If McCloskey was unable to return, Chai could very well be the back-up at center behind Mociler. Ed Blanton, who also is sitting out with an MCL injury, is set at strongside tackle, and Steven Vieira at weakside tackle. After that, though, the two guard positions are relatively up in the air. Eyoseph Efseaff gets mixed reviews from many sources around the program. Some have said he's improved, and that he's the strongest player on the team, but others indicate that his effort and performance have left it uncertain whether he'll start at guard. If Chai comes back this fall bigger and stronger, he could be the other real option at guard, with Marc Villafuerte, P.J. Irvin and Robert Cleary also there. Who would back-up at either tackle position is a mystery, with the responsibility probably falling to Mociler.
Given the lack of depth and injuries, the coaches will need some of the incoming freshmen linemen to contribute next fall. You can expect Shannon Tevaga to get the first look, probably best suited as a guard. But Aaron Meyer could also get a look on the interior, and the coaches could have to utilize Brian Abraham in the two-deep at tackle.
Senior linebacker Patrick Pierre-Louis is no longer with the team due to disciplinary issues, according to sources. Long snapper and fullback Joe Tomasello is also no longer playing football, but is in the process of trying to get a medical scholarship to continue going to the school.
Football alumni in attendance included Jerry Robinson, Wendell Tyler, Theotis Brown, Bruce Davis, Fred McNeill, Wayne Cook, James Washington, Javelin Guidry, Mike Sherrard, and Frank Bruno. Rick Neuheisel attended a football alumni gathering Friday night.
Committed recruits in the 2004 class in attendance were Shannon Tevaga, Brian Abraham and Kenneth Lombard (which gives him perfect attendance for spring practice).
Current recruits in attendance included Aaron Ware, RB, Oaks Christian; George Hypolite, FB, Loyola; Titus Jackson, DB, Pomona Diamond Ranch; Marc Tyler, FB/LB, Oaks Christian (Class of 2007); Mark Richardson, DB, Oaks Christian; Mike Herrick, QB- Valencia (Class of 2006); Gavin Ketchum, WR, Oak Park; Cortes Rice, RB, Los Alamitos; David Gettis, WR Dorsey; Brandon Allen, DB Mayfair; Kevin Meagher, OL, Servite; Andrew Ramer, DL, Temecula Chapparal; and from John Curtis Christian High School in Lousiana (the same that has three incoming Bruin recruits for this fall) linebacker Jacque Jackson.