Practice #4: Good Day For<br> the Offense

Quarterback <b>Drew Olson</b> continues to look more comfortable, and the offensive line has a good day, while freshman running back <b>Chris Markey</b> has a strong performance.

With three days under their belt, UCLA returned back to Spaulding Field for practice number four, to a nice-sized contingent of Bruin fans, who enjoyed the glorious Southern California weather on a beautiful Saturday.

A couple more number changes to add were Jimmy Stephens switching to #45, from #48 and freshman Tony Lee, who just a day previous said he wanted to stay at tight end, sport a lineman #70, ditching the #92 he had worn the previous three days. Dorrell said that they felt offensive line was where Lee fit in best.

In the special teams drills, Maurice Drew again sat out, running to the side, while nursing the nagging groin injury he suffered earlier this week. Keith Carter continues to slowly work himself back in, sitting out much of the early drills. Also, freshman receiver Marcus Everett sat out after getting his bell rung on Friday by Wesley Walker.

Along with Craig Bragg, Junior Taylor and Jarrad Page worked as punt returners, with Page handling one then stepping out, and Bragg and Taylor staying and working as the primary returners.

In the one-on-one receiver/defensive back drills, Matt Slater had a nice reception working against tight coverage from freshman Michael Norris, while Craig Bragg made it a rough afternoon for Matt Clark, shaking him twice for long gains. Joe Cowan also took a deep pass from brother Pat Cowan and made a nice sideline catch. However, the corners had plenty of good moments, with Mil'von James and Rodney Van making a couple of nice breaks on passes from Eddie Miller, deflecting the throws.

They moved to a 7-on-7 drill, and Drew Olson again looked solid in his decision making, while his passes looked crisp. Of course, he didn't complete everything, but he didn't make many mistakes though his receivers didn't help him as much as they could have.

The receivers got plenty of reps, with freshman Brandon Breazell standing out, showing good speed and explosiveness, as well as solid effort. In a red zone 7-on-7, tight end Marcedes Lewis was utitlized very well, using his size and field presence to roam the back of the end zone and take advantage of his pass catching. On one particular play, Olson threw the ball to specific spot, and Lewis ended up there at the right time to bring the pass down for a "touchdown."

On the other side of the ball, the defense showed some struggles that you wouldn't expect from the experienced back seven. Primarily, they looked a bit confused on pass coverage, with a couple of times the safeties getting their wires crossed, unusual when you consider the chemistry and experience Page and Ben Emanuel have.

Matt Clark and Marcus Cassel were the two first-team corners, and Cassel stood out, making several plays and showing he is serious about locking up the starting corner position. At the same time, Nnamdi Ohaeri isn't conceding the position to Cassel, as he also made several plays from the corner spot. Both looked impressive and their efforts should calm some of the fears for the vacant position.

The linebackers looked their usual solid selves, with Spencer Havner standing out. Following the 7-on-7, came a full team scrimmage.

Offensively, Manuel White had a couple of nice runs, with the offensive line looking particularly good in run blocking. Ed Blanton looked especially strong, and the line opened up several holes for White and freshman running back Chris Markey. Markey, in fact, ran as the #2 running back behind White (due to Drew's absence), and had a couple of runs where he had 10-15 yard gains, and went 6-7 yards without being touched.

Markey might have had the most impressive practice today from the offensive side of the ball. You'd like to think that Markey would redshirt, but his continued performance could make it difficult.

The offensive line looked pretty good, giving Olson good time to throw, and generally controlled the defensive line.

Defensively, while the line struggled, the linebackers and defensive backs performed decently.

Havner and Justin London had good performances, with Havner again standing out. When he blitzed, he generally got into the backfield with ease, and really stepping up the intensity. Dan Nelson also made a nice play, standing up Markey at the goalline, though Markey did take it well and landed backwards in the end zone.

One concern was the second-team offensive line struggling. Young and inexperienced, the second-team defensive line generally won the matchups.

Freshman defensive end Brigham Harwell played for about 2 plays, then sat out the remainder of practice with a sore knee.

Overall, Olson continues to improve daily, and Brian Callahan had another good showing. David Koral looks good in the drills and 7-on-7, but still struggles in the 11-on-11. Cowan made a couple of nice throws, but showed he is still raw.

One recognizable recruit in attendance today was Corona (Calif.) Centennial offensive lineman Devin Head.

Comments from Head Coach Karl Dorrell following practice.

On the practice overall
Dorrell: Hey, that was a great practice. Its our second day in shells and we did as much as we set to accomplish. We are so far ahead of where I thought we'd be. The offense did some good things, defensively we put in some new packages where we're trying to do a bunch of different coverage concepts and we tested them on the offense. I like what we're doing defensively and I think the kids are doing well so far, and it was a good practice for the fourth day.

On what the concerns might be
Dorrell: We're ahead of schedule right now. My concern right now is to keep a pulse on the injury situation. We have some guys that have some nagging injuries and we want to keep them from being major injuries. After four days we have most of the guys out there. Minor injuries aren't too bad. If we can be cautious and prevent those type of things, we'll get out of camp in pretty good shape. Marcus Everett has a head ache. Anytime you have symptoms like that, we hold them out.

On injuries
Dorrell: "Harwell's ok. He has a sore knee but he will be fine. Keith Carter has had three good days, but we're trying to bring him back slowly."

On Chris Markey
Dorrell: "He's done a great job. He's one of those guys who's definitely been noticeable. He's learning our system. He's a pretty good athlete, which we knew when he recruited him, and he catches the ball well out of the backfield. We've been very pleased with his progress. He's done all the things you want out of a young player."

The end of practice was unique, with some horseplay from the defensive line and defensive backs, the defensive line chasing after Matt Clark, nearly taking out Dorrell and the beat writers.

Dorrell: You wouldn't see that a year ago. It's the DBs going against the d-line, talking all that smack to each other, and the DBs trying to protect each other. But you know how that goes, the big guys always win. We're just trying to guard against the injury thing."

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