First Practice in Pads

Quarterback <b>Drew Olson</b> continues to look very improved, the offense shows off many new dimensions, and there are many players sitting out with minor injuries as the team puts on the pads for the first time...

On the first day in full pads, there was a fairly sizeable list of players sitting out, or at least sitting out partially due to minor injuries. Head Coach Karl Dorrell said that none of the players' injuries are serious.

Maurice Drew participated in parts of practice today, being held out of the contact periods.

C.J. Niusulu sat out due to what was described "headaches."

Manuel White also sat out due to headaches.

Freshman wide receiver Marcus Everett has still not practiced since he suffered that big hit Thursday, also experiencing headaches. UCLA will not elaborate on whether any of these headaches are actually concussions.

Kyle Morgan sat out of practice because of a knee injury, as did freshman defensive end Brigham Harwell. Again, neither is said to be serious.

Dorrell said, "We're just being precautious. None of the injuries are serious and we just don't want to make them more severe by practicing."

Eyoseph Efseaff didn't participate for a couple of the last periods of practice for unspecified reasons. It was uncertain if it was injury-related or not.

With about 15 minutes left to go in practice, you could have said that quarterback Drew Olson was having just about a perfect practice, until he threw an interception to cornerback Nnamdi Ohaeri. Up until that time, he didn't make a poor throw for the entire practice. He made quick decisions, found his receiver, and hit him precisely. There were some passes, especially a thread-the-needle pass to Marcedes Lewis for a touchdown, that Olson wouldn't have been able to make a year ago. He connected efficiently on every throw, and looked particularly good on a few plays, especially one pretty pass over the middle to Joe Cowan for about 30 yards. You can probably say easily that it's been the best first five days of fall practice for any UCLA quarterback in the last several years.

The biggest impression so far of fall practice, besides the improvement that Olson has made, is the new look of the offense. Offensive coordinator Tom Cable has introduced many new formations and plays, and use of personnel, and we're just five days into fall practice. They are new wrinkles that the offense didn't come close to doing last year, and are quite extensive. We can't get into details since the coaches and the UCLA sports information department wouldn't be too pleased if we revealed specifics about the formations and plays. But suffice it to say, the offense will have look considerably different and be quite a bit more diverse.

Junior Taylor looks to be an emerging candidate for punt returner. Dorrell is working very hands-on with the punt returners and kick-off returners.

With Morgan and Niusulu not practicing, stepping into the starting DL was tackle Robert Garcia and defensive end Bruce Davis. Noah Sutherland also took reps – but now at defensive end, after having spent the first few days of fall practice at tackle.

It looks like redshirt freshman linebacker William Snead has made the move to defensive end also.

So, even though it's tough to sort through it, as it stands right now, the depth chart at DL might look something like this:

DE: Kyle Morgan, Nikola Dragovic, William Snead
DT: Kevin Brown, Phillip Rauscher, Kenneth Lombard
DT: C.J. Niusulu, Robert Garcia
DE: Justin Hickman, Bruce Davis, Noah Sutherland, Brigham Harwell

There are other walk-ons, like defensive end Travis Martin and defensive tackle Scott Kearney.

Harwell has yet to really compete since he's hampered by the knee. It will be interesting to see if Sutherland moves back to DT as Morgan (and then eventually Kevin Harbour) return. Lombard had a few reps with the #1 DL today.

Ed Blanton has been distinguishing himself on the offensive line, particularly in pass protection. He has such great length, but he's now moving his feet really well, and that combination makes it difficult for a pass rusher to get around him.

Chris Horton got the majority of the reps at the starting nickel defensive back position, as the team practiced extensively in its nickel package.

The team practiced a few 7-on-7s and 11-on-11s, with one 11-on-11 being live – which allows the defense to actually hit at full speed and tackle.

Some more standout plays today:

-- Middle linebacker Justin London made a great move on a rush through the middle for a pseudo-sack.

-- Spencer Havner sliced through the defense for a stop for no gain on a running play.

-- In the goal line 11-on-11, Olson found Marcedes Lewis twice for two touchdown throws.

-- Cornerback Matt Clark made a nice goal line tackle of a running back.

-- Craig Bragg caught a touchdown pass on a quick out, skipping just inside the goal line.

-- Derrick Williams juked a tackler and found the endzone for a touchdown.

-- Linebacker Ben Lorier snagged an interception.

Dorrell said: "It was the first day in pads, and it was tough, but we got a lot of work done. Our o-line is coming along very well. That first group is doing fine. They're still adjusting to the new positions, but they'll be a solid group."


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