Notes on First Winter Practice

<b>Drew Olson</b> coached <b>Ben Olson</b> as UCLA's winter practice got underway Wednesday. There were some position changes, number changes, and body changes as the Bruins took the field for the first time...

It was difficult to get a really good look at players since most of practice was conducted on the eastern half of Spaulding Field, away from the bleachers. The half of the field nearest the stands was re-sodded pretty recently and with the heavy rains the coaches chose not to over-use that area.

It was, of course, the first glimpse for many of UCLA's newest quarterback, Ben Olson. The red-headed lefty wore #3, looked big and had a strong arm. They didn't really do too many drills where the quarterbacks threw down the field much, but he showed good zip on the ball on short throws. He did, understandably, look a little hesitant at times also.

The quarterback order in terms of reps seemed to be David Koral, Brian Callahan, Olson and then Pat Cowan.

Eyeballing: It's only been seven weeks, but it's good to check out if any players have changed physically since we last saw them in December. Defensive tackle Chris Johnson looks to have slimmed down some and gotten more muscular. Offensive lineman Aaron Meyer looked a bit slimmer. On the defensive side, it didn't appear that Bruce Davis, William Snead or Aaron Whittington -- three players who probably needed to bulk up some – had gotten much bigger physically. Davis looked slightly bigger. On the offensive side, receivers Brandon Breazell and Alex Ghebresellassie didn't look noticeably bigger. Defensive end Justin Hickman looked chunkier. Walk-on defensive tackle Phillip Rauscher has gotten quite a bit bigger, probably close to the 280-pound range.

Position Changes: Even though Head Coach Karl Dorrell stated last week that there were no position changes heading into practice, there were. Defensive lineman Noah Sutherland is now an offensive guard. Walk-on quarterback Tyler Holland is now a walk-on tight end. Nathaniel Skaggs is listed at defensive tackle. You could call Robert Garcia, the walk-on defensive tackle, leaving the program a considerable position change.

Number Changes: Running back Chris Markey is now #28. Wide receiver Marcus Everett has become #9. Noah Sutherland is #74. Tyler Holland #87. Cornerback Byron Velega is #24. Nathaniel Skaggs is #74. Defensive end Brigham Harwell is now #93.

Injuries: When the players were taking the field to begin practice, there was a moment when UCLA looked like a hospital ward. Coming onto the field each on crutches were Justin London, Jebiaus Brown and Chris Horton, joined by Spencer Havner in a sling. Fred Holmes did not participate due to complications from a thigh contusion, and is doubtful for winter practice. Linebacker Dan Nelson was in a red, no-hit jersey but practiced. Quarterback Drew Olson was at practice, looking much like a coach, dressed in warm-ups and assisting quarterback coach Jim Svoboda with the quarterbacks, including instructing Ben Olson. Wesley Walker did participate in practice, as did Kevin Harbour and Kenneth Lombard, but for a limited amount of time.

The first string offensive line didn't have any surprises, with Mike McCloskey at center, Ed Blanton and Brian Abraham at tackles, and Shannon Tevaga and Robert Cleary at guards. Aaron Meyer did get some reps at center, even though he was listed at guard.

Running back Maurice Drew looked particularly quick in slashing through holes. Walk-on running back Ryen Carew looked quick, but bobbled some handoffs. He passes the eye-ball test, physically. One UCLA coach said that getting Carew was "a complete steal."

Besides Carew, some walk-ons worth watching are Brian Ruziecki, a 6-3, 270-pound junior defensive tackle who is a shotputter on the track team and Christian Taylor, the linebacker who transferred from Air Force.

There was a good turnout of onlookers at practice, especially given the recent weather. Some noteables were committed high school seniors Shawn Oatis, Bret Lockett, John Hale and Justin Brown. Brown looks bigger and more defined since we last saw him on his official visit in January. Brian Bosworth, the uncle of incoming linebackers Korey and Kyle Miller, was in attendance.

The word on new defensive line coach Thurmond Moore is that he's a very effective recruiter and drill-sergeant type on the practice field.


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