Saturday's Scrimmage Analysis

Here's an in-depth analysis of UCLA's football scrimmage Saturday, with a complete rundown of every drive and just about all 80 plays. A freshman quarterback looks good, and it's not the one you think...

The weather Saturday was perfect with sunny skies and a temperature in the mid-60s, much to the delight of those who dreaded watching the scrimmage in the rain. 

The scrimmage was about 80 plays long. Each unit squared off vs. its counterpart: the ones v. the ones, etc. There were no special teams play involved in the scrimmage.

The 1st team D had this line-up:

Kevin Brown, #75, NG
Brigham Harwell, #93, DT
Kyle Morgan, #98, LDE
Justin Hickman, #17, RDE
Mark Cordell, #35, Will (filling in for an injured Spencer Havner)
Jamel Greer, #31, Mike (filling in for an injured Justin London)
Aaron Whittington, #42, Sam (filling in for an injured Wesley Walker)
Trey Brown, #23, LCB
Michael Norris, #22, RCB
Charlie Schuh, #45, FS (filling in for an injured Chris Horton)
Dennis Keyes, #11, SS (filling in for baseball-playing Jarrad Page)

The 1st team O had this line-up:

David Koral, #7, QB (filling in for an injured Drew Olson)
Maurice Drew, #21, TB
Jimmy Stephens, #45, FB (filling in for an injured Michael Pitre)
Junior Taylor, #8, FL
Joe Cowan, #26, SE
Marcedes Lewis, #19, TE
Ed Blanton, #73, WT
Bob Cleary, #75, WG
Mike McCloskey, #59, C
Scott Glicksberg, #66, SG (filling in for an injured Shannon Tevaga)
Brian Abraham, #68, ST

On the first play of the scrimmage, with the ball on its own 30, the O immediately struck via a swing pass to MoD in the right flat. The O influence blocked as if the play was going left, but Koral spun and whipped the swing to MoD, who essentially did the rest. Trey Brown was unable to slow him down, and once MoD broke Trey's tackle, the WRs did a great job of blocking the pursuing DBs, helping Drew go 70 yards for the first score of the day.

On the next series, the D got a three and out, but it had more to do with the O not executing well. On 1st and 10, Chris Markey ran the wide zone play to the right for six yards. On 2nd down, Koral tried to throw a hitch to Joe Cowan on the right, but Koral fumbled the snap and threw late, incomplete. On 3rd down, the DL forced Koral to scramble to the right, but he only gained two yards.

The next possession resulted in another stop for the D. On 1st down, Justin Hickman beat Ed Blanton on Koral's blind side for a five yard sack. 2nd and 15: MoD zone wide to the right for a gashing run of 20, but a personal foul on Cleary at the end of the play made it 1st and 25. The next play was a slant pass to Cowan on the left, but Koral's throw was low and uncatchable. The Bruins then threw two more incompletions to end the series.

The final series of 1s v. 1s resulted in a touchdown for the O. Out of a double tight set, TE Will Peddie shifted off the line and went in motion, and UCLA ran the tight zone play with Drew bursting through the middle for another 20 yards. On 1st and 10, Koral rolled right, but both DEs (Morgan and Hickman) converged on him. Although he tried to throw the ball out of bounds, the zebras ruled him sacked for a 15 yard loss. 2nd and 25: Koral slips on the Spaulding grass on his drop, and subsequently gets the pass tipped at the line. But Junior Taylor is running a curl, and the ball has enough on it to flutter to Jr., who dives forward for some additional yards, netting +12 on the play.

On 3rd and 8, Koral did a superb job of stepping up when the DEs brought pressure, and then finding Marcedes Lewis for a check-off over the middle. Marc and the blocking beasts known as "the WRs" did the rest, as Lewis rambled and sliced through the open field for a 50ish-yard TD catch and run.

Brian Callahan (#4) and the 2s came on for three plays. The first play was an incomplete pass. The second was a play-action pass that saw Brandon Breazell (#1) drag across the field from right to left about 12 yards deep and make a great diving catch with his hands on a tight spiral from Callahan, first down Bruins. This was the first of several good plays by Brandon "The Blade" Breazell on the day.

1st and 10, Callahan hands off to Derrick Williams (#30) for four yards up the middle. (At this point, the OL seems to be winning the LOS battle and appear to be running the ball successfully almost every time they try it.)

Patrick Cowan (#12) took over the QB reins for the next three plays. First was a hand-off up the middle to Williams for eight yards and a first down.

The second (1st and 10) was a perfectly timed and perfectly paced 'skinny' post pass to the left side that The Blade beautifully snagged with his hands. Good thing, too, because Eric McNeal (#2) brought the big lumber and heavily popped The Blade just after he caught the ball. The Blade held on for 15 yards and a first down and only took a moment to gather his wits before getting up and jogging back to the huddle.

Pat Cowan ran the ball off of waggle action on the next play, but the Bruins were called for holding, making it 1st and 20. The D proceeded to jump offside, making it 1st and 15, and then Ben Olson (#3) took over.

From a double tight formation, Ben's first play was a three-step pass to the left. The TE on the quick out was covered, so Ben switched to the WR running a curl, but the WR was well-covered too, and Ben's throw sailed overhead, purposely.

On 2nd and 15, Olson waggled, but Nathaniel Skaggs (a well-built, low body fat DT) totally defeated the blocking and easily "sacked" Olson for an eight yard loss. 3rd and 23: Olson dropped back to pass, but the WRs were blanketed by the CBs, and Ben checked down to Ben Idemundia (#40), who gained three before being dropped, ending the possession.

Callahan came back on, and promptly hit Derrick Williams on a swing pass to the right that D took for a nine yard gain. On 2nd and 1, Idemundia got the call up the middle from the FB spot for +2 and a first down. Callahan then tried to hit Will Peddie on a TE corner route, but the pass was overthrown.

Pat Cowan took over, and it was his turn to throw the swing pass to Derrick Williams (the swing pass was easily UCLA's best play all day long), who juked Justin Sieber (#20) for a 15-yard gain and a first down.

David Koral led the 1s back on the field, and started with a hand-off to Markey up the middle that Chris carried for 2 yards. But on 2nd and 8, the D came up with one of its biggest plays of the scrimmage.

Markey began running the ball to the left where the strong side was, but Kevin Brown defeated the cut block of Bob Cleary and had a clean shot on Markey, which he used to separate #28 from the ball. Byron Velaga (#24) swooped and scooped, and the D had six on the board, and a chance for some (excessive?) celebration. Hey, we're talkin' about…practice.

Pat Cowan came on to run the 1s and he proceeded to put together the best drive of the day by the O, perhaps because they were fired up by the D's obvious enjoyment of their misfortune. It started with a bullet pass to brother Joe on the right side (slant pattern) that Joe was able to advance 15 yards total. Then from a double tight formation, Jr. Taylor at left FL was able to beat the CB's press at the line and run a post-corner route before Charlie Schuh could get there to push Taylor out of bounds after a 30-yard gain. The throw was accurate, strong and on-time. With the ball on about the 10 yard line, Cowan waggled left, saw open green, and headed for the corner. Patrick dove and struck the pylon quite heavily with the ball, which is a TD by definition, but the zebras ruled Cowan out of bounds at the 1 foot line. On 2nd and goal, the Bruins tried a trap play up the middle with Bob Cleary pulling from left guard to the right. Kevin Brown met Cleary full-on, and instead of cutting off of Cleary's backside and waltzing in, Chris Markey tried to go to the right of Brown to no avail. Fortunately, on 3rd and goal, Cowan executed a simple play-action pass and found Jimmy Stephens all alone in the right flat for the easy touchdown. (Hey, let's try that during the season on first down!)

Ben Olson then stepped in and ran his first series with the 1s. On 1st down, he gave the ball to MoD on a counter up the middle for nearly 10 yards. On 2nd and short, UCLA ran the wide zone play that MoD turned into a 15-yard pick-up and a first down. Markey came in and tried to run left, but Justin Hickman beat Brian Abraham on the play and dropped Chris for a 2-yard loss. On 2nd and 12, Olson attempted a play-action pass, but Kevin Brown destroyed the double team from Bob Cleary and Mike McCloskey to sack Olson for a loss of 8. It appeared on the play that this was mostly a coverage sack, because Ben had a second to release the ball if anyone was open.

(On the day, the DBs covered the WRs extremely well. The shift in strategy, to have the CBs play a tighter-to-the-LOS 'press' coverage instead of the traditional 5 to 7 yard cushion associated with UCLA's D over the last seven years, seems to be working well in enabling UCLA's DBs to take away the cheap stuff and be in better position all-around.)

On 3rd and 20, Olson dropped back to pass, but slipped as he went to plant his back foot, throwing off the timing on the post-corner route Marcus Everett (#9) was running, resulting in an incompletion out of bounds.

(On both days I've seen Olson, he has often slipped on his last step. Everything for a QB starts with his drop, so this is an area Ben and Coach Svoboda need to polish.)

Brian Callahan and the 2s got the next chance: the first play was a well-executed insider WR screen to Marcus Everett for +7 that was set up by a great, inside-out block by The Blade. (You're surprised that a kid from Ricky Manning Jr.'s high school knows how to hit somebody, even if he's comparatively light?)

On 2nd and 3, Callahan (stop me if you've heard this before) swung the ball to Derrick Williams in the right flat, which the fireplug turned into a 15-yard gain and a new set of downs.

After a run up the middle produced 2nd and 9, Ryen Carew (#36) ran the ball on a halfback power play (a new look for UCLA) to the right for six yards. On 3rd and 3, Callahan dropped back to pass and had the smarts to check down to Idemundia all alone over the middle, and Ben surged forward for +8 and a first down.

Callahan handed over the reins to Pat Cowan at that point, and on 1st down there was a mix-up as Cowan missed giving the hand-off to the RB. On 2nd and 17, Cowan waggled left, and threw a perfect pass to Will Peddie dragging across the middle into the left flat at medium depth, but Peddie spiked the ball for the most egregious Bruin drop on the day. Peddie had a few yards ahead of him if he had made the catch. On 3rd and 17, UCLA ran the same play to the other side, but Cowan hit the play side TE, Tyler Holland (#87), who turned it into a 7-yard gain, which was short of the 1st and reset the field.

Ben Olson then stepped in to run with the 2s. Olson was incomplete on a slant to the right side, but pass interference was called, giving UCLA a new set of downs. Unfortunately, the O jumped offside on the next play. On 1st and 15, Ryen Carew was sent left, but Mark Cordell made a nice tackle for only a one-yard gain. On 2nd and 14, William Snead sacked Olson from the play side for an 11-yard loss.

On 3rd and 25, Callahan stepped in and proceeded to (are you ready?) swing a pass to Idemundia on the right, which Ben turned into a 30-yard gain up the sideline and a first down. (If there's a need for a designated swing passer, BC gets my vote.)

Callahan handed off to Idemundia on the next play, but Brian Ruziecki (#61) made a nice play to drop Ben for a one-yard loss. 2nd and 11: Callahan rolls out to the right, and hits Andrew Baumgartner on a quick out for a 7-yard gain. On 3rd and 6 from the 18, Callahan hits Ryen Carew on a swing pass to the left, and Carew jets around end to the goal line, diving forward to hit the pylon with the ball, and the zebras reward the Bruins this time with a touchdown.

The Bruins then started from the 25-yard line, Cowan in with the 1s. Ryen Carew was handed the ball heading right, and Carew gained 8 yards on the play. FB Kristopher Kiley (#33) was given the ball on the next play up the middle, and he gained one yard. On 3rd and 1, Carew was sent up the middle, and he gained four yards before being leveled by a huge hit from safety Justin Sieber.

The Bruins set up again at the 25, with David Koral stepping in. On the first play, Koral took a five-step drop, stepped up subtly and found Marcedes Lewis all alone over the middle on a post pass for a picture perfect TD in the end zone.

Ball on the 25, Koral drops back on 1st and 10, but Bear Brown blows by McCloskey and Cleary to sack Koral for an eight-yard loss. On 2nd and 18, Brian Abraham jumps offside to make it 2nd and 23. Markey runs left for +5, and on 3rd and 18, Koral attempts a skinny post to Joe Cowan on the right side, but the throw has nothing on it and falls weakly short.

Reset to the 25, Koral still in: Markey left for 4, 2nd and 6. Koral attempts to get outside on a waggle play, but Hickman sacks him and engages in a little chest bumping with Bear Brown. KB is so geeked up he proceeds to split the double team and sacks Koral by himself for a loss of 8, ending the possession.

Ball on 25, Cowan in, pass play, and Kevin Brown beats Cleary for the second play in a row, dropping a 10-yard loss on the O. Cowan tries some of the swing magic on 2nd and 20 to Markey, but Mil'Von James comes up strong and tackles Markey for no gain. (Shocking!) On 3rd and 20, with a three-wide set, Cowan hits Everett over the middle on a curl underneath the coverage for a 10-yard gain.

Ben Olson then stepped in with the 2s, and was sacked on 1st down by Nathaniel Skaggs, who beat Jamaal Rhodes on the play. On 2nd and 15, Olson decides to try for the home run and lofts a pass to the right for Everett. Olson underthrows Marcus on the play, and Rodney Van (#3) is able to recover, leap high, screen Everett away with his body, and intercept the pass, a fine play by the true SO to be.

Reset to the 25: Olson hands the ball to Derrick Williams heading right on the zone wide play, and Williams busts it for a 25-yard TD run.

Ball on the 25, Olson throws a swing pass to the left, but Byron Velaga comes up hard to make a great tackle for a 7-yard loss.

Callahan takes over for Olson on 2nd and 17, and throws a great slant pass to the right to The Blade, who makes a great catch with his hands before being leveled on the play. Breazell was hit so hard that he was put into a hurdler's stretch, and many feared that he had injured his left ankle on the play. Fortunately, Breazell was able to get up and showed no immediate ill-effects from the hit. To add insult to (near) injury, it appears the catch was disallowed when The Blade was bent backwards and released the ball to grab his leg. On 3rd and 17, Callahan hit Everett over the middle for +7, but far short of a new set of downs.

The next three plays were the last of the scrimmage: Callahan fumbled a snap, Harbour sacked Callahan for a loss of five, and then Carew ran the ball to the right for +10.

Impressions of the scrimmage are:

1. The Bruins and Tom Cable displayed the same power football play-calling that was used last year. The gashing running game was never really stopped by any of the Ds. MoD looked especially impressive, gaining at least 10 yards a carry, it seemed. Derrick Williams and newcomer Ryen Carew also had strong plays carrying the pig.

2. The passing O was fairly straightforward. There weren't many double move routes, there weren't many combo routes run, there were no screens run. The DBs took away the WRs with their aggressive press coverage and jammed up the short timing routes that are the bread-and-butter of UCLA's passing attack. The Bruin QBs only went deep a couple of times.

3. The swing pass is UCLA's way of getting the RB outside with the ball. Given how tight the CBs were playing, it is surprising how successful the play was almost all day long. However, the last two times it was used, the CBs came up quickly and blew up the play before the RB could get going. CBs are often the Achilles' heel of a D, and making them make open-field tackles is a good offensive strategy. At the same time, it is good to see UCLA's CBs tested so often. Better to get burned in a spring scrimmage than against Cal.

4. TE Marcedes Lewis wasn't used much, but both throws to him resulted in touchdowns. One way to measure Karl Dorrell's effectiveness this season is by the number of balls thrown Marcedes way, and the measures taken to move him around and get him open.

5. Ben Olson didn't have an extremely productive day. His pass blocking was spotty, his footwork betrayed him, and the DBs blanketed his WRs. Think maybe that the D played with a little extra intensity when he stepped under center? You betcha…great players elevate the play of those around him. Even the guys on the other side.

6. Patrick Cowan did. David Koral was pretty effective, too. Cowan definitely appeared to have fewer arm strength issues than Koral had on the day. Although Koral did look plenty good on the post strike to Lewis for six. Cowan's accuracy, timing and touch were very good on the day. And having a brother at starting WR doesn't hurt. Think those backyard and street sessions as kids won't come in handy at some point?

7. Gotta love Thurmond Moore's boys along the DL. The DL consistently collapsed the pocket similar to the way the Ball Bunch did in 2003. And now that Mike Patterson has moved on, Kevin Brown might assume the mantle of best NG in town. He sure looked like Patterson, shredding doubles on his way to the QB and big plays behind the LOS. Brigham Harwell and Kyle Morgan had quiet days, but Justin Hickman looked very solid, with a sack and another TFL. A good development was seeing Nathaniel Skaggs really produce from the DT spot. Skaggs is taller than Harwell, and while not as thick in the torso, has thicker arms and legs.

8. While the pass rush was much better than last year in spring ball (producing numerous sacks without the benefit of one blitz), the run D was still suspect. The way MoD was slashing through the D brought flashbacks of Vernand Morrency to mind. Given that UCLA is playing walk-ons at the ILB spots, I guess the O would be questioned if they didn't produce big rushing totals, so choose your poison.

9. The OL had a great day run blocking, but pass blocking was another matter. The 1st team OL gave up at least six sacks, much too large a number for the limited number of plays the 1st team had in the 75 to 80 play scrimmage. It will be interesting to see how the 1st team OL performs in the scrimmage on March 12th.

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