Thursday's Football Practice Notes

A player leaves the program, and a few of the injured take steps toward returning. Three quarterbacks generally have good performances, while a wide receiver and a freshman running back step up...

Personnel Update:

Jebiaus Brown, the fourth year junior cornerback, has left the program. He will continue with his education at UCLA, on track to complete his degree by the end of this year.

This now gives UCLA 20 scholarships to give to the 2006 recruiting class.

Back-up junior linebacker Dan Nelson was on crutches Thursday due to a bruised knee.

Redshirt freshman receiver Ryan Graves was also out with a knee injury.

Chris Horton had shoulder pads and a helmet on for a portion of the practice.

Bruce Davis participated in drills, but not the scrimmages.

The video of Coach Karl Dorrell's comments after practice that includes information about the injured players will be coming tonight.

Quarterback Update:

David Koral got most of the reps among the quarterbacks Thursday, and performed fairly well. He made an excellent throw into the corner of the endzone from the 20-yard line, and soph receiver Brandon Breazell made a spectacular one-handed catch, on good coverage from Trey Brown. Koral also hit Marcedes Lewis on a throw into the back of the endzone that Lewis wrestled away from safety Dennis Keyes.

Drew Olson also had a fairly good day. The seven-on-sevens and 11-on-11s were done mostly within the redzone, either at the 20-yard or 10-yard line, or at the goal line. And Olson converted the most of any quarterback, hitting Joe Cowan on a corner route for a score, and a swing pass to Kahlil Bell for a score. He looked confident and in command.

Ben Olson didn't get many reps, but he did look good in the ones he did get. He hit Bell over the middle with a perfect strike, and Bell than did well in keeping his balance and glancing off tackles to score. He also hit Junior Taylor for a TD on a 10-yard out. Olson looked probably the most precise of any of the quarterbacks on short throws, being very accurate on the quick outs, and throwing very accurate when rolling out also. From our stats, he was 8 for 9, and was sacked once, by defensive tackle Kenneth Lombard.

Pat Cowan followed up a poor day yesterday with generally another Thursday. He threw a couple of near interceptions, was late on many throws or a bit inaccurate. In the last two days it appears Cowan is just a mili-second behind in his decision-making.

Rest of the Team Performance Update:

The defense dominated practice, led by the surprisingly effective young cornerbacks. Rodney Van again had a good day, having a few knock downs and a near interception. If there is a criticism of Van so far in the four days of practice is that he hasn't held on to easy interception balls after making a good jump on the route. Michael Norris is supplying tight coverage on just about every rep, either knocking down the passes or being right on the receiver's hip to limit him to a short gain after the catch. Trey Brown had a better performance today, being far more solid and aggressive in his coverage.

It's uncertain if it's a matter that the defensive secondary is entirely familiar with UCLA's offense and is cheating on the routes as a result, but the young corners are looking good. In the scrimmage for the young players, Aaron Ware had a huge hit on tight end Logan Paulsen, which dropped Paulsen immediately.

It was imperative that UCLA get good production out of its young corners, but with the loss of Jebiaus Brown, depth now is also a question. As Dorrell comments about in the video interview, usually a team would have at least eight cornerbacks, and right now UCLA has six: Van, Norris, Trey Brown, Byron Velega, Marcus Cassel and Ware.

Safety Eric McNeal had another strong day, being in on many tackles, while also catching a tipped pass from J.J. Hair for an interception.

Justin London had the hit of the day, standing up receiver Matt Slater on a catch over the middle. He also made a few other good coverage stops, and a number of other good stops against the run. With Wesley Walker and Dan Nelson being out, Fred Holmes has taken over the second-string duties at middle linebacker, and looks to be doing a solid job. He has slimmed down a bit from the spring and looks quicker.

The d-line again pressured the quarterbacks well, with Justin Hickman having at least one sack, and Lombard having probably two (sometimes it's difficult to see what's happening when it's on the opposite side of Spaulding Field). Nikola Dragovic also penetrated quickly for a virtual sack. The d-line was also very good against the run generally for the day, stuffing most running backs at the line.

On offense, you can't keep repeating how good Maurice Drew and Marcedes Lewis are. Drew was explosive through the line again, and Lewis is so difficult to cover.

Perhaps the offensive player who stepped up the most Thursday was Matt Slater, who was precise in the drills, and had some very good catches in the scrimmages. Olson hit a quick Slater on that nice corner route in the end zone.

Also on that list of players who stepped up was Bell, who had a very good day running and, particularly, catching the ball. He has very sure hands and is very good at running after the catch.

The offensive line looks big and deep. Tony Lee again was again impressive at second-string tackle. Aleksey Lanis, the true freshman, is seeing time on the third-string as a guard. In the young players' scrimmage, he absolutely destroyed his man a couple of times.

Recruit Watch:

Toby Gerhart, the running back from Norco (Calif.) High, attended practice. He first spent time with the UCLA baseball coaches.

The younger brother of Gavin Kethum, Logan Ketchum, the junior wide receiver/safety from Oak Park, attended his second practice of the week. The younger Ketchum, if you remember, attended UCLA's four-day camp this summer.

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