First Day of Practice

The latest edition of UCLA football took to Spaulding Field Tuesday for spring practice without pads, and without familiar faces. Generally looking rusty, the practice, though, had some highlights, even for a first day...

The first, initial impressions: It was a bit eery not to see DeShaun Foster, Rober Thomas, Marques Anderson and the rest of the graduating seniors on Spaulding Field, especially since it was cold enough to make you think it was November.

Overall, for a first spring practice, it was pretty typical, with the players looking somewhat ragged and raw. But there was also some promising flashes.

Perhaps the most encouraging was how redshirt freshman quarterback John Sciarra performed. Let's not over-inflate this, Sciarra is still just a baby and has a very long way to go. But his first practice of the spring showed stronger, crisper throws. He's always looked mobile and heady, but it appeared his arm strength has definitely improved.

Cory Paus looked like what you would expect – solid but rusty. The walkon third quarterback, a transfer from L.A. Harbor, Scott Schmitz, is listed at 6-0 and it's possible that he is. He is a pure walk-on, but at least, for his size, he has a decent arm.

It's always difficult to assess the offensive line since they do most of their drills in the far corner of Spaulding Field, but generally the group looks older, bigger and more physical. Looking particularly more agile was Steve Vieira, who was lined up with the starters at right guard.

At tight end, Mike Seidman looked fleet and quick, and in good form. Keith Carter looks as if he's put on some more bulk. Saia Makakaufaki, having moved from defensive line, looked raw in his pass routes.

Also difficult to watch were the running backs, but Manuel White looks to be in very good shape. Tyler Ebell and Wendell Mathis both look to have put on some weight. There was also a little de ja vu at tailback, with a good-looking, #26 going through drills. It was little strange until you realized it was walk-on tailback Justin Domineck, who actually looked physically more like a scholarship athlete than a walk-on.

There is some talent at wide receiver, but it looks rusty and raw. Tab Perry is practicing and looked good, running crisp routes, as did Craig Bragg. Junior Taylor looks good physically, put together well, and looks quick, but, given that it was the first day of practice, has a lot to clean up in his footwork and pass routes. The same goes for redshirt freshman Jacques Lazarus. Ryan Smith was in sweats watching from the sidelines. Also watching the wide receivers work out was Idris Moss, the incoming freshman. According to Coach Toledo, Moss will start out as a wide receiver next fall.

On the defensive side, perhaps the best thing to see was Rod Leisle practicing. Apparently he will practice until he undergoes surgery on his wrist. Ryan Boschetti looked big and quick in drills. Defensive end David Tautofi looked to have slimmed down a bit. Asi Faoa is bordering on a physical freak.

The linebackers generally look fast but not very bulky. Brandon Chillar and Marcus Reese can really run. Spencer Havner is very, very quick, working with the second team at weakside. Patrick Pierre-Louis showed some wheels also, working with the third team.

Perhaps the best overall performance from a unit on the first day of practice came from the defensive backs. First, it's very inspiring just to see Matt Ware line up at free safety. His physical presence there makes such an impact. Ben Emanuel said his shoulder surgery went well and that he was diligently doing his rehab. Since there was no hitting and no pads, Emanuel worked out a bit, mostly in conditioning, and looked in good, sleeky shape. Jibril Raymo looked big at strong safety. The corners probably performed the best of the day, providing great coverage in the drills and in the seven-on-seven at the end of practice. Not only was Ricky Manning impressive, but so was Marcus Cassel and Matt Clark. Joe Hunter also had his moments.

On the kicking game, it's the same-o, same-o with Chris Griffith and Nate Fikse. Chris Kluwe still looks a little inconsistent, but when he hits a punt right, it's a bomb. On punt returns, it looked like Craig Bragg and Tyler Ebell were getting most of the reps.

In attendance watching practice were incoming freshman Matt Moore and Drew Olson, who were hanging around the quarterback drills throughout practice; as state, Idris Moss; running back Glenn Ohaeri; and linebacker Wesley Walker, who looked big.

Comments from Toledo about the first day of practice will be up soon…


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