Injury at Saturday's Scrimmage

Kevin Brown, the emerging star defensive tackle, is injured, and UCLA released his prognosis this afternoon. The offense is vanilla for the scrimmage, but intendedly so, and the defense holds up well, surprisingly, against the run...

The scrimmage at Drake Stadium today wasn't a spectacular affair, by any means.

There were very few greatly dramatic plays, on either offense or defense.

But keep in mind, the UCLA coaches aren't exactly going to give away their offense – or their defense -- at a scrimmage two weeks before the opening game of the season.

This was a vanilla showing on both sides of the ball, to get the players acclimated to playing without the coaches standing next to them, in live action, with referees, and even a crowd (which was probably about 2,500).

Sometimes over the last several years it's been curious why UCLA – or any college football program – for that matter – even conduct these fall camp scrimmages. The fans aren't generally satisfied because the coaches don't use their entire repertoire and the scrimmages, for the most part, are unexciting. And there always is a correlation between how much live action you do in fall camp to how many injuries you sustain.

Most college coaches would consider the proposition of doing very little live work in fall camp as preposterous, in fact. But wouldn't you rather have your team entirely healthy while possibly lacking as much live action experience in fall camp – as opposed to having a great deal of live action experience and having a banged up squad?

There were a couple of key personnel "banged up" in Saturday's scrimmage, at a position that is already thin – the two starting defensive tackles, junior Kevin Brown and sophomore Brigham Harwell.

Brown was examined and x-rayed in the afternoon, after the scrimmage. The x-rays showed no fracture, but he does have one of the dreaded high-ankle sprains, and will need a pin inserted on Monday to reposition the ankle. He will miss at least 6-8 weeks, according to UCLA.

Harwell felt better after the scrimmage and will be re-examined Monday, but is day-to-day at this time.

Brown, who was emerging as one of the stars of the team, was thought to be one of the most valuable components of the 2005 Bruins, being the potential star defensive tackle on a roster without many. His loss is a huge one.

Without Brown and Harwell, the starting defensive tackles at the scrimmage were 6-1, 260-pound redshirt freshman Kenneth Lombard, and 6-0, 250-pound true freshman Chase Moline.

With Brown gone and possibly missing half the season, Lombard will step into the starting spot at defensive tackle. Moline will be the first defensive tackle off the bench. That's a huge leap for a kid who, just six months ago, many college programs weren't sure about offering, including UCLA.

Chris Johnson, the sophomore d-tackle, is sinking in the depth chart, having not shown much this fall.

You'd have to think, though, if you're a UCLA opponent, your game plan would be to run up the middle on the Bruins, when their top three players at defensive tackle are a true sophomore starting for the first time, and an undersized redshirt freshman and a true freshman.

Just speculating, but you'd have to think that UCLA will move someone to defensive tackle – perhaps Nathaniel Skaggs or even Kyle Morgan.

To the credit of Lombard and Moline, the d-line played well today, with Moline making a couple of nice tackles for loss.

In fact, it's not certain whether this is something to worry about or not: The offense generally didn't walk right through the defensive line on the ground like you would assume they would, given that the starters at defensive tackle were out.

Defensive ends Nikola Dragovic and Justin Hickman getting most of the reps with the #1 defense. Dragovic, as he's shown in practice, was in the backfield quite a bit, getting one sack, and putting pressure on the quarterback consistently. Hickman also got a sack, as did William Snead, the other left end with Dragovic, as did d-end Nathaniel Skaggs.

Hickman had a number of tackles and was all around the ball. The offense broke off a couple of big runs, the biggest being Chris Markey's run for about 25 yards. But generally the DL, with its two freshman DTs, fared okay.

The defensive MVP of the day was middle linebacker Justin London, who had more than five tackles, was all around the ball, and had a couple of huge hits. He hit Maurice Drew so hard on a running play that Drew's helmet popped off.

Spencer Havner played limited reps. The other starting linebacker, Bruce Davis, had a few good moments, getting a couple of tackles. One perhaps was ill-advised, when he actually hit a scrambling Ben Olson, who was in a red, no-hit jersey like all the quarterbacks.

There were good performances from the back-up linebackers also. Middle linebacker Dan Nelson had a couple of nice tackles and a pass break-up. Aaron Whittington had a few nice stops. On one blitz, he got a sack, a strip and recovered the ball, while the refs were whistling it dead. Freshman John Hale again looked impressive, with a sack and a forced fumble, and a nice stand-up tackle on a running back through the middle on a third-and-three. Walk-on Christian Taylor had a few good stops, on one dropping Maurice Drew for a four-yard loss on a dump-off pass.

The defensive backs generally had a good day, providing mostly tight coverage. Cornerback Marcus Cassel had a few good break-ups and an interception, stepping in front of a late Pat Cowan pass. Michael Norris supplied good coverage, while also called for a pass interference when he appeared to just be covering receiver Ryan Graves tightly up the sideline. Rodney Van made over five tackles for the day.

Freshman cornerback Aaron Ware had a good tackle to blow up a screen pass.

Drew Olson appeared to the fumble the ball in the pocket after pressured by Cassel and Dragovic.

Jarrad Page, the starting strong safety, had a couple of key stops where he plugged running holes very well, as did Dennis Keyes, who stuffed running back Chris Markey pretty strongly on one up-the-middle run.

On offense, as stated above, there weren't too many spectacular plays, but some solid play-making on fairly vanilla, scrimmage-quality play-calling.

Drew Olson completed 8 of 15 passes for 105 yards, had one touchdown and no interceptions. On the one touchdown pass, Olson left the pocket, moved right and hit Joe Cowan for a 31-yard score. Olson looked a little inaccurate to begin the scrimmage, but then starting making better throws when he got warmed up.

Ben Olson was 8 of 12 for 82 yards, and threw two touchdowns with no interceptions. His 38-yard throw to Marcedes Lewis in the endzone was a pretty one, with Ben throwing it over the top down the middle and Lewis adjusting over safety Dennis Keyes to make the catch. Ben and Lewis also connected on a 15-yard TD. Ben also rolled out on one play and ran with it, avoiding tacklers and looking quick, gaining about 15. When Olson had time to throw, he looked good, but still looks like he's not quite finding the receivers quickly enough. Perhaps it's also a lack of pocket feel at this point, which would be understandable for someone who actually hasn't played in a football game in over three years.

David Koral was 6 of 13 for 59 yards, and didn't have a great day. To make some excuses for him, he was working with the #2 offensive line mostly, but he did throw some inaccurate balls also. He improvised one good play where he dumped off the ball for about a 15-yard gain. But his other improvisations mostly failed. On one, while he was trying to make something happen in the pocket, he ran straight into defensive end Kyle Morgan.

Except for a couple of badly-thrown balls, redshirt freshman quarterback Pat Cowan looked fairly good, competing 8 of 14 for 66 yards, getting picked once. His TD throw was a 4-yard quick hitter to Brandon Breazell. Cowan made a couple of 15-20 yard completions that required good, strong throws.

True freshman Osaar Rasshan had a series with the third string. He tripped on one drop-back and bumped into walk-on running back Trason Bragg on one hand-off. He did hit tight end Matt Raney on a wobbly 30-yard completion over the middle.

Running back Maurice Drew ran the ball just 9 times, for 28 yards. After he was popped pretty good by London early on, he didn't get many reps after that until the last few series of the scrimmage. He had a one-yard scoring plunge. He did have one very impressive run where he looked wrapped up by Jarrad Page after about two yards, then squirted free for about ten.

Since Chris Markey missed some of fall practice and everyone knows what Drew can do, Markey got most of the carries on the day. He ran 21 times for 78 yards, with one touchdown, a 2-yard scoring leap over the line.

Starting fullback Michael Pitre didn't run the ball, but had two catches for 12 yards, one on a nice swing pass in which he broke a few tackles.

The offense, actually, didn't run the ball much, but used its short passing game predominantly.

Receiver Joe Cowan benefitted, getting three receptions for 54 yards and that 31-yard touchdown pass from Drew Olson. He had one catch on a tipped pass, and another streaking up the sidelines but was out of bounds when he made the catch.

Junior Taylor, while he only caught two passes for 15 yards, looked better than his statistics. He was open a couple of times, but was overthrown. On the first series, on third-and-11, Taylor had his man beat on a post and Olson overthrew him.

Marcus Everett had a couple of nice catches, holding onto the ball well in traffic.

Andrew Baumgarter, the walk-on receiver, had three sure-handed catches for 24 yards.

Redshirt freshman Ryan Graves had a couple of receptions, and a nice punt return for about 20 yards. It looks like he's, right now, on the list of seven or eight receivers to get in the rotation.

Many critics would cite the offense's inability to get Marcedes Lewis a touch on the ball for the first few series, but he still caught three passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns, those two from Ben Olson. Could it be maybe that the UCLA offensive brain trust doesn't want to give away too much of how it intends to use Lewis?

A very good sign was that senior starting center Mike McCloskey took snaps at the scrimmage.

Kicker Justin Medlock kicked field goals from 30, 40 and 48, and missed one from 53.

Redshirt freshman punter Aaron Perez averaged 41.8 yards per punt. Most of his punts were low, with little hang-time that went about 40 yards, which make them dangerously returnable. He had one good punt with good hang time that went 48 yards.

Ryan Graves returned punts, and walk-on receiver Matt Willis had a couple of kick-off returns, looking shifty and quick on one.

Players who didn't participate due to ailments or other reasons:

Receiver Gavin Ketchum, receiver Matt Slater, running back Derrick Williams, running back Kahlil Bell, safety Chris Horton, linebacker Wesley Walker, and defensive tackle Jess Ward.

Some Recruits at the Scrimmage:

Terrence Austin, WR, Long Beach (Calif.) Poly
Darian Hagan Jr., CB, Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw
Leilyon Myers, ATH, Lynwood (Calif.) High


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