Defense Dominates Scrimmage

It's just spring, as Head Coach Bob Toledo points out, and they're really raw and unpolished, but the defense looked lightyears ahead of the offense in the first real scrimmage of spring practice...

You could say it was a defense-dominated scrimmage.

It would be a nice way of saying that the offense looked pretty lousy for at least the first half of the scrimmage.

Or, you could still be nice and say that the defense was very good, especially the defensive line. Rod Leisle was in on so many plays, literally throwing offensive linemen out of the way, stuffing runners and getting in the backfield on pass plays. He probably was credited for at least two sacks. With depth at DT like Leisle, huge and quick Sean Phillips, promising JC transfer Ryan Boschetti and veteran Steve Morgan, the interior defensive line looks tough. The ends weren't as dominating but still had a good showing. The overall quickness of the Balls, Rusty Williams and Asi Faoa is a plus, which enables them to contain the ends very well. Rusty Williams lined up with the starters, but Faoa did later in the scrimmage. For the first hour of the scrimmage, no quarterback could get off a decent pass because of the pressure put on them by the defensive line.

The linebackers had a good showing, particularly Marcus Reese, who was probably in on the majority of tackles. He looks settled and at home at middle linebacker. Brandon Chillar was active, and starting weakside backer Audie Attar had some good moments – and perhaps the highlight of the scrimmage when he flew in/over the offensive line to grab running back Wendell Mathis for a loss in very Robert Thomas-esque style. Spencer Havner had some nice highlights, one tackle for a loss being particularly impressive.

The defensive backs were helped out considerably by the pressure put on the quarterback by the defensive line. The quarterbacks were running for their lives and then throwing desperate ducks, which the defensive backs benefitted from. Ricky Manning, Matt Ware and Joe Hunter all had easy picks. When the offense settled down a bit in the second half of the scrimmage and receivers had time to run routes, the defensive backs looked a little vulnerable. Joe Hunter got burned a couple of times, and got hit for a PI. Matt Ware looked very good, was around the ball, and had some good licks on receivers and running backs. Safety Chad Rogers looked good with the second team, as did Jibril Raymo.

UCLA's main concerns have to be on offense – particularly at quarterback and offensive line. It's only spring, granted, but for the first half of the scrimmage, the quarterbacks and O-line weren't great.

The first-team offensive line was getting beat repeatedly by the first team defensive line. The first-string tackles, Bryce Bohlander and Mike Saffer, were relatively solid, but the interior line was dominated. Shane Lehmann didn't participate, sitting out of practice for a few days with concussion, John Ream is out with an injured toe.

At quarterback, Paus looked very shaky in the first half of the scrimmage, throwing errant balls and looking indecisive. As was stated above, though, he was under constant pressure from the d-line. Plus, a few bobbles of the snap might be attributed to working with a new center. In the second half of the scrimmage, Paus had more time in the pocket and settled more into a rhythm. He drove the offense down the field twice, against a semi-first string defense. The drives consisted of some nice, precise passes and the pounding of Manuel White running with the ball. Paus threw a nice 40-yard strike to Mike Seidman, and then a quick hitter to Keith Carter for a touchdown (pictured). He found Garrett Lepisto over the middle with a nice ball for about 25 yards (and Matt Ware finished the play with a nice hit on Lepisto). Paus threw a nice 12-yarder to Junior Taylor, and later a quick hitter to Craig Bragg that went for about 20-yards on a good move by Bragg.

John Sciarra looked pretty overwhelmed. He was under pressure most of the time, and looked indecisive about finding a receiver. When he wasn't throwing awkwardly or off his back foot, he actually threw some decent balls, but there weren't many. He looked mobile, but had to be with the pressure he was getting.

Matt Ware was in there running the option, to very little success. He threw out of the option once, and while it was a decent-looking pass, it wasn't close.

The running backs were, overall, okay. Akil Harris bruised a shoulder and sat out for a majority of the scrimmage. That gave Manuel White the opportunity to show what he could do and he took advantage of it. When there isn't much running room, White will move the pile for three yards. When he has some daylight and gets into the defensive backfield, you almost feel sorry for the pain he's going to give a defensive back. He probably had 75 yards on the day, with a nice, physical 20-yard run right through the middle, and a bull of a 2-yard TD run. Again, when he and Pat Norton are in the backfield together it's got to be a scary sight for opposing defenses. Kenny Pritchett took most of the second-string snaps, and looked okay. Tyler Ebell, playing against the third-string defense, broke off some pretty decent runs, showing his quick cuts. Mathis, too, had a nice, 35-yard run where he used his quickness and cuts to get open. Jason Harrison generally didn't really get enough opportunity to distinguish himself.

The wide receivers look good at times, shaky at others. Craig Bragg is the money man, the guy you can rely on for a reception. As stated above, he made an ankle-breaking move on a quick hitter which was one of the best plays of the day. Tab Perry ran some routes where he was open, but the quarterbacks were under pressure and couldn't get him the ball. Junior Taylor generally had a good scrimmage, catching a few balls. Garrett Lepisto ran nice routes and caught a nice ball. Russell Thomas, after two weeks of good practice, was wide open for a post and dropped the pass. Lepisto and Thomas, though, are getting good reviews by the defensive backs. Jacques Lazarus looked out of sync and didn't make an impact.

Special teams was kind of a grab bag also. Punter Chris Kluwe still looks to be struggling, especially getting the ball off quickly enough, having a punt blocked and a couple more that should have been. Nate Fikse wasn't much better. On kick-off returns, Ricky Manning and Akil Harris were the first-string returners, but Tyler Ebell returned a kick to about the 45-yard line on some nice moves.

Matt Moore and Wesley Walkers, the two regulars, attended the scrimmage. Junior linebacker Michael Okwo was there. Also in attendance was an OL from Manuel Arts, Kevin Myers, who is a very wide body. About 6-4, and probably weighing 300 pounds.

Comments from Head Coach Bob Toledo:

On his opinion of the scrimmage…

"After seven days, there have been a lot of good individual things and a lot of good hitting going on. Obviously we're not ready to play a football game. You never are in the spring. We're looking at a lot of different people. So, we're not overly concerned with the team. We're looking at individuals. We'll become a team."

On individuals that stood out…

I was pleased to see Junior Taylor catch some balls. I liked the way the running backs ran. Obviously the guys that have played here, the Ricky Mannings, the Leisles, look really good. I thought Ware had a great hit. The two offensive tackles are really doing a good job, Bohlander and Saffer. Chillar is doing a nice job. I think Tyler Ebell looked good on some plays. I thought Mathis did some nice things. Keith Carter did some nice things. Spencer Havner is showing a lot of progress. I like the two JC guys, Boschetti and Pierre-Louis, they're playing hard and doing some nice things."

On Tyler Ebell…

"He's an exciting little guy. He has quickness and speed and he can make plays. One of the things I want to do is create situations where he can get the ball in his hands. So, we'll continue to build on that."

On injuries…

"Akil Harris has a bruised shoulder. There were some guys we just didn't play very much, and he was one of them. Shane Lehmann has a concussion and he's been out for almost a week."

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