Receiver Brandon Breazell went up against corner Alterraun Verner, both #1s in their respective white and blue jerseys, and that made for some great fireworks. On one goal line hitch route, Verner had good coverage, and tipped the pass, but as Verner was going down Breazell kept the ball in the air and plucked it over Verner, who was, from the ground trying to keep Breazell from going over the goal line, but Breazell stretched out the ball in mid-air for what looked to be a touchdown. On another rep, Breazell did a stop-and-go juke that left Verner flat-footed and allow Breazell to easily catch the pass in the corner of the endzone.
Overall, Breazell caught a few more passes and had a very good day.
Even though Verner got the shorter end on those two reps, he had a good practice. In fact, the defense, as we've seen and expect, had a very good day in coverage Thursday with so much of practice dedicated to putting pressure on them in the redzone.
Watching UCLA's receivers, there is depth, with many solid guys on the roster. The question, however, will be, as it was to a degree last year, does anyone have the ability to get open? While UCLA's receivers might be technically sound, there isn't many who can create enough space to catch a ball. Breazell is, by far, the best at it, but the carry-over knock from last season will be whether he's strong enough now to stay on his route when he's pressed.
Gavin Ketchum caught a touchdown pass from Ben Olson on the defense's lone blown coverage, but other than that anything the offense got on the defense was definitely earned. The defensive coaches were generally giving the defense high praise.
With so much game-situation competition, there were some spirited flare-ups. There was one pushing match, and another trash-talking match between Bruce Davis and Kahlil Bell.
It wasn't all passing in the situations, but there was some run-play thudding (plays with everything but tackling where a defender can initially "thud" a ball carrier but not tackle). It was really the first time that it was done in front of the crowd, so it was our first opportunity to watch the #1 and #2 defense in run pursuit, and they looked particularly good. There was quite a bit of rotation on the defensive line, with starters Kevin Brown and Brigham Harwell not getting that many reps, allowing their back-ups some time. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Darius Savage made a couple of stops, shedding his blocker easily. He's still huge, but Savage has slimmed down and he moves quite a bit better than he did a year ago. Chase Moline returned to practice and stepped into the 2s and had a couple of nice pursuits and stops. He lined up with the 2s alongside Jess Ward.
The play of the day might have been, on an end run, fullback Trevor Theriot tried to lay a block on safety Aaron Ware but Ware plowed him, and received hoots from his on-looking defensive teammates.
It's still early and obviously the hierarchy could change, but the depth for the defensive front line looks to be defensive ends Tom Blake and Korey Bosworth and tackles Ward and Moline, with Jerzy Siewierski and Savage rotating in.
At linebacker, it looks to be Kyle Bosworth at the strongside, John Hale in the middle and walk-on transfer from UC Davis, Josh Edwards on the weakside. Shawn Oatis, the redshirt sophomore, was getting time at weakside but he went down in this practice with a knee injury.
Redshirt freshman Jeff Miller looks to be getting most of his time at defensive end, his original position, despite it being said he'd move to defensive tackle.
Dorrell on Thursday --
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