Tuesday's Practice

Like every week, Tuesday's practice is more intense; A wide receiver is stepping up; plus the coaches provide us a little tutorial on UCLA's "zone blitz"...

Starting offensive tackle Mike Saffer was dressed but didn't practice Tuesday. It is still undetermined whether he'll be able to play Saturday and UCLA said they won't know until closer to game time.

There were a few scuffles in practice Tuesday, a by-product, the coaches say, of the players picking up their intensity heading into Pac-10 play and their game against Oregon State. "As long as it doesn't disrupt practice," Head Coach Bob Toledo said, "Then it's okay."

True freshman wide receiver Junior Taylor practiced lightly Monday because of a mild hip injury, but was back in full force Tuesday and looked particularly good, especially in the one-on-one drills. Ricky Manning and Matt Ware both covered him and he smoothly ran past them deep and caught the ball with his hands outstretched comfortably. Toledo said of Taylor: "He's really strting to come on. He's getting more natural catching the ball and he's starting to understand the offense more."

Akil Harris injured his thumb last week in practice, but Toledo said it didn't affect his carries in the San Diego State game and shouldn't this week. "He'll get his carries. Last week we had a chance to play a lot of guys, so his carries went down obviously. It's just a sprain." When asked if there were reasons behind Harris's production diminishing in the last couple of games, Toledo said: "I think the fullback position has hurt him. The lead blocker. We've been banged up at fullback. He's missed a few holes, too. When you have five running backs, it's hard to get reps in practice. As a running back you have to get a feel for that. Sometimes you just don't get that feel. He's made some nice runs and he'll continue to get better."

The new buzz words when it comes to defense in college football is "zone blitz." Coach Toledo said that UCLA has been predominantly using the zone blitz all year, even though it sometimes looks like a blitz out of man-to-man coverage. Basically, when you utilize a zone blitz, you're substituting a linebacker or a defensive back to rush the passer instead of a defensive end. The end, then, drops back into pass coverage. But since you're blitzing linebackers or defensive backs it appears like it's coming out of man coverage. "It's kind of an illusion," Coach Toledo said. "People see you bring backs and they think you're playing man-to-man. It's the zone blitz. Everybody is playing the zone blitz. That's what it is. You're compensating by dropping linemen. We don't play a lot of man, to be honest with you. It looks like man but it's not." Defensive Coordinator Phil Snow provided us a little more zone blitz tutorial: "Really what a zone blitz is this. In man blitz you have a chance to give up a big play because there's nobody in the middle. With zone blitz, you can overload on the rush, just like you do in a man blitz, but you're in deep thirds [a zone]. So, if they catch it underneath on you they can get maybe a 10- or 15-yard gain but it's not a homerun. That's what we're doing, and that's what everyone is doing now. You overload a blitz, with zone principles, so you don't give up big plays."

Coach Snow described the difference in coverage from man-to-man: "So, we play zone, but we have man concepts. Here's an example. Ricky Manning was playing bump-and-run and intercepted the ball against San Diego State. It looked like man but that was zone coverage. But there are man principles to it. That's really what we do. You can zone blitz, but you have to play some man principles in it. We don't really play true zone where you just cover an area. We're reading routes and then manning people. We do zone blitz and have man principles in it."


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