On a team that suffered numerous losses to graduation, there have been some players who are already beginning to emerge as vocal leaders. In addition, the Bruins have welcomed back some much needed veterans from injury giving those in attendance hope for the upcoming season.
The first and most noticeable difference on Spaulding is the uniforms. Gone are the old gameday-style jerseys that were worn by the offense and defense as are the red jersey's worn by the quarterbacks.
In their place are crisp deep royal blue jerseys with white numbers for the offense and white jersey's with deep blue numbers for the defense. The quarterbacks are now wearing black jerseys. All are in gold shorts.
With five quarterbacks, all on scholarship, in practice, UCLA has more depth at the position for the first time in years. Ben Olson and Pat Cowan, the senior quarterbacks who've both been the starters at some point the last two seasons are now joined by JC transfer Kevin Craft. Chris Forcier, the redshirt freshman is also seeing significant snaps after running the scout team the past season. Osaar Rasshan, who's been an on-again, off-again quarterback, is also sporting a black jersey, though you still get the feeling he's better suited to be split out wide.
Olson has been getting the majority of the snaps through two days, though not by much, with both Cowan and Craft also getting plenty of opportunities. It wouldn't be a stretch to say, though, that Craft has been the most consistent passer in the early going. Craft has very good feet and mobility, does a good job squaring himself and throws a nice ball. Forcier has shown some flashes while Rasshan has, as what always seems to be the case, but marred by up-and-down play, throwing a beautiful deep ball on one play, then the next, short-hopping it to a running back.
In the backfield, it's a pleasant site to see Raymond Carter back in the mix. Wearing a red, no-contact jersey, Carter will participate all spring in the non-contact drills. When we talked to him on Friday, he said he's feeling more comfortable out there as he's building confidence in his knee, which was surgically repaired in August. With Kahlil Bell out because of his own knee injury, Chane Moline and Christian Ramirez are also receiving a slew of carries. Both have looked good at times, particularly Ramirez, who had a good day of practice on Friday.
Everett's return gives the quarterbacks a veteran presence at the receiver position and he's done well the first two days. Everett looks significantly thicker and muscular. Gavin Ketchum does as well, no longer looking like the skinny kid he was as a freshman. Dominique Johnson has gotten stronger too, and he's had some good plays. Jamil Turner, surprisingly has played very well the first two days. Taylor Embree, the greyshirt who is the son of former assistant Jon Embree, also has had some flashes.
At tight end, seeing Nate Chandler you see what looks like a poor man's Marcedes Lewis, big, physical and more of a glider. Chandler, when thrown the ball, has caught it very well. Ryan Moya is back and has done well catching the ball. Logan Paulsen has struggled with his consistency though.
Up front, UCLA is in need of some players to really step up. The former walk-on, Micah Reed, is running first at center, and has generally done fine. Nick Ekbatani has at times, looked good, and at other times, been overmatched by the interior line. Micah Kia is running first at left tackle and has done well. Mike Harris, the redshirt freshman, has been running with the ones at right tackle with Aleksey Lanis still slow to come back from surgery. Harris, physically, looks the best of any of the linemen, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him starting for the next few years at the position.
Defensively, the interior line is easily the strength of the Bruins squad. With Harwell back and lined up next to Brian Price, Todd Howard is grinning from ear-to-ear with what could end up being the best tackle combination in the conference. Price, who missed nearly all of fall camp last year, looks very comfortable in the early part of practice, and Harwell has an extra kick in his step after missing most of last season. At the ends, Tom Blake and Korey Bosworth are running as the first teams. Blake has made a couple of nice plays.
At linebacker, Taylor is gone so Reggie Carter has moved inside. Carter has been the vocal leader of the defense, and was pointed out by DeWayne Walker as taking on that role. He's looked very good the first two days. John Hale, who's started some at points the last three years and Kyle Bosworth are flanking Carter.
The secondary is where UCLA has suffered the most losses. Alterraun Verner is the lone DB who's started, and he's had a couple of picks in scrimmages. Bret Lockett, though, has been the standout from the secondary, with several big plays that have loudly caught the attention of the coaching staff. Walker also singled Lockett out for his play. Opposite Verner has been Michael Norris, and he's been struggling with consistency too. Courtney Viney, in the action's he's seen, looks solid. He still needs to add more weight to withstand the rigors, but his feet and instincts are stellar. Aaron Ware has also looked very good in practice.
Numerous recruits have shown up the first two days.
From the 2008 class, Anthony Dye, Kevin Prince Antwon Moutra, Nick Crissman, Jeff Baca, E.J. Woods and Patrick Larimore have been there, Dye going both days. From the 2009 recruiting class, the headliner was Aaron Murray, the top 10 quarterback from Florida who was taking an unofficial visit to UCLA this weekend. In addition, Notre Dame LB Jordan Barrett, Notre Dame LB/S Ace Ward, Notre Dame S Tommy Drahkovitch, Torrance South LB J.R. Carr, Edison WR Jeff Crissman, Corona Santiago CB Sean Martin, Corona Santiago OL Jordan Johnson, Crespi WR Kevin Cummings and Los Alamitos WR Paul Richardson (2010 class), have come.
A potential walk-on candidate, Jeff Dickmann, a WR from Notre Dame, also attended Friday's practice.