Defense Does it in Thursday 7-on-7

It's not surprising that the defense had four interceptions Thursday in the fotball team's informal 7-0n-7 workout. Still, the new quarterbacks look promising, and the receivers look deep, with two incoming freshmen looking ready to contribute...

Thursday's 7-on-7 was a day for the defense.

The defense generally limited the offense, and had at least four interceptions.

Ben Olson didn't participate. He said it was merely because he had thrown a lot on Tuesday and wanted to take the session off.

While the rest of the quarterbacks threw those picks, and a high percentage of incompleted passes, I was still impressed with them, particularly Kevin Craft and Kevin Prince.

Craft, the JC transfer who participated in spring practice just a few days after enrolling at UCLA, showed his strong arm Thursday, and his mobility. There were times when the defense was giving him grief for holding the ball too long, saying it was a virtual sack before he got off the ball, Craft still throws a lively ball and can do so on the run.

Chris Forcier, the redshirt freshman quarterback, looks a bit bigger physically, and stronger throwing the ball.

Osaar Rasshan wasn't present, and that gave us an opportunity to see incoming freshmen Kevin Prince and Nick Crissman.

Crissman's throwing motion is a bit raw, taking the ball back without his left hand and slinging it a bit. His passes come out of his hand a bit sidearm and low, but he's fairly accurate. He threw a number of good passes Thursday, including a pretty spiral over the top of the defense to the freshman walk-on tight end for a touchdown.

Prince is very promising. His mechanics are good, and his throws are very catchable. On the two days we've seen him throw in these 7-on-7s, admittedly, it's not enough to really judge, especially without pads, but Prince seems to have excellent accuracy, putting the ball on the money a high percentage.

The heights of the QBs, too, are interesting, with all of them pretty close to the same size. Olson is maybe an inch taller than the group, possibly 6-4 to 6-4 ½. Craft is maybe in the 6-3 to 6-4 range. Forcier, Crissman and Prince all look a bit under that, at about 6-3 or maybe a shade under.

There are so many running backs out there it's hard to keep track, and that was with Christian Ramirez absent and Chane Moline not taking snaps.

Kahlil Bell is lugging around that sizeable knee brace, but looks like he's got full mobility. Freshmen Derrick Coleman was betting him that he couldn't first do a back handspring, which he did like a gymnast. Then Coleman challenged Bell to do a flip from a standing start. After Bell did it perfectly, he said, "This is the way you make money off freshmen."

So, bottom line, the slightly richer Bell looks like he's in good physical condition.

Raymond Carter also has a knee brace, and it's tough to see whether he's fully recovered in a 7-on-7 environment. He does look quite a bit bigger physically, both in his upper and lower body. He was listed at 202 in spring, but he has to be closer to 210 at this point.

Among incoming freshmen, there hasn't been a better looking physical specimen as a running back than Aundre Dean in a long time. Dean, standing next to Carter, has him by an inch, so he is probably close to 6-1 and about 205. Again, you can't tell much in the 7-on-7 because the running back is nothing more than a fourth option most of the time coming out of the backfield, but it will be very interesting to see how Dean competes in fall camp.

Johnathan Franklin looks a bit smaller, probably about 5-11, but looked quick off the ball.

Freshman running back Milton Knox had an ice pack around his ankle and said that he had an Achilles Heel injury. He didn't say how long it would take for him to return, but he was doing daily treatment on it.

Coleman definitely looks like a fullback, with some good thickness to him.

The receivers generally didn't have a great day, but did make a decent amount of nice catches. It's hard not to be impressed by Taylor Embree, the 6-4 freshman who turned heads when he made some big catches participating in spring practice. Embree looks a bit older even from just a few months ago, but it still on the thin side.

The returning vets – Dominique Johnson, Gavin Ketchum, Marcus Everett and Terrence Austin – seemed to go through the motions a bit Thursday. Ryan Graves also participated. Johnson did catch a post over his shoulder and took it into the endzone, with the entire offense following him down the field to celebrate.

A rep later, walk-on safety Garrett Rubio intercepted a pass and took it into the endzone, with many of his defensive mates coming off the sideline to provide some blocking, and the entire defensive unit celebrated.

Of course, there is quite a bit of healthy trash talking and taunting going on between the offense and defense.

Among the three freshmen receivers, Antwon Moutra and Jerry Johnson appear to be the most ready to play this fall. They're both already fairly well-built physically, while Nelson Rosario looks particularly thin and not very physical running his routes just yet. Moutra and Johnson were impressive Thursday, not only in the 7-on-7 but in the extra work they put in with Prince after the session. Both are about 6-2, with good frames, run nice routes and have good hands.

The offensive line came out for the last 15 minutes or so, just to take some snaps. Nick Ekbatani is plugging in at various places, at guard and at tackle, and even taking a snap at center.

We saw former tight end Nate Chandler line up at tackle for the first time.

Freshman Connor Bradford will probably have to spend a couple of years getting physically prepared to play at the Pac-10 level. He has good height, at a solid 6-5, but he weighs probably 250-ish. Jeff Baca, as we reported previously, is well put together, at probably 6-4 and 280.

Donovan Edwards, the JC offensive lineman who is verbally committed to UCLA, is not enrolled yet so he hasn't participated.

On the defensive side, the most significant development from Thursday is that Glenn Love looks to be the guy who will get first crack at free safety with Bret Lockett suspended for the season-opening game against Tennessee. Love, as we've said before, is an exceptional prospect, being all of 6-4 and having very good quickness. He's still on the skinnier side, however.

Free safety Aaron Ware physically looks very impressive, and looks to be trying to take on a leadership role.

Freshman safety Rahim Moore looks a bit bigger physically, and he showed good quickness in the 7-on-7s.

Take into consideration the new DBs are basically running around without much knowledge of what they're supposed to be doing. When they're in, they'll first consult with a veteran on what they should be doing, and then talk with the vet after the rep on what they did.

Freshman cornerback Anthony Dye looks like he's soaking it all in very intently, and had a nice break-up on one fly pattern that had the veteran DBs celebrating. The all-business Dye almost broke a smile.

Junior (is he really a junior?) cornerback Alterraun Verner looks bigger physically. Michael Norris had a nice break up. I don't know if I just had a bad angle, but redshirt freshman cornerback Courtney Viney looked a bit taller, edging closer to 5-9 than his listed 5-8.

The linebackers are interesting. Projected starting weakside ‘backer Josh Edwards is still on the sideline in a boot. John Hale wasn't present, again. That leaves Kyle Bosworth on the weakside, with Reggie Carter in the middle and redshirt freshman Akeem Ayers on the strongside. Steve Sloan shuttled in at middle linebacker, and converted DE Chinonso Anyanwu and freshman Donovan Carter did so at strongside. Carter looked like he moved well for his size, probably 6-2 and 225. There was still no Patrick Larimore, who I was told had been going through an illness.

The DL contributed by standing on the sideline and woofing. Tom Blake, the defensive end, is absolutely huge. Again, as we said, redshirt freshman Justin Edison has gotten considerably bigger. Jerzy Siewierski looks like he's done some work to change his body a bit.


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