Report from Monday's Practice

Beyond Kevin Craft being named the starter at quarterback for the Tennessee game Monday, there were a few other interesting developments -- including continued tinkering with the offensive line and an experiment at fullback for a goal-line situation...

At UCLA practices these days, you walk into Spaulding Field and hear the calming strains of the voice of Special Teams coach Frank Gansz, Jr.

Gansz is now mic'ed for the special teams portion of the practice, so the players – and the onlookers – can hear everything he says. So far, he's been surprisingly PG-13.

The players also stretch to music now, and the music being played over the new sound system on Spaulding is chosen by a coach for a specific day. Norm Chow chose Willie Nelson, Bob Palcic went with Frank Sinatra and Todd Howard opted for some R & B, for instance.

As is the custom this time of fall camp every year, you now definitely need a scorecard to keep track of the wounded.

Returning to practice Monday were Dominique Johnson and Osaar Rasshan.

Dressed but not participating (or on a very limited basis) were: Korey Bosworth, Josh Edwards, Jess Ward, Reggie Carter, Taylor Embree, Mike Harris and E.J. Woods.

Not practicing still were Logan Paulsen, Gavin Ketchum and Glenn Love.

It was announced by Rick Neuheisel Monday that Ketchum has mononucleosis and will be out for a few weeks.

The biggest development Monday was, of course, the announcement of Kevin Craft as UCLA's starting quarterback for the Tennessee game. Perhaps because of that endorsement, Craft had generally a pretty good day of practice. He was throwing well in the drills, and then had a stretch in the 7-on-7 where he completed five nicely thrown passes in a row. Starting from the 15-yard line, he threw touchdowns to Terrence Austin, Marcus Everett, and a really pretty one to Trevor Theriot in the corner of the endzone over Theriot's shoulder.

He did get intercepted by Michael Norris, on a good read by Norris, and by safety Rahim Moore, on a badly over-thrown ball where his receiver was open.

There were quite a few dropped passes Monday, also.

The quarterback depth chart right now, which looks to be set for a while, is Craft as the starter, Chris Forcier as the first back-up, and Osaar Rasshan as third string, with the two freshman quarterbacks, Kevin Prince and Nick Crissman, 4-A and 4-B, as Neuheisel put it.

The other significant development Monday was Nate Chandler, the redshirt offensive tackle and former tight end, working with the first-string offensive line.

This is all just speculation, but this is what appears to be happening: Sonny Tevaga, the redshirt sophomore, looks to have won a position at one of the guard spots. The ofensive coaches are now trying to find the fifth starter, whether that's at tackle or the other guard spot. It appears that Nick Ekbatani, the junior, has earned a spot on the line, but where he plugs in will be determined by who else can step up and be that fifth guy. Darius Savage was with the 1s at the scrimmage Saturday in practice, but he was relegated to the 2s on Monday. Ekbatani was then moved to the left guard spot and Chandler took a shot at right tackle.

You can hear Neuheisel comment about it in the video interview linked below.

The second-string offensive line consisted of Brandon Bennett at left tackle, Scott Glicksberg at left guard, Jake Dean at center, Savage at right guard and Jeff Baca, the freshman, at right tackle.

That is, until Baca went down with a knee injury in Monday's practice and had it wrapped in ice at the end.

The third biggest development Monday was Brian Price, the defensive tackle, making like a Refrigerator and playing fullback with the #1 offense. He ran through a few reps early in practice, and then, when the first-string offense went up against the second-string defense in a goal-line scrimmage, it created one of the best moments of fall: Price worked at fullback and steamrolled a linebacker to create room for Kahlil Bell to score a touchdown. On the next play, as he's jogging off, the #1 goal-line defense is called on the field against the #2 offense. So Price turns around, jumps into the D-line, the ball is snapped and he bursts through the offensive line to make a tackle for a three-yard loss.

Can he kick field goals, too?

One of the more interesting aspects of special teams is how punter Aaron Perez has developed his pooch punt. Most punters aim for the corner and take something off their punt. But Perez has developed a backward end-over-end punt he sends straight down the field that he can consistently put within the 10-yard line.

It's really difficult at this point to discern which of the freshman running backs is ahead of the others. Johnathan Franklin continues to get a fair share of reps, and Aundre Dean also did Monday. Milton Knox didn't as much Monday.

The freshman wide receivers, too, seem to be getting an equal amount of reps.

With Korey Bosworth not back completely from the injury he suffered in the scrimmage, Reginald Stokes was working with the 1s at defensive end.

Jeff Miller, the recently converted defensive lineman who is now a tight end, made a nice, one-handed catch.

Watching practice Monday was Beverly Hills (Calif.) High offensive line prospect Caylin Hauptmann.


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