Tuesday Practice Goes Live -- A Bit

Tuesday's practice was fairly anticlimatic since it was billed as the first day of some live scrimmaging, but then first-string quarterback Kevin Prince sat out for most of it. The UCLA offense, though, did well in generating running room, and there was one monumental hit...

As we reported Tuesday after practice, first-string quarterback Kevin Prince had limited reps due to a sore shoulder.

He threw in the early drills, but then Kevin Craft took over most of the reps with the first string in the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11.

Neuheisel was hopeful that Prince's sore shoulder is minor and that he'd be able to return when UCLA resumes practice Thursday.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Crissman is also now watching and not throwing. Crissman, as we all remember, suffered a severe tear of the labrum in his shoulder early last season. It was uncertain, after his surgery, if he could ever even throw again. It's been a long road back, but the fact that he was able to throw in the first few days of practice was very promising. Having thrown and now sitting out is not a setback but actually part of the recovery. In fact, we've learned that Crissman is about six weeks ahead of his recovery schedule.

But with Crissman out, and Chris Forcier having moved to wide receiver (and not even at practice Monday and Tuesday because of the flu), and Prince not practicing fully, UCLA was down to three quarterbacks, Craft, Richard Brehaut and Osaar Rasshan. And Rasshan – maybe – gets only a couple of reps during the course of an entire practice. He didn't take one Tuesday in the 7-on-7 or 11-on-11.

And there isn't another quarterback coming in fall. So, realistically, if nothing changes, UCLA will have three quarterbacks for next season, Prince, Brehaut and Craft. It's uncertain if Crissman will be healthy enough to play, and it's unlikely Forcier would agree to move back to quarterback; the logjam ahead of him at the position was what led him to look into transferring this spring. He's still in the program because he's taking spring practice to try his hand at receiver, but if that doesn't work out for him he'll more than likely transfer out to pursue being a quarterback elsewhere.

You could probably include Rasshan on that list of available quarterbacks for fall, but it's pretty clear that the coaching staff isn't putting much time into him. If UCLA's luck at quarterback took a drastically unfortunate turn and the Bruins were without their top three quarterbacks sometime next season, Rasshan would be utilized.

Offensive lineman Darius Savage, who is sitting out practice due to a foot injury, ran along the sideline in shorts and a helmet Tuesday, and looked very mobile.

Nick Ekbatani has moved back into the first string offensive line at right guard, with Micah Kia moving back to the second string right tackle spot.

The practice was anti-climatic, since the anticipation was to watch Prince in the planned live scrimmage. But because of his sore shoulder it didn't happen.

The live scrimmage went for about 10 possessions, with Craft getting most of the reps with the 1s. Prince stepped in a couple of times with the 1s and 2s but to almost exclusively hand off the ball. He did make a couple of short throws, a quick hitter to Dominique Johnson and a screen to Derrick Coleman. Prince also botched a pitch on an option.

Overall, if there was an impression you'd take away about the offense from the limited scrimmaging you'd have to say that UCLA was productive running the ball.

Now, you can either take it as a positive that the offense is running the ball effectively, or as a negative that the defense isn't stopping the run very well.

Either way, the running backs each got loose for good gains.

Coleman, in one series, had successive runs where he found seams, gaining 8 and 10 yards. Johnathan Franklin had a few runs for five or six yards, and then broke one after slipping outside and finding the sideline. Aundre Dean was productive, gaining about 10 yards on a couple of carries, basically following the offensive line's push, but then on one run, he cut back after being stopped and took it to the opposite sideline for about a 25-yard gain. Raymond Carter took a handoff from the shotgun and burst through the line for a nice gain of about ten yards. With almost all of UCLA's running backs straight-ahead types, Milton Knox then flashed his shiftiness, evading a couple of tacklers to find holes for a few good runs.

While the offensive line seemed to be creating good running room, pass protection was an issue. I counted at least five sacks or virtual sacks. Even with taking mostly short drops and not throwing the ball more than 15 yards down the field, Craft and Brehaut were generally under attack. Defensive tackle Brian Price, defensive end Damien Holmes and linebacker Kyle Bosworth were primarily responsible for sacks.

It's not mentioned enough the impact of having both Bosworths back on the field and healthy. They're both fifth-year seniors with so much experience and savviness, and great motors, and it's been very evident in spring practice so far, with at least one Bosworth always around the ball.

The play of the practice was one by linebacker Akeem Ayers. Coleman, who is a truck himself, took a pitch from Craft and found a bit of room on the outside before a locomotive-like Ayers popped him and dropped him. Ayers looks like he hasn't lost any of his quickness but is now a legitimate 250 pounds, which is a very intimidating proposition.

In recent years, it hasn't been often when two athletes the size of Coleman and Ayers collided on Spaulding Field.

Defensive end Datone Jones is also now someone to watch in practice, using his combination of size and quickness to disrupt the offense.

Craft didn't perform greatly. He had one series were he went three-for-three, all on short balls. But on another series he was sacked, missed a receiver on a short hitch with a low throw, was sacked again, and then on fourth down threw what should have been an interception.

Brehaut, in his first live scrimmage of his UCLA career, did fairly well, given those circumstances. He had a couple of balls batted down, and he looked frantic when he was under pressure a couple of times. But when he had an open lane to throw, he threw short very accurately.

Vae Tata, the former UCLA player who is now working as an intern to Todd Howard, is now a constant companion to the UCLA defensive line coach.

The most noteworthy recruit at practice was George Uko, the defensive tackle from Chino Hills Don Lugo. Robert Franco, the 2009 linebacker from San Pedro who is walking on at UCLA, was also in attendance.

Photo Gallery from Tuesday


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