Defense Takes Control Sunday

On the first day of any kind of real contact, the UCLA defense asserted itself and dominated the offense Sunday, even though there were some offensive standouts. After losing one defensive lineman Saturday, another went down Sunday...

UCLA lost another defensive lineman Sunday, when defensive end Reggie Stokes went down with a sprained left knee early in practice. Head Coach Rick Neuheisel said after practice that the knee had quite a bit of swelling.

This is a day after UCLA lost defensive tackle Jess Ward to what is suspected to be an MCL. Ward will have an MRI on Monday. He attended practice in a very large brace.

Offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani was dressed out, but also sporting a very large brace on his knee. He'll also undergo an MRI.

Steve Sloan and Andrew Abbott sat out of practice, as expected.

Glenn Love was dressed but didn't practice, for an unspecified reason.

Randall Carroll returned to practice but only ran on the side.

Nelson Rosario returned to practice and participated fully.

Ryan Moya returned to practice and participated fully.

There was also a scare when walk-on defensive tackle Justin Mann collapsed and an ambulance was called. Mann is diabetic and it turned out to be a case of a low blood sugar level. He received IV glucose on the field and was taken only to the training room and not to the medical center.

With the team in full pads and with the first real contact of the fall, practice consisted of many 11-on-11 game situations – short yardage, red zone etc. Referees and first-down markers were brought out for the first time. And it turned out to be a fairly mediocre day for the offense.

Starting quarterback Kevin Prince struggled to a degree, in both the 7-on-7 and 11-on-11. His passes weren't as sharp as they had been in previous practices, and his reads seemed a bit slow.

Richard Brehaut, who is working with the second string, actually did fairly well, completing the most passes of any of the quarterbacks.

Ted Landers, the 6-3, 200-pound walk-on freshman quarterback, had a few series with the fourth-string and did decently.

But it generally wasn't a great day for the passing game. It felt a bit like a practice from last season, with poorly thrown balls, many tipped balls, and a good amount of interceptions.

The offensive line, though, seemed to provide improved protection from what we saw at practice last season. The personnel on the starting OL were again, the same, and it's getting to the point that it'd be surprising if the UCLA coaches made a change.

Perhaps the best aspect of the passing game was the performance of Jerry Johnson, the redshirt freshman wide receiver who has talent but whose light "hasn't turned on yet." It started to flicker Sunday, with Johnson making some nice plays. On one 1-on-1 he made a couple of great cuts to leave his defender in the dust. A few reps later he made a great over-the-shoulder catch in the end zone. Later, in the 11-on-11, he went up high for a grab.

Freshman receiver Ricky Marvray had a pretty touchdown reception when he laid out for it in the back of the end zone.

Taylor Embree, we heard, is bothered by a sprained thumb., but still made plays.

There were a few other passing game highlights, mostly with the quarterbacks connecting with their running backs. Fullback Jayson Allmond caught a swing pass and took it up the sideline for about 30 yards. Chane Moline caught a similar pass on the opposite side of the field and when cornerback Alterraun Verner was closing on him, tight end Nate Chandler decked Verner with a blindsided block. Tempers flared, and Neuheisel told Chandler to get off the field, even though he returned a few plays later.

The running game, actually, fared better than the passing game for the defense. It had flashes of success, mostly on counters. Johnathan Franklin busted one for about 30 yards, Christian Ramirez bounced one outside for about 15 yards, and Derrick Coleman had a few good catches and runs.

Again it could be our imagination, but the offense seems to flow more smoothly when it's run out of the shotgun. The quarterbacks and the offensive line look far more comfortable.

Also, watch for UCLA's running backs to get the ball thrown to them quite a bit this season, both coming out of the backfield and from the line of scrimmage.

The day belonged to the defense, though. Passes were thrown into tight coverage, so there were many tipped balls. Linebacker Akeem Ayers picked off a Kevin Craft pass that was thrown behind the receiver, and then on the next rep picked off another Craft pass that was actually thrown well but bobbled by the receiver. Ayers almost had a third interception off Prince later.

Defensive tackle Jerzy Siewierski popped Ramirez at the line of scrimmage.

Defensive tackle Brian Price had a couple of no-gain stops in a row.

Second-string cornerback Courtney Viney had a good day, with consistently good coverage in both the 1-on-1s and scrimmages.

Among the recruits at practice: Running back/athlete Anthony Barr from Loyola, for a third time so far in a week; Chino Don Lugo defensive tackle George Uko was getting the red carpet treatment from defensive line coach Todd Howard; Loyola tight end John Young attended his second practice of the fall. Placentia El Dorado offensive lineman Derek Stickney was in attendance.; 2011 defensive tackle Antwaun Woods from Woodland Hills Taft attended practice, and came away with a UCLA scholarship offer.

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