The team had extra conditioning following practice for not being punctual. Neuheisel wouldn't specify what individuals, and what function/meeting they weren't punctual in attending. About halfway through it, when Neuheisel said something like, "We're going to keep going, keep doing this…", starting center Kai Maiva said, "I'll go all day."
Quarterback Kevin Prince had another good afternoon practice Tuesday, looking sharp throughout the day. He missed on maybe a handful of throws, and then was on target and on time with every other.
One thing UCLA fans can look forward to this fall is the Bruin quarterback being able to throw a deep ball. Prince is very good at it, with enough arm strength to get the ball out there for receivers to run under it, and with enough touch to get some air under it when throwing 40+ yards down the field. He even does well throwing deep on the run. It almost seems, at times, that he's particularly more accurate throwing down the field.
In the early 1-on-1s, Prince was throwing just about perfect balls. He hit Terrence Austin on a post pattern, where Austin was pretty well covered, but Prince put the ball perfectly in his hands.
In the 7-on-7 session, Prince was particularly hot, hitting on 7 of 8, and distributing the ball well, with receivers, tight ends, tailbacks and fullbacks all catching the ball. The one incompletion was also a catchable ball, that tight end Cory Harkey dropped.
The team then went into a 7-on-7 redzone segment, where Prince didn't connect quite as well as he did throughout practice. He hit Austin on a slant where the receiver made a pretty dive in the endzone to catch a very well-thrown ball. Prince then found Morrell Presley on a underneath pattern for another score. But he then had a couple of over-throws that fell incomplete, and one under-thrown ball, and another pass tipped. The secondary, to its credit, exhibited particularly tight coverage during this segment.
Prince came back in the 11-on-11, and looked good. Perhaps the best hook-up of the day was a beautiful throw on a go route to Nelson Rosario. Rosario got behind his defender, and Prince went through his progession (and had time to do it) before throwing a very pretty ball with enough air under it to place it gently in Rosario's hands a good 45 yards down the field.
It was a day of many screens – to running backs, fullbacks, tight ends – with it obviously being something the offense was slated to work on Tuesday. Some were successful, but many were thrown a bit dangerously into a crowd.
In the later 11-on-11, which used first-down markers and did situational third downs, out of the shotgun Prince hit Presley on a slant with a great throw, and Presley held on in traffic.
Among the receivers, Austin had a good day, and Presley looked more focused and intense. It was interesting that we've been told at one time that Presley would work with the tight ends, and then the wide receivers, and Tuesday he worked with both – but mostly with the wide receivers.
Gavin Ketchum had a twinge in his hamstring and sat most of practice.
It was perhaps a big step forward for freshman Randall Carroll, who is proving that he's potentially more than just a guy who can contribute, but a possible difference-maker. Anyone who wondered about him in high school being "more of a track guy" was unfounded in their speculation. Most freshman receivers come into fall practice looking pretty confused and with the dropsies (except for, perhaps, Taylor Embree), but Carroll has caught just about every catchable ball thrown to him, and has looked like a veteran in running routes and fighting off defenders. He was very impressive in the 1-on-1s, where he got separation with ease and made some nice catches. During the same period, on the other side of the ball, the other #1 on the team, cornerback Alterraun Verner, was chewing up receivers in his 1-on-1 match-ups. Even when Verner loses his man for a step, he recovers so quickly and often times turns it into a near-interception. So, the period was building until a showdown between white #1 and blue #1. Apparently (as Carroll will attest to in a video interview coming later today), Carroll and Verner have been having their battles in practice. Not many of the DBs are pressing Carroll at the line in the 1-on-1s, but Verner did. Carroll came off the line, and the two were bumping each other, and Verner was staying close. Carroll made a couple of cuts and then turned on a jet, and Verner, who usually is closing on a receiver at this time, lost a step. In fact, Verner had to reach out and grab Carroll's jersey to slow him down, and that didn't even work very well. Prince threw a great ball, Carroll caught it, and Verner was on the ground, still holding Carroll's jersey as he crossed the goal line.
Again, we have to emphasize that Verner was absolutely dominant in the 1-on-1s before this rep. It looked like an NFL cornerback playing against college guys. But on this rep, Verner definitely met his match in the white #1.
Tight end/H back Ryan Moya had a good day, making some nice catches and gaining some YAC. He and the other tight ends are seeing themselves line up in that H-back spot in the backfield quite often. Tight end Nate Chandler continues to have a very good fall camp; Tuesday he made another pretty diving catch, and he is consistently popping people.
Now, all of this – the improved passing game – was made possible Tuesday because the quarterbacks had time to throw. If you had to note the major difference in this practice compared to last season, it's easily the pass protection. Yes, there were some virtual sacks and some pressure, but not on every passing down like it was last season in practice. In fact, in the majority of the passing reps, the quarterbacks had time. There were reps when the QBs even looked to multiple receivers, without a pass rusher touching them. Later, in the 11-on-11, the defense got more touches on the QBs when they were utilizing some blitzes, but still, generally, the pass protection looks to be vastly improved.
What was also impressive was the good amount of running room afforded the running backs. There were a good amount of plays where UCLA running backs got into the defensive secondary with very few, if any, touches, from the defense. Christian Ramirez sat out again with a slightly injured hamstring, so Derrick Coleman and, particularly, Johnathan Franklin, benefitted. Franklin, given some blocking, found himself out in some open real estate, trying to break a number of runs. Milton Knox, also, found some good running room, and freshman speedster Damien Thigpen exploded through a couple of holes.
In one series of the 11-on-11, the offense kept running to the left side of the line – over Hasiak and Xavier Su'a-Filo, and there were holes. It's pretty telling when the offense is running over two true freshman offensive linemen.
Defensively, there were many standouts Tuesday. Back-up defensive tackle David Carter might have made more plays in this practice than he has in any practice since he's been at UCLA, which is a good sign, given UCLA's thinness at DT. Carter batted down a couple of passes, had a couple of sacks, and at least one tackle for loss against the run. Datone Jones, the sophomore defensive end, was very active, and on one play, actually popped Coleman so well, it knocked the 230-pound running back clear off his feet. You could then hear "Tone! Tone!" from his defensive teammates on the sideline.
One of the biggest hits of the day came from Anthony Dye, the sophomore strong safety, who popped Chane Moline on a running play, but then got up woozy. He sat out the last few minutes of practice and didn't go through the extra conditioning.
Cornerback Aaron Hester looked a bit sluggish Tuesday, and we've heard he's a little knicked up. He did, though, rise for the occasion when he went up against Presley in the 1-on-1s. We've heard there's a healthy rivalry going on there. Hester did step in front of a pass for an interception when Embree had fallen down (and then complained about pass interference).
When the first-string goes to the nickel, both Courtney Viney and Anthony Abbott are the nickel backs. Abbott was still wearing a red, no-hit jersey Tuesday as he recovers from his concussion.
Abbott and safety Rahim Moore both got sacks out of blitzes.
Damien Holmes, the redshirt freshman defensive end, made some plays. Patrick Larimore, the redshirt freshman linebacker, had a nice break-up on a pass to tight end Logan Paulsen, and freshman linebacker Todd Golper had two tackles on two successive plays.
Josh Smith, who's transferring from Colorado, will be signing transfer papers soon and begin practicing with the team when school starts. He'll be eligible to play in the 2010 season after redshirting this season.
Also, track sprinter Coleman Edmund was at practice to discuss coming out for the team. He told us he intends to also begin practicing once school begins. Edmund worked with the during their off-season 7-on-7s and looked good, especially for a track guy.
It was the first time we had ever seen Bob Johnson and Rob Johnson, the coaches at Mission Viejo, at practice.