UCLA football started round two of Spring football practice Tuesday. There were some new faces from the last time they took the field in March, and some new work to get ready for the upcoming season.
UCLA Football Spring Camp; Part Deux
As we noted before, if the first two weeks were about getting used to the new pace and structure of Chip Kelly practices, part deux would be about starting to execute on a more developed level. To that point, the live action drills were a lot cleaner than the first part of Spring camp and the depth with the new players was apparent.
- Boss Tagaloa, as previously noted, has permanently moved from defensive line to center. There were a lot of problems with snaps to the quarterbacks in the first two weeks of camp. Tuesday, there was not a missed snap all morning. Whatever he worked on during the two weeks off did the trick. The exchange with the quarterbacks went without a hitch.
- Junior college transfers Tyree Thompson and Je’Vari Anderson got their first workouts as Bruins. Thompson, the linebacker from LA Valley College, got in a lot of time with the “1’s” in the seven-on-seven live action drills.
- There was also the previously unannounced return of defensive backs Will Lockett and Octavious Spencer. The latter had not even been enrolled at UCLA during the previous quarter and thus was absent from the first stage of Spring camp. The details of his absence had never been discussed and neither was his return. Both spent time with the second string defensive backs Tuesday.
- The Race to Replace Rosen is always going to be front and center from now until opening weekend. Redshirt sophomore Devon Modster gained a little more space in the two-man competition with redshirt sophomore Matt Lynch. The intermediate and longer throws were on target, particularly the out-patterns to the sidelines.
The timing with the receivers was solid. Modster however, is still struggling with the short dump-offs. He seems to be finding a rhythm with walk-on receiver Christian Pabico, but sophomore Dymond Lee continues to make a case for some real playing time by making catches of passes that seem otherwise uncatchable. As for Modster, he is still challenged by the short dump-offs. In the early sessions he was short-hopping the passes. Now, they are at the receivers’ knees. Maybe that is progress?
- Speaking of receivers, and newcomers, early enrollee receiver Chase Cota is now on-campus, in school, and on the practice field. He is hard to miss with the 6-4 frame and long, wavy locks coming out from under the helmet. And if you think you are going to be clever by referencing Remember The Titans, and calling him “Sunshine,” as we did Monday night, just know he has been hearing it since early in his school career. We were not very original either. He is in the middling period. He is here early, if not all the way early, and still ahead of those who will come in the Summer. There is a learning curve, but the athletic ability was evident. The route running was precise. The ability to pick up what others were learning two weeks ago seemed to come quickly. With that size and skill set, he has the chance to see a lot of the field even as a true freshman.
- Back to the linebackers. We noticed it in the first session and it was more evident Tuesday. Keisean Lucier-South is everywhere. He spent a good portion of the seven-on-seven drills in the offensive backfield, both coming off the edge and over/through the offensive line. The early look is that the move to a 3-4 hybrid defense is going to give him a chance to utilize his athletic ability.
- Maybe we missed in the earlier sessions, but did junior running back Bolu Olorunfunmi add some upper body strength? Maybe it was just more obvious in the drills being administered by running backs coach Deshaun Foster.
Olorunfunmi looks stronger and was in constant motion, even while waiting in line for his turn during drills. He was listed at 5-10, 220 last season. UCLA does not release a Spring camp roster, but if he goes into the 2018 season at that, we are going to be shocked. He looks like he has easily added at least another five pounds of muscle.
- Among those still injured but helping the team in other capacities are defensive linemen Rick Wade, Greg Rogers, Jaelan Phillips, Tight end Caleb Wilson, Linebacker Lokeni Toailoa and linebacker Josh Woods.
Those who watched the TV series Friday Night Lights will understand the reference. Coach Taylor would tell his team practice starts at 8am. That means it starts no later than 7:45. Well, in Chip Kelly land, Spring practice is scheduled to start at 8am. But everyone from the offensive and defensive lines, as well as the quarterbacks, were dressed and doing drills well in advance of the 8am team stretching. Welcome to the new world order in Westwood.