Your humble narrator finally went to his second Spring Practice for UCLA football. With UCLA football now in it’s fourth day of Spring Practice, things should be getting clearer in terms of competition for roster positions, all of which are very open.
Still, it’s only the fourth day of 14 total practices (and a Spring Scrimmage at the Rose Bowl), so there’s plenty of time to figure things out. You can check out GJB’s “report” here and see links from Days Two and Three here and here.
The fan experience
Today was particularly star-studded, which led to a ton of distraction on behalf of yours truly. In attendance was loud-mouth, famous wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson (who, by the way, went to Southern Cal, but probably figured the football out in Westwood was better, as was the weather), comedian and uncle of soon-to-be UCLA freshman QB Devin Fuller, Sinbad, and Jim E. Mora, Jim Mora’s dad (of “PLAYOFFS?!?!?” fame). The buzz was definitely there, and it added (or subtracted; we don’t know yet) from the actual football on the field. In terms of crowd attendance in general, the turnout was great, but the retention, not so much, with nearly half of the crowd leaving half an hour to an hour early. It was alright, though, because Jim Mora’s staff simulated crowd noise, anyway.
Of course, the main focus of everyone’s attention continues to be the QB battle, which has not yet been decided, nor has a frontrunner established himself. It was even tougher to assess considering the offense ran on the grass field instead of the turf, meaning the crowd in the bleachers was no longer in prime position to check out the QB battle. However, we can say with absolute certainty that we have no damn idea who pulled ahead in this QB race.
Richard Brehaut continued to look good, but there wasn’t significant improvement on his part. Brett Hundley is no longer over-throwing his passes and is getting more comfortable launching longer balls, with his accuracy coming together in comparison to what I last saw on Tuesday. Kevin Prince had an incredible drive during a 7-on-7 scrimmage, but in Kevin Prince fashion, flamed out when he got reps again. T.J. Millweard is also getting better, but his inaccuracy leaves something to be desired, and that’s not totally discouraging, considering he’s a true freshman. The underdogs, Jerry Neuheisel and Mark Fafaul, continued to show they can keep up with the likely starters, although I would say, safely, that Mark Fafaul has definitely catapulted himself into a “top-tier discussion” when it comes to UCLA QBs, with Neuheisel and Millweard both trailing (but not by a ton).
Of course, some might say that this type of parity isn’t very good, but I spoke with a guy named “Jeff” who was also in attendance, and was in attendance last year, and he had said none of the QBs looked bad, compared to last year. This parity, he says, is a good thing, because they’re all performing better than last year. I’d agree, although I’ll leave that up to interpretation for those who did go.
Another thing to note is Jim Mora’s hands-on approach with the DBs, which has been a theme for all three practices prior to Tuesday’s practice. Mora worked with his defensive backs right in front of the crowd at Spaulding, as we heard him yelling, “ROTATE AND DIG THE PELVIS!” Don’t envision what his demonstration looked like in your head.
This was also the first time your humble narrator got to see the squad in pads, and good grief, did these guys put a smashing on each other. This, particularly, applies to the defensive backs, with a pair going at one another as fast as they could in five yards (each) while making sure to hit helmet to helmet. And though no one got hurt, it sure sounded like something had to hurt. Nothing wrong with this approach, though: If our players are afraid to get hit, what the hell are they doing on a football team?
As for the wide-outs, although Jerry Johnson could literally stumble into a starting position in his senior year in 2012, it’s worth noting that this dude friggin’ stands out, because his hands are solid and he knows how to go up and get catches, using his height — at 6’4” — to his advantage. Also impressive: Devin Lucien, the redshirt freshman. I’ll be damned if this kid doesn’t get some serious playing time. As for the most famous wide-out on the team, Jerry Rice, Jr.? Well, he definitely isn’t in those guys’ class, as he had a few dropped passes to hinder his chances of looking good to WR coach Eric Yarber.
Of course, one other surprise of the day was running back Steve Manfro, who decided he’d just be the shiftiest motherf*cker on the field and make some of the sweetest cuts and stops we’ve seen from anyone not named Johnathan Franklin. It’d be nice if the dude could keep it up for the entire quarter.
Joe Fauria continued to not be in practice, nor was Dalton Hilliard. Anthony Barr also seemed banged up at one point. Additionally, there were no known skirmishes this time around, which is pretty legitimate, I guess.
Topics: Brett Hundley, Dalton Hilliard, Devin Fuller, Eric Yarber, Jerry Neuheisel, Joe Fauria, Kevin Prince, Keyshawn Johnson, Mark Fafaul, Richard Brehaut, Sinbad, TJ Millweard, UCLA Football, UCLA Spring Practice