Now that UCLA’s football team has finished up Spring Practices in preparation for May 5th’s Spring Game (at 5 p.m.!), we can start to finally start getting excited about a hint of real football in May.
Of course, a ton of fans will be headed to the Spring Game this Saturday, and many of them haven’t kept up with UCLA’s football practices, if only because there’s a lot to digest over 14 individual practices.
So we’ve compiled this cool little list of things to watch for during the Spring Game. Some of it’s fact, some is speculation, and some is an aggregation of things we’ve been hearing among the UCLA blogosphere.
What everyone will be looking at: Quarterbacks, quarterbacks, quarterbacks.
It isn’t much of a surprise that Brett Hundley, a redshirt freshman, is one of the top two candidates to take over the starting spot come September.
But that doesn’t mean the dude has ran away with it; in fact, senior Richard Brehaut is in tight contention for the spot, and you could argue that the two are virtually tied right now. For the record, your humble narrator doesn’t like to toot his own horn, but he did pick Richard Brehaut as the guy to emerge when the dust settles. (Of course, I’m in the minority, with most thinking Brett Hundley will be the guy when we kick off against Rice.)
The rest? Well, better luck next time. Except if you’re senior QB Kevin Prince. Then, well, sorry pal.
Who’s this guy, you ask? This guy is one of the scrappiest running backs you’re likely to see at practice; dude’s a redshirt freshman that has been the shiftiest mother out there, planting his feet gorgeously and juking defenders left and right. This dude was impressive all spring long, and we’re sure he won’t disappoint on Saturday (although we’re sure that he won’t get the starting nod because of …)
Johnathan Freaking Franklin.
Forgive me for jumping the gun, but apparently I’m the only one who thinks Franklin is about to have one of the best seasons for a running back in the nation.
The dude’s the least-talked about running back in the Pac-12, and while he had himself a nice year in 2011, his presence is still going unnoticed. NFL Draft Bible has him going in the 3rd round and, if we’re being honest, that’s a disservice.
Because Franklin has all the tangibles and intangibles — his ability to lead has become more transparent with another year of experience — and he’s one of the toughest dudes to both tackle and catch. While we won’t say he’s a top-10 pick in the draft (and, again, all this will be based on his performance this year), we’re sure he’s a late-first-rounder if given enough touches and enough support from the offensive line.
Devin Lucien WILL tear things up
The prospect of this dude — this absolute animal — hitting the field motivated should scare a lot of our Pac-12 foes.
Lucien is a redshirt freshman wide receiver and he stands at 6’1” and has really nice speed. The dude was consistently one of the players that kept impressing myself and a ton of others who showed up to practices more than I did. He’s got legitimate hands and has the leaping ability to go up and get catches.
Please stay healthy, Jerry Johnson
Another guy that looked awesome in practice was Jerry Johnson, a 6’4” wide receiver in his senior year.
Of course, his entire career has been limited by injuries, which is a damn shame because this dude utilizes his size relatively well and also has very good hands. His issues of durability are … well, they’re issues, and we’re not sure how they get addressed. We just hope this dude stays healthy for the season, because having him line up alongside Devin Lucien will be scary, especially under Noel Mazzone’s explosive offense.
There is a “D” in Spaulding Field. Oh, and our defense is legit, too.
Last season, the most frustrating thing we saw was tackling that reminded us why only rap stars can be holograms and not defenses.
(Really? I still can’t use Hologram Tupac jokes? What the f*** is this?)
This spring, Jim Mora has worked extensively with the defense, and even more so with the safeties and corners, forcing them to learn proper tackling form. The contact Mora encouraged during practice sounded brutal, and we dig that. How can we have defenders who are going to be afraid to get hit?
Let’s also couple that with the fact that the defense is making offensive rhythm damn near impossible. While we can blame that on offensive incompetence, it’s more of a reflection of our defensive tenacity. Jim Mora went as far as to say that the defense — particularly the defensive line — was easily the the most impressive aspect of this football team. I’m salivating right now, you guys.
What the hell is a 3-4, and why should you care?
For those that don’t yet understand the importance of a switch to a 3-4 defense, we’ve decided to break it down a little.
In a 3-4, you have three down lineman (the ones that have their hands touch the grass … come on, do we have to explain everything?) and four linebackers behind them. Beefy big dudes on the line are needed to clog up space so as to open holes for speedy and crafty linebackers to make plays either in the backfield or in coverage.
This is in comparison to Joe Tresey’s 4-WTF-0-2 defense, highlighted brilliantly (and hilariously) here.
That’s it, guys. If you’re going to be down at the Rose Bowl for the Spring Game (at 5 p.m., for those that don’t know), hit us up on Twitter: @GoJoeBruinUCLA
“Readers” (we like to call them that, but we don’t even know if they read GJB) who have RSVP’d: