It is over Ladies and Gentlemen! UCLA fall camp in the desert is over as the Bruins leave sunny (and hot) Cal State San Bernardino for the comfortable confines of wonderful Westwood. UCLA had their last practice away from Spaulding Field on fan appreciation day that saw 3,000 of the Bruin Faithful watch the team go through a very light scrimmage. For just over an hour, UCLA went through several different scenarios in game-type situations before the coaching staff called it a day.
Head Coach Jim Mora had started this desert tradition three years ago when he took over the program in an effort to toughen up his team. The Bruins had to endure several injuries and battled the heat but as the old adage says, “what does not kill you, only makes you stronger.”
What is usually a “Hell Week” for football teams had become a “Hell Fortnight” for the Bruins. This year seemed to be nothing but hell as several Bruins went down with a varied assortment of ailments over the last two weeks. Lucky for the Bruins, they do not have to endure the brutal heat any longer and will resume camp at UCLA on Monday.
There be Bruins in the desert. pic.twitter.com/YKzvvt3bts
— Go Joe Bruin (@GoJoeBruinUCLA) August 16, 2014
Thanks to the nearly 3,000 fans who are here enjoying Inland Empire Fan Appreciation Day! Love the support! #GoBruins
— UCLA Athletics (@UCLAAthletics) August 16, 2014
Injuries were so prominent, that there was a heavy rotation of players on the field, especially on the offensive line. Jake Brendel, Malcolm Bunche, Simon Goines, Connor McDermott, Scott Queesenberry and Alex Redmond had all sat out practices in the last two weeks. The good news is that they should all be ready for Westwood, except Goines who had surgery and is expected to be back by Week 3 vs. Texas. The better news is that the coaching staff has done an excellent job recruiting and developing players that the Bruins will be very deep this year, in case injuries rise again.
The biggest scare was when WR Devin Lucien was taken off the field in an ambulance on Tuesday from an apparent head injury that required him to go to the hospital. Fortunately, there was nothing serious as he passed a concussion test and should be able to continue practicing at Spaulding Field. Randall Goforth (shoulder) and Marcus Rios (migraine) are also recovering nicely.
Other injuries include freshman LB Zach Whitley, who suffered a head injury, could also be back to practice on Monday and a lot of people cannot wait as he has been one of the most athletic freshman on the team. Getting him back will thicken up and already talented group of LBs. Speaking of LBs…
There is a reason why UCLA gave themselves the name “Linebacker U” last year and this season, that name looks to be ringing more and more true as this Bruin position group is deep and very talented.
Last week when Go Joe Bruin joined the media at UCLA fall camp, defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said that there were two LB positions locked up by Eric Kendricks and Myles Jack and that there was a lot of guys vying for the two remaining spots. Although it seems Aaron Wallace and Kenny Young may have claimed those spots, it will still be a battle for spots in the next two weeks seeing as UCLA has a lot skill in players like Jayon Brown, Deon Hollins, Ryan Hofmeister, Cameron Judge, Kenny Orjioke and Isaako Savaiinaea, just to name a few.
Bruins On The Offensive
Brett Hundley, that is all.
Despite going against one of the toughest defenses in the nation, Hundley is back to his old ways and looking to lead UCLA to a dominating season. The Bruins could in fact steam-roll teams like Virginia and Memphis, but these two weeks have showed him what needs to do to get better as he will be facing this level of talent when he comes across the defenses of such teams as Oregon, Stanford and USC. It was also a chance to see how the running backs and receivers respond to the pressure.
The running game did not exactly have any players burst onto the seen. There was a lot that has to be done with improving the run game, although met of that seems like it needs a healthy O-line to be set. Still, there was no set starter as Jordan James, Steven Manfro and Paul Perkins all seemed to be cycled in with the 1st team on different days. Younger guys like Nate Starks and Craig Lee also saw some time with the ball, but things are far from over, with the RB depth chart, especially with cornerback-turned-running back Adarius Pickett impressing in the last week of camp.
As far as the WRs, even though they have not shown up on a lot of the media’s radar, they are proving to be very special. The name that has been heard since spring practice and all through camp is the athleticism of Eldridge Massington. He has a big body and looks to get in the game a lot this season. Returners Nate Iese, Jordan Payton and Devin Fuller are looking to build off their experience with the aforementioned Lucien. Not only do these three know the offense but will be looking to have an expanded roll that could see an increase in stats.
Lastly, it needs to be pointed out that Mora and staff are doing a bang-up job recruiting some talented players who are getting looks very early. LBs Young and Whitley are two that have been talked about a lot in the last two weeks, mostly because their skills are going to get them Myles Jack-like attention this year. In the secondary, Jaleel Wadood has been impressive going against the offense as he has some good, raw skills. He might not get a starting spot with the depth in the secondary, but he will be able to contribute heavily this year.
And finally, a true freshmen on the offensive line could be seeing his name at the top of the depth chart by game 1. NaJee Toran was inserted into the line because of injuries, but has stayed there because of his skill. Whether he gets the nod to start, it is great to see the O-line deep with talent.
That is all from San Bernardino! See you in Westwood, Bruins!
Fall camp in San Bernardino is officially over, and UCLA beat writers rejoice! — Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) August 16, 2014