UCLA Football Spring Practice: Stand Out Players Viewed From Lot 8

Dec 31, 2013; El Paso, TX, USA; UCLA Bruins head coach Jim Mora on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2013 Sun Bowl at Sun Bowl Stadium. UCLA defeated Virginia Tech 42-12. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

When Coach Jim Mora sent out a message on Twitter that the Saturday, April 12 practice would be closed due to clinics, he saw an opportunity to have the Bruin faithful to come out and support the football team anyway. How? A “party” in Lot 8.

Practice started at 12:30 p.m. and there were about 20 people planted on the north wall of the top level of parking lot 8. By 2 p.m., there was well over 100 fans. Many came out to watch the Bruins only after read about them (thanks for reading GoJoeBruin.com!) while others took this opportunity to get a different view of practice that did not include limited bleacher seating on the other end of the field.

It was a unique atmosphere and we can only thank Coach Mora for this invitation. It was no Spring Showcase, but it was a good primer.

So what actually happened on the field? Well…

I guess you have heard about quarterback Brett Hundley. He is well spoken footballer out of Arizona, who might be up for Heisman contention… does that ring a bell? Well he was as sharp as everyone has talked about.

When this writer first got to Lot 8, QB drills were going on in the near field. The QBs were on the far 20-yard hashmark rolling left trying to hit targets on the goal line. All QBs were decent, but what jumped out is was Hundley’s accuracy. He hit several targets consecutively and without effort. Through practice you saw the same thing. Time after time, he hit his target without fail. Potential back-up Asiantii Woulard looked good as well, but we saw limited throwing when it came to 11-on-11s.

For the last two weeks, we have been hearing about players that have really impressed the coaching staff and they did not disappoint. Caleb Benenoch is massive and pushing guys around. Running back Craig Lee is as fast as advertised. Myles Jack is still Myles Jack. The list goes on, but what was noticed was the lesser talked about players that stood out to this writer’s eye. Remember these names because you will be hearing their names a lot ned season.

 Saturday Practice Stand-Outs

QB Jake Hall-He may not see a lot of time on the field, but what you see is a big guy with an interesting throwing motion. Despite a “side arm” style of throwing, he was hitting every receiver in every drill. He does not have the strength or speed of Hundley, but he was solid in his passes.

RB Paul Perkins-With Jordan James, Steven Manfro and Craig Lee expecting to get starts at the RB, Perkins was showed he had what it takes to vie for the top spot on the depth chart. A lot of speed mixed with some improved strength is something that is working to Perkins’ advantage.

DL Eli Ankou-The thing about him that stands out is that he takes up space. At 6’3”, 295 lbs., Ankou either crowded the D-Line or would make it into the backfield and put pressure on the QBs. To top it off, he is fast. His pursuit does not match Bruin DBs,  but at the same time, you would not want this big guy running after you. He will be fun to watch next season.

WR Devin Fuller-With a shortage of wide receivers, Fuller is one player that will need to be a force for UCLA. He looked really good in 1-on-1 drills and was impressive receiving down field throws. He was also very good catching balls in traffic.

TE Thomas Duarte-A big target with great hands will make Duarte a favorite for Hundley to seek out. Last season he showed he had good athleticism. In Spring Practice he is showing he has great hands and is looking to take that jump to the next level.

FB Nate Iese-First off, it has been stated that Iese will make a transition to fullback, which brings up an assortement of exciting questions that we will dive into in the future. For now, the 6’3”, 245 lbs. force of nature is showing he has great catching ability, good blocking and good footwork to make the FB position a dangerous one for UCLA.

WR Mossi Johnson– With depth being thin at WR, the UCLA coaches had decided to convert Johnson from defensive back. It looks to be a wise decision as Johnson, who is still recovering from an injury, is becoming one of the most visually impressive specimens on the offense.

One of the best plays of the day involved Johnson as he caught a pass off the line and got leveled by a Bruin defender, knocking his helmet off. Johnson held on to the ball, held it in the air and walked off smiling. Toughness is being taught here at UCLA. Watch out Stanford.

REMINDER!!! Spring Showcase tickets are $5 presale and $10 the day of and can be purchased at UCLA Spring Showcase Information.

Mike W.R.

Twitter: @TheBigDisco