UCLA’s spring game went off with a rather resounding thud, a disjointed offensive effort that stems from a relative lack of depth up front.
With senior offensive linemen Sean Sheller, Jeff Baca and Kai Maiava each out for the spring game, UCLA quarterbacks Richard Brehaut, Brett Hundley and Nick Crissman struggled to gain rhythm. But when they did, there was a noticeable difference from last year.
First of all, the Bruins debuted an offense heavy on creativity and shifting, with multiple formations and some intriguing lineups, including some things we haven’t seen during spring ball.
Secondly, Brehaut and Hundley threw the ball well, for the most part. Brehaut hit a nice fade to Nelson Rosario for a touchdown in the back of the end zone over Sheldon Price and delivered some good balls to Ricky Marvray and Taylor Embree.
Hundley had a throw on his second or third series on a sideline route to Nelson Rosario that was a perfect ball, and the timing was precise. Like, exact. Haven’t seen a lot of that recently.
The running game was a little off-and-on, but Johnathan Franklin looked great. Franklin had four carries for 50 yards, including a 39-yard jolt that included two perfect cuts and a lot of speed. Jordan James added seven carries for 45 yards and Malcolm Jones had three carries for 25 yards, including a plowing 18-yard run. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the amount of action that Anthony Barr saw, getting six carries for 22 yards. He was in the game an extensive amount, and it’s pretty clear to see that he’s someone that they want to see succeed.
Not much to say about the offensive line, other than it needs to improve. Of course, this was a unit missing three starters, and Sheller and Maiava probably could’ve played if it was a game situation. But the snapping of Greg Capella and Kody Innes was poor, and the line had troubles with stunts and blitzes.
The defense played generally well, but the linebackers were a bit lost in the pass defense. I expect that to be shored up by the beginning of the year. The defensive backs played pretty well, and Alex Mascarenas, Courtney Viney and Dietrich Riley all played very well. Riley delivered some nice hits, but also admittedly missed some tackles. Tony Dye was just dejected that he couldn’t participate today.
The biggest thing I got out of today: Once this offense gets any sense of itself – and that includes tempo and rhythm and swagger and fun – things could change for UCLA. The running game is twice as good as it was in 2009, when the team went 7-6, and if the passing game looks even a modicum better than it did today, and today is much better than the end of last year, then things are on track.