Here are some thoughts from a pretty light player-run practice today at Spaulding Field…
* Apparently on orders from the S&C staff, the UCLA football team had a light, fun 7-on-7 workout as the summer offseason winds down. There was not a ton of viable football analysis to be had, but I tried to take specific note of body changes and maturation.
* The turn out was pretty good, and there were only a few big names I saw missing. Overall, I would say about 95 percent of the two-deep lineup was there, and if camaraderie really does count for anything, you’ll see a change at least in that department.
* There wasn’t much man-up 7-on-7 from what I saw, but there were a couple of beautiful plays – one fantastic deep ball from Kevin Prince to Shaq Evans, and a really nice juke-and-move by Randall Carroll, who we’ll get to later.
* Some guys look like they put the offseason to good use, and the ones who stood out to me were Datone Jones, Damien Holmes, Cassius Marsh, Sheldon Price, Evans and definitely Greg Capella, who looks so different than when he got to UCLA.
* Jones looks like he’s ready to play on Sundays, honestly, and his return could be the single biggest catalyst for defensive improvement. He is huge. Huge. His shoulder muscles have shoulder muscles. It’s a noticeable change from years past, when he mainly had just a thick neck.
* Price, meanwhile, looks to have improved his leg strength. He came to UCLA with sticks, and he’s looking pretty solid. Aaron Hester, who was always pretty stout for a cornerback, has gotten bigger, too. If they both play the ball better this year, that’s a big upgrade.
* Hard to really evaluate the quarterbacks because it was so relaxed, but I can definitely say that Kevin Prince looks healthier than he has since early in his freshman season. He was zipping.
* One moment that stood out: While almost the entire team was having fun playing essentially “Who can run farthest and catch the deepest pass,” I saw Jones and Holmes corral Dietrich Riley into doing ab work with medicine balls. Sent a pretty good message, and Riley had interesting things to say in our video interview, which will run tomorrow.
* Last thing on Carroll. Talk about a transformation. The results will have to be determined in a couple weeks, but Carroll is acting, talking and walking like a different guy. He credits his newfound maturity to Mike Johnson and Rick Neuheisel, but a lot of that is on him, too. Look for big things from him, and soon. I had multiple guys tell me today, “Randall’s now a football player,” and some of you know what that means, but it’s a big statement. For a long time, Carroll carried the label of a sprinter who happened to play football, and perhaps for good reason. But he’s making moves like a wideout now, he’s making cuts like a wideout, and he’s approaching the game like a wideout. He talked to me about how a life transformation can lead to a football transformation, and aside from the incessant buzz of a helicopter, it was a great chat. Also up tomorrow.
* UCLA will have one more week of PRPs before taking a small break before the beginning of fall camp.