* The huge smile on Jim Mora’s face after the first practice of UCLA’s spring football campaign really told the whole story. Perhaps no one was more excited to be back out on the field than he was.
It’s been more than two years since he’s been on the practice field – two years, three months, as Mora pointed out, and yes, it appears he’s been counting – and he took out all his frustration on his throat. He was more hoarse than an auctioneer by the time he addressed the media, after spending 2+ hours sprinting everywhere on the field.
* That was the tempo the new UCLA coaching staff tried to instill from Day 1, and most of the time, it worked. A few times, players had to be sent back to the line to run from drill to drill, but overall, a good start in terms of intensity.
* New offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone had the line of the day, RE tempo: “I’m going to give it a 72. Good beat, easy to dance to. First day, a lot of thinking, guys are trying to get lined up- but they were trying. I didn’t think it was bad.”
* Xavier Su’a-Filo got the first-team reps at left tackle and looked good, crisp and active, but boy was he sore after practice. Playing primarily next to JC transfer Alexandru Ceachir, Su’a-Filo was noticeably thicker than even a couple months ago. He was ready to hit someone and be hit, and his progress will be closely monitored.
* Injury update: OL Connor Bradford (foot), FB Luke Gane (hernia), LB Todd Golper (meniscus), OL Will Oliver (shoulder) and S Dietrich Riley (neck) will all miss spring ball, Jim Mora said.
* The quarterback battle was a six-man Royal Rumble on Tuesday, and I half expected to see Koko B. Ware sprint in from off the field to join the fun. Kevin Prince got the first reps and had a pretty good command of the offense, though he was rusty in his throwing. Brett Hundley worked with the twos, Jerry Neuheisel with the threes, Richard Brehaut with the fours, then T.J. Millweard and Mike Fafaul. Both Mora and Mazzone made sure to convey that the depth chart is zero indication of reality.
* “I had six or seven of them out there today, so being their first day, I just wanted to get them a little taste. It’s hard when you’re in for five plays and you have to wait 25 plays before you’re in again. But I was happy with where the starting point is. We have a long ways to go with this thing, but we took the first step.” – Mazzone, on the QBs.
* Devin Lucien and Shaq Evans look to be at least a good 1-2 punch, with a good chance at very good and a shot at great, if the quarterbacks can agree with them. Joseph Fauria also had his typical productive afternoon. Perhaps the surprise of the day, overall, was Darius Bell, who had some great grabs at the Y position.
* Ellis McCarthy was out at practice, and…he’s big. Very big. Huge. A monster. A monster who’s eaten a monster.
* Dalton Hilliard is absolutely someone to watch at running back. Very shifty, good motor. Had five or six simply dangerous cuts. Could be a very good addition to offense.
* Didn’t see too much in terms of drastically changed body types. Aramide Olaniyan put on some good weight. So did Fauria. Baca looks pretty clean gong into spring ball, and Owa Odighizuwa is just getting massive.