*After saying they would only scrimmage in segments this morning, UCLA coach Jim Mora pulled a fast one and ended up with an hour and a half-long scrimmage in the evening practice. Lots of good things from the Bruins, which was a surprise to some of us since there still are some questions surrounding this team. Players found out in the afternoon they’d be scrimmaging. It wa a pleasant surprise to a group that’s been itching to make a live tackle.
**In the opening kickoff Steven Manfro returned it for 98 (that’s what we’re calling it even though the field is 80 yards. He was clearly ahead of the pack by the time he waltzed into the end zone so if it was a 100 yard field it’s a score anyway) … The offense built some rhythm thanks to some crowd-pleasing moves by the stellar group of receivers. Kenneth Walker, Devin Lucien and Shaquelle Evans all impressed with acrobatic catches and burst of speed upon completion. Lucien probably made the catch of the night. Ishmael Adams was in front of Lucien in the end zone. But Lucien leaped and extended his arms in front of Adams’ body for the completion. After making the grab Lucien brought the ball back to his chest and landed on his feet for the TD.
***On the run, RB Damien Thigpen’s speed was on display and proved elusive from tacklers. He’s clearly one of the fastest, if not the fastest, players on the team. Johnathan Franklin was breaking ankles all day. What makes his cutting moves so impressive is his ability to do them going up the middle. He’s patient for blocks and takes advantage of them. Malcolm Jones got off to a slow start, opting to run outside on his first carry but it wasn’t long before he found his way up the middle. He muscled his way and showed he can be a physical back. Franklin, Jones and Paul Perkins each scored in goal-line situations. Jordon James also showed off his speed.
****QB Brett Hundley showed extended plays with his legs and showed why he clearly earned the starting nod. He did throw a couple interceptions but I don’t think there’s much to make of it. The first came off an Owa Odighizuwa deflection before Jordan Zumwalt came up with it. Kenny Orjioke also intercepted Hundley after stepping in front of Ian Taubler. Hundley threw a bit on the run. He wasn’t as accurate as when he sits in the pocket, but his ability to find receivers on the run is a positive sign that he’ll lock down that part of his game. QB Richard Brehaut struggled a bit but did make some nice passes for touchdowns, including one to Logan Sweet. QB Kevin Price and Jerry Neuheisel saw some time with the second unit, but it’s looking like the backup spot is Brehaut’s to lose. TE Joseph Fauria didn’t see any passes come his way, but he did play an integral part on Thigpen’s touchdown. Fauria provided key blocking that opened the field.
*****The big surprise today was Roosevelt Davis who made two very nice moves on corners to extend plays at least another 15 yards. Zach Hernandez made a good move on special teams as a gunner, taking down Manfro. Andrew Abbott also lined up to return punts. Brandon Willis played a little defensive end. His versatility to move from nose tackle to end will allow for the best players to be on the field, Mora said. Defensively, Todd Golper saw some play at inside linebacker. His nose for the football’s never wavered despite some injuries. He made a quick tackle on a screen pass for a short gain. Sheldon Price is becoming a lock-down corner, making it tough for Evans and Lucien. Randall Goforth is looking solid at safety.
*******Ka’imi Fairbairn went 4 for 6 on field goals. He converted one from 50 some odd yards with plenty of kick. We were restricted to the end zone so no word on the exact yardage.
********I think one concern from the second offensive line unit is their inability to open holes for running backs. Run production went significantly down when the second OL unit was out there. This could be a cohesion problem so with more reps going to Carl Hulick, Conor McDermott that’s something that could be solved as camp continues.