The Evening Post: This time it’s a pseudo scrimmage

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*UCLA held a pseudo scrimmage tonight. No live tackling. They call it “thud-ing”. Brandon Sermons, Keenan Graham and Aaron Hester were out sick.

**The offensive line experimented with a new look. Xavier Su’a-Filo switched from left tackle to left guard. Torian White was at left tackle. Simon Goines played right tackle and Brett Downey manned right guard. Jake Brendel was the only constant at center. UCLA coach Jim Mora said it’s more of an experiment than anything while they continue to wait for word on Greg Capella (concussion), Jeff Baca (concussion), and Alberto Cid’s (concussion) return. Mora said Capella could come back for Wednesday’s practice, adding that Cid is the farthest along. If you’re wondering about the second unit here’s what it looked like: Will Oliver (left tackle), Carl Hulick (left guard), Kody Innes (center), Alexander Ceachir (right guard), Ben Wysocki (right tackle).

***The second unit struggled offensively. Richard Brehaut’s first four pass attempts went incomplete and there also was a muffed snap in that first series. QB Brett Hundley went 4 for 5 on his first series that included a couple handoffs to Jordan James. James in that series made a nice sideline-to-sideline run to make something out of nothing. Hundley showed off his speed in open space.

****Dalton Hilliard continues to play inside, though Mora says he’s still a safety. Hilliard considers himself a linebacker and seems to embrace his new role as a guy playing close to the line. He laid out Jordon James and Johnathan Franklin at the line of scrimmage for two huge plays. Randall Goforth continues to impress. He stepped in front of Roosevelt Davis on a Kevin Prince throw and raced down the sideline for a long gain. Cassius Marsh wreaked havoc penetrating with ease. Jordan Payton made a nice grab tip-toeing down the sideline for a nice gain.

*****Walk-on Erick Zumwalt got the defense riled up when he intercepted Brett Hundley in the end zone on a pass intended for Darius Bell. That Devin Lucien caught a touchdown pass from Hundley on the next play is a long forgotten footnote.

******Wednesday’s practice is close to the public.

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The Morning Post: It’s the dog days of fall camp.

*If you want an explanation for today’s headline just watch UCLA coach Jim Mora’s video.

**Cornerback Brandon Sermons was not at practice. Mora said he’s sick. Maybe it’s that virus he’s talking about

***Linebacker Nate Iese returned to practice after a dislocated finger. It was a very minor injury as you can imagine since he didn’t even need a wrap.

****UCLA spent most of practice going 11-on-11 and simulated Rice. The offense struggled with rhythm, from QB Brett Hundley all the way down to substitution. At one point Mora was upset with the lack focus. Here are some good tidbits from today’s practice: Safety Randall Goforth recorded two interceptions off QB Kevin Prince. WR Devin Lucien made a couple nice grabs. His rivalry continues with Ishmael Adams, but no incidents today. New cornerback Fabian Moreau continues to impress at cornerback. His ability to learn the position so quickly increases depth. Dalton HIlliard continues to see more time at inside linebacker. Damien Holmes’ time has decreased some, but the assumption here is so that Hilliard gets as many reps during camp so he acclimates himself to playing at linebacker. Hilliard previously played a little running back in spring camp before going back to safety at the start of fall camp, only to move to linebacker at the tail-end of practice in San Bernardino.

*****UCLA will go with full pads tonight at 7 p.m. It’s the final practice open to the public.

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UCLA Hoops: Coach Ben Howland on C Josh Smith

For those who couldn’t see the full video here’s what UCLA coach Ben Howland said regarding Josh Smith.

To put it in context, Howland was asked how Josh Smith has been coming along and said Smith has had a couple good practices. Howland then was asked if Smith has continued to get in better shape. Howland responded with the following:

“I think he’s got a long way to go where we want him to ideally be. We’re less than two months from opening up our regular practice so there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then. But I think this trip will be good and a barometer to where he is in his conditioning and where he needs to be because he’s going to play a lot.”

We caught a glimpse of practice after Howland’s press conference. I saw Smith but I can’t tell whether he’s lost any weight just based on the fact I’ve never covered this team. I asked a seasoned beat writer and he thought Smith actually put on some weight since the last time he saw Smith.

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Fall Camp Day 15 from Westwood ….

*Sorry for the late post. Practice ended close to 2 p.m. but immediately we headed to a basketball presser with Ben Howland who addressed the team’s upcoming trip to China. So I’ll have video of that later in the day.

**Not the most spectacular practice earlier today. The energy was low and it showed throughout most of practice. Noticeably missing from practice was LB Ryan Hofmeister who is nursing a hamstring injury. LB Nate Iese left practice early with a dislocated finger but should be OK. WR Jerry Rice Jr. was at practice but was limited. DE Iuta Tepa will transfer, UCLA coach Jim Mora said. Also missing from practice with various injuries: Tre Hale, Colby Cyburt, Jeff Baca, Greg Capella, Alberto Cid, Michael Padovese, and Dylan Price.

***I had mentioned in Sunday’s blog post regarding Dalton Hilliard playing inside linebacker. Some questioned whether that was an error or not. After reading those comments I started questioning myself whether I wrote down the correct player. Watching practice today and, in fact, Hilliard saw time with ther first unit at inside linebacker along with Eric Kendricks with Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Barr at ouside linebacker. Hilliard’s move to inside linebacker came on the last day of camp in San Bernardino. Also in the rotation at inside linbacker were Damien Holmes, Aaron Porter, Kenny Orjioke and Willie Green. Todd Golper did not see any action today, but figures to be in the mix.

****The quarterbacks struggled today and I’m not going to name names becuase it was pretty equal all around. From overthrown passes to poor accuracy. Perhaps the catch of the day came courtesy of Ricky Marvray on a pass from TJ Millweard. It was a fade route into the end zone. Marvray caught the pass over his right shoulder and stayed inbounds to convert the touchdown.

*****During passing drills, Brett Hundley didn’t connect with any receivers until his sixth pass attempt thanks to a nice catch from TE Joseph Fauria. Logan Sweet, Manfro and Jerry Johnson then followed suit. During that drill, WR Devin Lucien and DB Ishmael Adams got into a scuffle that spilled onto the offense sideline well after the play and had to be separated by teammates. Not long after, the duo were paired again. It was physical but nothing ensued. That’s when Andrew Abbott took a moment and chatted up with Lucien in an effort to get his mind right and back into practice. He did.

******Tuesday’s practice will be the last one open to the public. The morning session begins at 8:30 a.m. and the evening practice begins at 7 p.m.

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The Evening Post: Surprise, Bruins scrimmage …

*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.

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Morning Report: Day 14 of Fall Camp from Westwood.

*No pads on this brutally hot morning, and I don’t care if AccuWeather says it’s 70 degrees as I’m writing this. That’s baloney. Anyway … team practiced situationals that included defending some blitz packages and two-minute drills. Team will be back out here at 7 p.m. for the evening session with full pads.

**Safety Stan McKay did not take part in practice. UCLA coach Jim Mora said he’s sick with a virus that’s spreading. Mora said there’s no update on Greg Capella (calf), Alberto Cid (concussion) and Jeff Baca (concussion), though they were here watching practice. Dalton Hilliard was back at practice after tending to a family emergency on Saturday. WR Jerry Rice Jr. is back fully practicing in team activities after nursing a mild left ankle sprain. Keenan Graham has changed his number from #59 to #40 so he can become an eligible fullback and go both ways.

***Damien Thigpen, Steven Manfro, Jordon James, Paul Perkins, Darius Bell and Shaquelle Evans practiced returning kicks today.

****OL Jacob Seydel saw some time with the second unit. He talks in the video below about his transition with the Bruins and the process of joining the team. Baca tutored Seydel on down time.

*****QB Brett Hundley threw an interception on a hail mary drill. TE Joseph Fauria juggled the ball and and Eric Kendricks came up with the ball. Hundley’s interceptions as of late do not stem from poor mechanics. It just plain down comes to the defense outshining the offense as has been the case through most of camp. In addition, the offensive line continues to switch players seemingly on every play which creates inconsistency at times as the pocket collapses. When the guys on the line get healthy you can expect more time for Hundley to go through his progressions. He’s certainly settled down since his four-interceptions day on the first day he was named the starter. QB Richard Brehaut didn’t have the best of days today. He threw for three interceptions, and his came on poor executions. Randall Goforth intercepted Brehaut on his first pass attempt with the second unit. He struggled finding his receivers and muffed a snap. Fabian Moreau intercepted Brehaut off a DT Donovan Carter deflection and true freshman Aaron Porter grabbed a Pick 6 off Brehaut. DE Cassius Marsh recorded a couple sacks and had his way with the guys up front, particularly against Carl Hulick.

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Fall Camp Day 13 … Back in Westwood

*Yes, I’m back!

**It’s the first day back in Westwood and the weather conditions here are noticably better. We had a nice breeze through most of the two and a half hour practice. So glad to be back in civilization.

***The big news out of camp today was the absence of S Dalton Hilliard. UCLA coach Jim Mora said he went home because of a family emergency. No further details were given and no word on when he’ll be back.

****The offensive line got another boost today with the return of Simon Goines and Alexandru Ceachir. Goines saw some time at right tackle on the second unit and looked much better than on his first day back a few days ago in San Bernardino where he could barely keep his balance during stretching drills. He’s an imposing presence, so his return and progress will be a big help to the line. Ceachir looked solid at right guard, too. He played next to Goines with the second unit. Greg Capella, Jeff Baca and Alberto Cid were at camp but did not practice, but it was nice to see them on the field.

*****OLB Jordan Zumwalt continues to be in beast mode. He plowed past pass-blockers and was constantly wreaking havoc in the backfield. He also saw some time at inside linebacker. True freshman Aaron Porter had some reps at inside linebacker with the first unit. Newly-converted cornerback Fabian Moreau had a good showing donning the white jersey. He recorded a Pick 6 off Richard Brehaut. Randall Goforth saw some time at safety and even broke up a pass. QB Brett Hundley threw an interception in 11-on-11 drills. True freshman Marcus Rios recorded the INT. QB Jerry Neuheisel wasn’t nowhere near as shar as he’d been back in San Bernardino. He threw one too many wobbly passes and severl were underthrown. Neuheisel, however, did make a solid swing pass to Steven Manfro, who made some nice cuts down the sideline and past the secondary. His speed continues to show, and it’s that consistency the Bruins as a whole have lacked in some time. K Ka’imi Faibairn went 3 for 5 on field goal attempts. He didn’t show to have as much distance or accuracy as in San Bernardino. Not sure on the distance since the media was kept from the sideline and restricted to the end zone. Also, no players were made available for interviews as they were rushed to attend the “Meet the Bruins” event at Drake Stadium.

******Former Bruin Nick Ekbatani made an apperance at practice and was greeted with a round of applause from fans sitting in the end zone.

Sunday’s schedule is a two-a-day beginning at 8:30 a.m. and then again at 7 p.m.

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