Football’s back! As a reminder, here’s UCLA’s full spring practice schedule. All sessions are open to the public and will last approximately two hours.
Tues. Apr. 2 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 4 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 6 – 10:45 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 8 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 10 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 11 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 13 – 10:30 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 15 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 17 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 18 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 20 – 10:30 a.m.
Mon. Apr. 22 – 6 p.m.
Wed. Apr. 24 – 7 a.m.
Thu. Apr. 25 – 7 a.m.
Sat. Apr. 27 – 5 p.m. (Rose Bowl)
A quick primer after the jump.
QUARTERBACK: UCLA has the good fortune of having a quarterback with Heisman potential. Even if Brett Hundley doesn’t reach that pinnacle, his sophomore season should be exciting to watch after a record-setting debut season. Mora said the key this spring is for Hundley to show quicker decision-making, and not hesitating before either throwing or scrambling.
“We all want to see Brett take another step forward, and I really think he will,” he said.
As for backups, Jerry Neuheisel seems to have the lead for that right now. Mora added that a certain play package will utilize sophomore wideout Devin Fuller at quarterback, with Hundley perhaps lining up at receiver.
Taylor Mazzone has also switched from Y-receivers to quarterbacks coach, which is a better fit anyway for someone whose biggest resume line is his pre-draft work with players such as Christian Ponder, Brock Osweiler, and most recently Matt Barkley.
RUNNING BACK: Mora said he expects to enter the fall with a running back committee unless someone extends himself ahead of the pack. Junior Jordon James — 215 yards and two touchdowns last season — will be the No. 1 in spring, with plenty of touches also going to freshman Paul Perkins and sophomore Steve Manfro. Malcolm Jones also returns as a walk-on after deciding to transfer after one game last season. Do-it-all threat Damien Thigpen is still out with a torn ACL.
RECEIVER/TIGHT END: Senior receiver Shaq Evans is in line to become a true No. 1 target after catching for 877 yards and three touchdowns last season, particularly with the departure of tight end Joseph Fauria. The 6-foot-7 Fauria grabbed 12 scores and will be replaced this spring by Darius Bell and Ian Taubler, who have one combined career touchdown. Early-enrollee Eldridge Massington is a four-star wideout who has star potential down the line, but still needs to work back into game shape after rehabbing a torn ACL.
OFFENSIVE LINE: Here’s what the line looks like for spring: Simon Goines at left tackle, Torian White at right tackle, Alberto Cid at right guard, Xavier Su’a-Filo at left guard, Jake Brendel at center. Su’a-Filo is arguably the top offensive lineman in the conference, and could shift to another position by fall if some of the seven incoming freshmen push for starting spots.
DEFENSIVE FRONT SEVEN: Outside linebacker Anthony Barr returns as the star of the defense, and could become a top-10 pick by the time he leaves UCLA. Barr is a dynamo on the right side, but no one has the left locked down as of yet. Sophomore Aaron Wallace will start there for spring, and players such as Keenan Graham, Jeremy Castro and Kenny Orjioke in the mix as well.
On the line, senior defensive end Owamagbe Odigizhuwa will miss spring as he recovers from hip surgery. The Bruins’ lose a potential first-round draft pick in Datone Jones, but almost every other key piece returns. Ellis McCarthy is coming off knee surgery again, so he could be a bit limited at first. Freshman Kylie Fitts is already on campus, so we’ll find out soon whether or not he has the goods to contribute immediately.
SECONDARY: This is the group that is most in flux, particularly with a lauded group of freshmen preparing to arrive in the fall. No starters return after the recent dismissal of Tevin McDonald, who had been suspended for the Holiday Bowl for reportedly failing a third drug test. UCLA policy dictates that a fourth test results in a lost scholarship.
Sophomore Randall Goforth and junior Dietrich Riley will start at the safety spots in spring. The latter was a four-star recruit out of St. Francis in 2010, and has been cleared for full contact after undergoing neck surgery last April. Ishmael Adams, a four-star recruit from last year’s class, will have all spring to carve a role for himself at cornerback as he returns from shoulder surgery.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Freshman punter Sean Covington hasn’t arrived yet, so placekicker Ka’imi Fairbairn might take those duties through spring. Also look to see if the sophomore can extend his range a bit; he was only 2-of-7 from outside 35 yards last season. Kick returner was a revolving door for UCLA last season after Steve Manfro’s fumbling woes, and almost anyone with some speed will get a look there, especially this early. Chris Longo replaces Kevin McDermott at longsnapper.
MISSING IN ACTION: In addition to Thigpen and Owamagbe, here are some others who will be completely sidelined for spring: offensive linemen Colby Cyburt (back), Will Oliver (shoulder), Lacy Westbrook (brain aneurysm last July); freshman linebacker Willie Green (knee); sophomore cornerback Marcus Rios, who still has to regain conditioning after a sinus infection last season.