– After a season spent rehabbing from multiple hip surgeries, Owamagbe Odighizuwa looks like the dominant force everyone expected him to be as a five-star recruit.
The rising senior was unofficially credited with two sacks in UCLA’s spring game, but appeared to have at least five by the press box consensus– as well as several near-misses. The 6-foot-3, 270-pound end moved to the right side of the defensive line as an edge rusher — a spot usually filled by linebacker Kenny Orjioke, who was absent — and had little trouble blowing past left tackle Caleb Benenoch.
He also dropped back into pass coverage one a few plays, something that defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich said he’s experimenting with.
– Though head coach Jim Mora did not disclose the reason for Orjioke’s absence, he hinted at a rules violation: “There was a specific reason. Our business is our business is our business. No one’s ever going to find out what it was.”
– A surprise performer was walk-on defensive end Zach Vinci, who moved into the white team’s starting defense with Orjioke out. Odighizuwa shifted to Orjioke’s spot on the right side, while Vinci took the left side. He got past right tackle Malcolm Bunche a couple of times for sacks.
Afterward, Mora praised his motor, and said he has a chance to fill the sort of role that Keenan Graham had last year.
– The offense looked fairly pedestrian after Brett Hundley sat down following one drive, even if the blue team managed four rushing touchdowns. Most of the backs did not look particularly explosive, with Steve Manfro, Paul Perkins and Jordon James combining for 59 yards on 15 carries.
Redshirt freshman Craig Lee had a nice run or two, but ended up with 27 yards on eight carries. He also added two catches for 15 yards, but dropped back-to-back swing passes early in the game.
More concerning was quarterback Asiantii Woulard, who didn’t do much to erase his struggles over the last couple of weeks of spring. He wasn’t helped by some awful drops, but also missed several throws down the field. He still has time to win the backup spot heading into the season, though rising redshirt sophomore Jerry Neuheisel is a safer bet in a game manager role right now.
– Ishmael Adams is the favorite to be UCLA’s main kick/punt returner. The cornerback had a nice 45-yard return on Saturday, which was made more impressive by the fact that he would have been ruled down if anyone so much as touched him.
– With Tahaan Goodman playing on the blue team’s defense, Priest Willis started at cornerback with the rest of the first-string white team defense. He was burned several times early on, and was clearly being targeted more. Woulard nearly tossed a long touchdown on him, but the pass went off receiver Tyler Scott’s hands.
– The white team’s best chance to score was punter Sean Covington’s 33-yard field goal attempt, but the kick sailed wide left. Ka’imi Fairbairn didn’t attempt any field goals for the blue team, but hit all four extra points.
– UCLA announced an official spring game attendance of 15,108. An eyeball estimate of the StubHub Center looked more like the 10,000-12,000 range.