» UCLA lost a number of players to injury on Monday night, but none more important than center Jake Brendel. The third-year starter hurt his left knee/leg late in the two-hour practice, and was examined on a table before being carted to the locker room.
Brendel wasn’t limping heavily when he was helped off the field, and the preliminary examination indicated that the injury wasn’t serious.
“Hopefully, he doesn’t need anything more than a day or two, but we’ll see,” said head coach Jim Mora.
Backup center/guard Scott Quessenberry also left practice with what may have been heat exhaustion or dehydration. Safety Randall Goforth aggravated a left shoulder injury, but that also isn’t expected to be serious. Cornerback Marcus Rios was sidelined with a headache, but wasn’t hit in the head.
Freshman linebacker Zach Whitley — who performed well in spring camp — has a concussion and wore a neck brace last week; his return date is uncertain.
» Mora wasn’t happy with how the Bruins began the second part of their two-a-day, and made them restart the Monday night practice roughly 15 minutes in. Later, he sent running back Craig Lee to the locker room.
“It wasn’t our best practice,” Mora said afterward. “I think what we have to do is find a way to make sure everyone understands the level of commitment it’s going to take from everyone for us to get where we want to get.”
» With injuries claiming several players through the first week of fall camp, Mora decided to invite quarterback Aaron Sharp, receiver Jordan Lasley and linebacker Dwight Williams to practice. The three freshmen had been left at home due to a rules violation.
“It was something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of days,” Mora said. “With bodies going down and knowing we could have 105 (on the roster), gave it a lot of thought, talked about it as a staff and felt like it was time to bring them in and let them start competing.”
Lasley and Williams practiced on Monday night. Sharp, who lives in Houston, will start practicing on Tuesday. The freshmen must go through an NCAA-mandated acclimatization period before putting on full pads.
» True freshman Kenny Young continues to look like the most impressive member of UCLA’s 2014 signing class. The four-star recruit moved up to the Bruins’ first-string defense, played with good instincts, and held his own next to senior inside linebacker Eric Kendricks.
“He doesn’t look like an 18-year-old freshman,” Mora said. “He looks like a man in there. … He’s come here and he certainly hasn’t disappointed.”
» Cornerback-turned-tailback Adarius Pickett got a healthy share of carries on Monday, and looked pretty good whenever he touched the ball — finding holes when he needed to and shedding a tackle here and there.
Mora pointed out Pickett’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield, and get low behind his shoulder pads.
“He runs hard,” Mora said. “He kind of can find the crease. It’s all so new to him right now, this scheme, but he looks like he has some promise there. He’s a heavy runner. He’s only 190 pounds, but he runs heavy. You can feel it when he runs.”
» Redshirt freshman Eldridge Massington has looked much better than he did a year ago, when he was still recovering from a torn ACL, and made several nice catches Monday. His most impressive one was a grab over cornerback Ishmael Adams in the back corner of the end zone.
Mora compared Massington’s desire for the ball to that of former All-Pro wideout Terrell Owens.
» Receiver Mossi Johnson and linebacker Myles Jack matched up for most of Monday night’s one-on-one passing drill, and it made for an interesting contest.
Johnson was able to generate a surprising amount of separation against Jack, flipping his hips fluidly to slide away. Jack is about 45 pounds heavier than Johnson, but is fast for his size and has always been great in pass coverage. The star linebacker was clearly frustrated when he got beat, and recovered to win some of the later possessions.
However, Johnson did drop a number of passes he should have reeled in. He also still had on his red non-contact jersey to protect his shoulder; he might not have as much room when defenders are allowed to him.