» Despite Devin Lucien being sidelined by a head injury, UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone wasn’t concerned with the state of his receiving corps.
“I don’t look at this like, ‘Hey, these three guys are starters. These three guys are backups,’” he said Wednesday. “I’ve got about six guys out there that are all starters in my eyes. They kind of roll in, do their deal.”
Lucien finished his sophomore season strong, catching for 208 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the Bruins’ last five games. Without him lined up at outside, fellow camp standout Eldridge Massington would likely move into the starting lineup.
Junior Logan Sweet, who had three catches last year, also got first-team reps on Wednesday morning. Starting receiver Jordan Payton has practiced mostly at inside receiver the last few days due to other injuries, which helped open up a spot for Sweet.
“He’s really came a long ways from two years ago, when he first got here,” Mazzone said of Sweet. “He really figures into those top four or five guys at the outside for us.”
» Freshman quarterback Aaron Sharp participated in his first full practice after joining the team last night. Given how light the morning session was, however, the lefty didn’t get a chance to show off his arm.
“First day out here, I’m sure his eyes were like saucer plays,” Mazzone said. “Tall, good-looking kid. We’ll kind of see what he’s got. It’s unfair for me to make a judgment on pat-and-go throws.
» Starter Jake Brendel and reserves Scott Quessenberry and Carl Hulick are all out with various injuries, leaving a hole in the center of UCLA’s offensive line. Reserve guard Ben Wysocki is there for now, but he’s had trouble snapping the ball accurately.
» True freshman Kenny Young and redshirt junior Aaron Wallace have strengthened their grasps on UCLA’s two open starting linebacker spots. The former has been lauded by coaches and teammates, with sophomore star Myles Jack calling him the camp’s MVP among newcomers and — suggesting that the Louisiana native has almost sealed the competition inside.
The gap between Wallace, Deon Hollins, and Kenny Orjioke at outside linebacker isn’t as wide, but Wallace has gotten more of the first-string snaps in UCLA’s base defense. Hollins has racked up sacks, while Orjioke has slipped a bit — taking mostly third-string snaps this morning.
» Fullback Nate Iese has always looked the part of a future pro, moving with quickness and speed uncommon for his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame. He might never put up huge numbers in UCLA’s offense, but has the versatility to be very valuable moving the chains or as a goal-line target.
“He kind of reminds me of Jimmy Graham type of guy,” said senior running back Jordon James, evoking the New Orleans Saints’ two-time All-Pro. “He can play the slot. He plays fullback. He can block. He can catch. He can do it all.”
» James said new running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu has reshaped the unit’s philosophy on pass protection. The senior tailback summed up Polamalu’s advice as, “Be the hammer, not the nail.”