UCLA camp notes: Running back Soso Jamabo takes Wildcat snaps

» UCLA has a clear-cut No. 1 option in Paul Perkins, who said his goals this season are to be the nation’s top tailback and to win a national championship. That’s allowing the Bruins to give even first-team reps with some of the newer players.

Two days into camp, the main beneficiary has been five-star running back Soso Jamabo. On Tuesday, he not only got a healthy share of time on the first and second string, but even took five or six snaps out of Wildcat.

Perkins generously compared Jamabo’s running style to that of Eric Dickerson on Monday, and offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch followed with some praise of his own: “Soso is just unbelievably talented. … I’m eager to see what he does in pads.”

Jamabo honestly hasn’t quite matched his recruiting hype on the field, but it’s still fairly early in camp and UCLA doesn’t need instant production from him. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him become more of a pass-catcher than a workhorse runner, but offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said he doesn’t foresee any position changes for the 6-foot-3, 210-pound back.

» Chris Clark remains sidelined with mononucleosis, but Mazzone said that won’t affect UCLA’s implementation of a new tight end package. Nate Iese, Thomas Duarte, Colby Cyburt, Tyler Scott are the options there for now, which sounds similar to the rotation UCLA used at Y-receiver.

“We’re kind of going back to the old Joe Fauria days, when we had that big joker,” Mazzone said. “We’re going to be able to put some things in that we haven’t been able to run the last couple of years, because of the lack of a guy at that position.”

Freshman Aaron Sharp also got some first-team reps at Y-receiver.

» Mike Fafaul and Josh Rosen split the bulk of 11-on-11 quarterback reps. Once the team moved into seven-on-sevens, Jerry Neuheisel got a good amount of time too.

Rosen still looks like UCLA’s true No. 1, and connected with walk-on receiver Brad Sochowski on a pair of impressive touchdowns — one of which was a nice play action in 11-on-11s. Neuheisel threw a couple of nice deep balls too, hitting Kenny Walker in the end zone on a pair of streak routes.

Considering what Mora said last month about finding a starting quarterback “sooner rather than later,” it UCLA could name one sometime next week.

Asked if he was any closer to an answer, Mazzone said: “Two practices closer.”

» Besides Rosen, none of the other true freshmen in the 2015 class have popped out that much. Part of that might have to do with the lack of opportunities too. UCLA’s roster returns enough experience at most positions that a first-year player needs to be really impressive to become a significant contributor at this point.

» Whereas the first-string offensive line still looks the same — besides right tackle Caleb Benenoch taking a bit of a break at the end of practice — there’s been some rotation among the backups. Redshirt freshman Kolton Miller, whom Benenoch called a future “superstar,” started the day again at left tackle but also gave up some reps to JUCO transfer Zach Bateman. When Bateman played there, Miller moved over to right tackle.

Tevita Halalilo got some reps at left guard in place of fellow true freshman Josh Wariboko-Alali. Freshman Fred Ulu-Perry and redshirt sophomore Poasi Moala remained at center and right guard, respectively. Even without juniors Scott Quessenberry (shoulders) and Simon Goines (undisclosed), this is arguably the most capable two-deep UCLA has had in the Mora era.

» Spring camp hasn’t been high on tensions between players so far, but Bateman and freshman defensive end Rick Wade in a bit of a tussle after one play.

More notably, Mora chewed out Chris Clark before practice for several minutes because the freshman tight end was late to practice and also had his cell phone out. The two appeared to be talking it out again after the two-hour session.

» UCLA used a lot of different defensive formations today. After spending the first day of camp mostly in a 3-4 base, the Bruins threw in some dime and nickel looks with both three- and four-man fronts. Mora had emphasized last month that UCLA is going to be schematically fluid on defense, and that appears to be the case from so far in camp.

  • Moises Rosiles

    According to Jack Wang, Jamabo is just so-so I guess! Haha We’ll see when the pads come on and when he gets into a game but for now I’m sure glad we have Perk. Go Bruins!

  • Jacar Dive-In

    GO BRUINS! We’re going to have a great year with that OLINE. Question: is Jeyy Neu’s arm stronger this year? did he work on it?