UCLA spring practice standouts

Spring standouts for UCLA include Takkarist McKinley (top left) and Kenny Walker (far right). Photos by Brad Graverson and Thomas R. Cordova, Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram

Spring standouts for UCLA include Takkarist McKinley (top left) and Kenny Walker (far right). Photos by Brad Graverson, Thomas R. Cordova and Michael Owen Baker (Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Spring camp is over and while we wait for the Bruins to resurface in San Bernardino, we’ll get to breaking down what happened over the past month of practice.

First, here are three things we learned and three things we’re left wondering about after 15 practices.

Second, if you missed any coverage from spring, you can find links to all the blog/Daily News stories in the week 4 wrap up.

Now finally, here are some players who stood out during spring and you should look out for when fall camp rolls around:

OFFENSE

Kenny Walker (left) makes a catch during the Spring Showcase on Saturday, April 23. Photo by Michael Owen Baker.

Kenny Walker (left) makes a catch during the Spring Showcase on Saturday, April 23. Photo by Michael Owen Baker.

Receiver Kenny Walker

I distinctly remember my first time watching Walker. It was last year’s season opener in the Rose Bowl when he dropped Josh Rosen’s flawless first-career passing attempt. It was a pretty big let-down.

Walker said he has worked tirelessly to change his perception as a fast receiver who can’t catch, and it showed during spring. He had some of the best plays of the day during the Spring Showcase, including a great over-the-shoulder catch near the sideline during seven-on-sevens.

Walker said he has worked particularly on his hand placement to get better at catching. Head coach Jim Mora said he could see Walker as one of the big surprises in the country this season.

“It’s a big statement to make, but I just have a gut feeling about the kid,” Mora said.

Darren Andrews hauls in a catch over Charles Dawson. Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze

Darren Andrews hauls in a catch over Charles Dawson. Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze

Receiver Darren Andrews

In some ways, Andrews had a little bit of an under-the-radar spring, but when you add up his consistent performance day-in and day-out, you get a very productive month of camp. While he may not have made amazing catches nearly every day like some other receivers (namely Ishmael Adams and Theo Howard), he didn’t make very many mistakes at all. He ran crisp routes and caught the ball consistently.

In the long list of receivers, each of whom had their moment to shine throughout camp, Andrews was sometimes left out, even by his own position coach Eric Yarber. But Andrews is the most productive returning receiver from last year and could be one of the leading candidates to take over Jordan Payton’s top spot.

Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi showed off impressive running ability and improved pass-catching skills during spring camp. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi showed off impressive running ability and improved pass-catching skills during spring camp. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi

Not only was Olorunfunmi a head-turner in the running game, but he showed off improved pass-catching ability out of the back field. His self-described “brick hands” have softened after he worked on it over the offseason.

Olorunfunmi, who changed his number to No. 4 this season to resemble his “idol” running back former Cal Bear Jahvid Best, relished the competition at running back with Soso Jamabo and Nate Starks. While he said they all bring a “violent” running style that’s preached by running backs coach and offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu, Jamabo is more finesse and Starks is more rugged. Olorunfunmi likes to think he fits somewhere in the middle.

“I think I’m more power, but I wish I had a little finesse too,” he said.

Other offensive standouts: REC Ishmael Adams, REC Alex Van Dyke, TE Austin Roberts

DEFENSE

Takkarist McKinley (right) pressures quarterback Josh Rosen out of the pocket. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Takkarist McKinley (right) pressures quarterback Josh Rosen out of the pocket. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Defensive end Takkarist McKinley

McKinley stood out not only for his consistent presence in the offensive backfield, but for his lively interview session that he opened with Marshawn Lynch’s “I’m just here so I don’t get fined” line. He championed the “Stop the Run 2k16” campaign and set out his goal of leading the Pac-12 in sacks. Honestly, not many days went by without a McKinley sack.

An offseason talk with defensive coordinator Tom Bradley and defensive line coach Angus McClure helped him buy into the new 4-3 scheme and he believes he is back in his natural position rushing off the edge.

“Speed is a killer and I feel like I have speed,” McKinley said.

Jayon Brown will be a leader on defense this season for UCLA. (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

Jayon Brown will be a leader on defense this season for UCLA. (Photo by Brad Graverson // Daily Breeze)

Linebacker Jayon Brown

Perhaps the biggest reason Brown stood out was that he never left the field. While the linebackers struggled to stay healthy, Brown was a consistent force in the middle of the field. Bradley estimated that Brown led the team in snaps during the spring as he plays in both the team’s base and nickel packages. It seemed the only thing that kept him off the field was when he got kicked out of practice for flattening Andrews in a helmet-to-helmet collision.

He emerged as a leader for the young linebackers as Mique Juarez and Lokeni Toailoa named Brown as someone they look up to and learn from. He is one of the captains of the defense this season.

“I think I got better overall getting off of blocks, getting better with my coverage, better one-on-one and helping the guys around me getting better too,” Brown said after the Spring Showcase.

Defensive back Randall Goforth was impressive during a switch from safety to cornerback during the spring. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Defensive back Randall Goforth was impressive during a switch from safety to cornerback during the spring. (Photo by Thomas R. Cordova // Daily Breeze/Press-Telegram)

Defensive back Randall Goforth

Goforth missed some time due to a knee contusion, but was impressive at cornerback when he was on the field. He moved from safety to corner to help the secondary develop depth and position flexibility and made some good plays, including a pick-six on Rosen during the last week of practice. The team is still waiting for the return of cornerback Fabian Moreau, so it remains to be seen whether Goforth stays at corner for the fall.

Goforth started all 13 games last season, 11 at safety and two at corner. He was named second-team All-Pac-12 by the coaches.

Other defensive standouts: DB Will Lockett, DL Matt Dickerson, DL Jacob Tuioti-Mariner

  • sam

    I remember that Walker drop too… and many others after that. Hopefully he has improved because he seems to have the ability and a knack for getting behind coverage.

  • JustOwns

    Outstanding spring practice coverage.Ms Nguyen.

  • TK Bruin

    Hey Thuc Nhi, we ended last season with a D-line that was fast but got pushed around because of their size.

    I wonder how the total lbs of the D-line as of today would compare to the D-line we ended with last year?

    • Thuc Nhi Nguyen

      The spring roster didn’t include height/weight and I haven’t been here long enough to know who looks physically different from last year to now, but I the general feeling was that everyone — D-Line included — is going to go back into the weight room to put on more weight to prepare for the fall, so we’ll know more at that time.

      • TK Bruin

        Thanks, TN. Might be an interesting stat to play with when the time comes.

  • 88 Straight

    Eldridge Massington said that Ishmael Adams is a better receiver than he is a DB. Amazing. One of our uneducated posters on here has stated that Adams is our best DB. I wonder who is right about that, an uneducated poster who never sees a practice in person or an actual player that sees him every day?

    I hope Adams gets a chance to play quite a bit on offense. He can be a real asset on that side of the ball rather than a liability on the other side.

    • CaliGrown

      Kay

  • Coach Thom

    Great coverage! You are the upgrade this blog has needed for many moons. Thanks again for your efforts.