Training camp day 4: Offense progressing

Receiver Alex Van Dyke reels in a pass during practice. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer

Receiver Alex Van Dyke reels in a pass during practice. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova/Staff Photographer

Here is the main story for the day about how the running backs and the team in general are sticking together while pursuing big goals.

Smaller notebook items on Ainuu Taua‘s surprisingly soft hands and the new-look offensive line.

Photos from day 4.

Video interviews:

Notes and observations from today’s practice:

  • Shells and shorts again today. Friday’s practice will have full pads, so hold on to your hats for tomorrow.
  • The offense is showing a lot of progress from spring. It’s so much better from this time during the spring. I obviously expected it to be better, but I find myself surprised with how efficient it seems to be operating. It’s not perfect. There’s still a ways to go, but practices are cleaner with fewer false starts, players know where to line up and it really does seem like everyone is on the same page. They know what they have to do and they’re now going to focus on trying to execute to make it happen.
  • The team had referees on the field for the first time during camp. Mora said the team had 154 competitive plays and only five penalties, but all the penalties were in the red zone.
  • At the end of practice, freshman linebacker Lokeni Toailoa got into a brief shoving match with a teammate (didn’t see exactly who) and, if it was a game, would have been ejected, said the referees. It wasn’t a big dust-up, but it presented a teaching moment for Mora as he pulled the entire team together and told they had to remain focused and composed for the entirety of practice if they want to be able to do the same thing for a game. At that time, it was the end of a long practice that was nearly three hours long.
  • Mike Fafaul is showing well in training camp. He’s consistently taking the second-string snaps at quarterback and he’s made several nice throws every day. Mora noted how he thought the impressive performances of Matt Lynch and Devon Modster motivated Fafaul and that the redshirt senior looks more settled, comfortable and confident.
  • Fabian Moreau picked off Josh Rosen on Rosen’s first drive of the day. Kenny Walker was the intended target on the long throw toward the sideline. The throw looked a little underthrown or perhaps there was a miscommunication on the route. Rosen later threw an interception to Nate Meadors in 7-on-7.
  • On his next drive, Rosen worked his magic at the line of scrimmage and pulled the defense offsides in the red zone to get a free first down. Soso Jamabo capped the drive with a touchdown.
  • Nate Starks scored a touchdown from about 7 yards out in a red zone situation.
  • The defense held strong near the goal line on the next red zone sequence as Moreau had a good pass deflection in the end zone, tipping a would-be touchdown catch away from Jordan Lasley on a Rosen throw. The offense didn’t score on that drive as Tahaan Goodman made the fourth-down stop, breaking up a pass intended for Nate Iese. Jaleel Wadood had a tackle for loss on the drive as well.
  • A lot of players took turns returning kicks today: Ishmael Adams, Octavius Spencer, Stephen Johnson III, Lasley, Wadood, Damian Alloway and Walker.
  • Austin Roberts caught two touchdowns during the second team period, one from Rosen and the other from Fafaul.
  • Rosen also threw a touchdown to Alex Van Dyke in the second team period with a nicely thrown ball to the back shoulder.
  • Theo Howard remained on the sideline with a strained hamstring. Fellow receiver Darren Andrews had to leave practice in the middle of the day, but it’s not supposed to be serious. He spent the latter parts of practice on the sideline with strength coach Sal Alosi. Mora said Andrews was dealing with some soreness at the beginning of practice and it got worse, during the session, so going to the sideline was a precautionary measure.
  • UCLA had a few visitors from NFL teams. I saw scouts from the Texans, Jets, Broncos and Chargers. I saw another from the Browns on Wednesday.
  • J.J. Molson went 3-for-5 on his field goal kicks. He was good from 32, 37 and 42 yards. He missed his second attempt at 42 yards wide left and was wide and short on his attempt from 47. Andrew Strauch was 2-for-5. He was good from 32 and 37. He missed his final three kicks, all from 42 yards.
  • Andrew

    First of all I have to say it’s feels great to read your practice reports again! I really appreciated the story on how the OL has solidified with five starters. Do you know anything about the status of Halililo’s recovery from injury? If he returns healthy is there a chance he could compete for a starting spot?

    Additionally, has there been continuity in the second string offensive line? Are players like Andre James, Zach Batemen, Josh Wariboko, and Najee Toran getting the second string reps or are other players getting more looks there?

    Thanks so much!

    • NYC Bruin

      Halililo had a setback in his recovery and is likely to miss the season. Bateman and Wariboko have not progressed as much as the staff had hoped, up until this point at least, although there is still some time left for the Wariboko since he’s only a redshirt (you hear that Laker Rod) freshman. James is expected to be the first guy off the bench in the event that one of the tackles goes down, but there is some speculation he will start at one of the guard spots. I think Toran is definitely playable depth, but is still behind Kenny Lacy and as of now, Poasi Moala. I think the 2nd string o-line has been a bit of a mis mash between underclassman on scholarship and walk-ons, it is definitely our thinnest unit.

      • Andrew

        Is Halalilo really expected to out for the entire season!? That’s really unfortunate news.

        • NYC Bruin

          Yeah, he probably would have started this year.

          • Sam Bam

            What’s going on with Mique? I hear he wants out of UCLA, but I seen that he put something about not being in control of his life on Twitter.

          • NYC Bruin

            No idea, I heard it was a girl friend issue and would most likely be resolved, but that was yesterday. Regardless, not a good look for the program, especially after Chris Clark last year and all of the defections this summer. It’s crazy how quickly this stuff gets out and how wild speculation becomes with social media now.

          • Sam Bam

            His social media is all about his girlfriend so I believe that.

          • NYC Bruin

            Two things turn smart men stupid: sports and women.