UCLA spring football day 2: Jedd Fisch’s way or the highway

Offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch leads drills at practice. (Photo by Brittany Murray/SCNG)

Jedd Fisch made his first in-person comments Thursday as UCLA’s new offensive coordinator after the Bruins wrapped up their second spring practice. Again, he shied away from trying to label his offense. It’s just offense, he insisted, and all he wants to do is move the ball.

Wide receiver Darren Andrews described Fisch as a stickler who is detail-oriented and demanding, but in a good way.

“You do it his way or it’s the highway,” Andrews said.

More on Fisch’s transition to Westwood and UCLA’s transition to another new offensive coordinator.

Video interviews:

Here are my notes/observations from the day:

— Fisch is said to have brought a huge playbook with him to UCLA. The playbook is thicker than the one Kennedy Polamalu introduced last year, and Polamalu’s offense was described as extremely complicated already. (Noel Mazzone did not have a playbook at all.) Fisch said the team has a long way to go when it comes to learning his whole playbook, but has been introducing it gradually. There were several moments early in practice when you could tell players are still trying to grasp the new terminology. When the receivers failed to run the appropriate routes, he called upon the group’s leaders, Andrews and Jordan Lasley, to demonstrate the right routes, then had the group run them again. At one point, Fisch physically steered Andrews on the right path, pushing the receiver across the middle of the field while he ran. Alex Van Dyke made a fingertip catch on a long pass, but when he came back to the line of scrimmage after the play, Fisch sternly told Van Dyke that he ran the wrong route and was instead supposed to run a post.

— Safety Brandon Burton spent a day with the linebackers, going through individual drills. While working through footwork drills toward the early portions of practice, linebackers coach Scott White teased the former Serra star who seemed to be laboring a bit, saying, “Are you tired, Burton? It’s a whole different ball game over here.” Burton made an impact on special teams last year, but is still facing an uphill battle at safety with Jaleel Wadood and Adarius Pickett pretty much locked into the starting spots. Burton, who was listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds last year, has shown a knack for making plays on the ball in his short UCLA career and might just be in search of a way to get on the field any way possible. Similarly, the coaches moved DeChaun Holiday from defensive back to linebacker last year during training camp and Holiday is now in the mix for a starting spot at the strongside linebacker position.

Mossi Johnson got some time at defensive back. The receiver was one of the players mentioned last year by defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin when Martin was asked who he might poach from the offensive side of the ball for his group if he had the chance. In general, spring is a good time for coaches and players to experiment with potential position changes to improve personnel flexibility in the event of weird injuries.

— Drops seemed like a big problem Thursday. Lasley dropped one against air, then another in 7-on-7. Stephen Johnson III had one in 7-on-7 and another in a team period. Andrews and Brandon Stephens each had one in 7-on-7. Damian Alloway and Austin Roberts each added one in the second team period.

— Play of the day goes to Theo Howard for a one-handed grab in 7-on-7s near the sideline. The receiver stretched out and reeled in a catch after gaining just a sliver of separation from DB Colin Samuel.

Jacob Tuioti-Mariner got a would-be sack on Josh Rosen during the first 11-on-11 period, then batted a pass from backup quarterback Matt Lynch down at the line of scrimmage on another drive.

— Lynch was QB2 on Thursday after fellow redshirt freshman Devon Modster got the chance Tuesday.

Keisean Lucier-South also got a would-be sack on Rosen during the second 11-on-11 period. When the play continued, Rosen compounded the misfortune by throwing an interception to Josh Woods, who jumped to snag a ball Rosen was trying to lift to the receiver near the sideline.

— Van Dyke had a good catch on a long throw from Rosen in a team period, fighting through strong coverage from John Johnson.

— In the team’s offense vs. defense competition, position groups paired off and ran 20-yard shuttle races. It was defensive linemen vs. offensive lineman, running backs/tight ends vs. linebackers, receivers vs. defensive backs and quarterbacks vs. specialists. The linebackers vs. running backs/tight ends were some of the most visible races from the viewing area and the linebackers mostly crushed the competition. Woods and Kenny Young especially stood out.

Mique Juarez was mixed in with the first-team defense during 7-on-7. Although he has a long way to go physically, the opportunity to play with the starters, next to Young and Woods, could be a good confidence-builder for Juarez.

Najee Toran is likely the team’s second-option at center, but he and fellow backup center Gyo Shojima seemed to struggle with their snaps Thursday. They repeatedly fired low shotgun snaps to Lynch and Modster.

Stefan Flintoft continued to take the first punts of the day, closely followed by Austin Kent.

— The punt returners were Andrews, Lasley, Alloway and Darnay Holmes. Andrews generally got the first attempt. When Holmes got his turn, he was kicked a shanked punt, but he caught it on the run by scooping the ball seemingly off his shoelaces.

J.J. Molson was perfect on his four field goals, while Andrew Strauch and Crawford Pierson each made two out of their four attempts.

  • Richard

    Thank you.
    At last we get a positive feed.
    Kaufman is apoplectic

  • Mrhawaii

    Yeaaaah!!!!!, UCLA Football/Monkey Man is saved!!!! Minque will save the Day! NOT!

    • Paul

      troll on, poi boi

    • Ted

      shut your pie hole and get me some Ahi Poke!

      • Mrhawaii

        I got your Ahi right here Buddy! or shall I say Buckethead?

  • Coach Thom

    Is it wise for Coach Jedd to bring such a complicated playbook to the program in his first season as OC? With receivers still dropping passes, wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on fundamentals and keep the playbook somewhat lean? I am concerned that Coach Jim doesn’t have the nous or nerve to guide his coaching staff responsibly. Hope I’m wrong.

    • j metaphor

      Day two of spring ball and you already know his offense is too complicated?

      • Coach Thom

        Only going on what I’ve read. Might have been fake news.

        • gotroy22

          You never know these days. Journalism is dead.

        • j metaphor

          unsubcribe

    • Ed Garrett

      If its the weight you are concerned about, I doubt he and the players carry it everywhere they go. Also, a lot is done by computer these days.

    • gotroy22

      Coach Jedd might as well rebuild the offense this year and give the underclassmen PT to learn the playbook for 2018 since SC is going for a national title this season.

      • 88 Straight

        Don’t get too far ahead of yourself. Oftentimes big expectations lead to big disappointments. See 2012 for example. On paper, it looks good and Darnold seems to be the real deal. However, the games need to be played. You could be one big hit away from a .500 season.

        • gotroy22

          That is true. From preseaon #1 to 7-6 and a loss in the Sun Bowl and Kiffin getting a black eye was quite a disappointment for us.

          Let me put it this way: For your basketball program, in 2016-17 you were loaded and it was the season to be going for the national title. We are in the same position for football in 2017. Anything less will be a major disappointment for us Trojan fans, as I am sure you ruin fans feel about your basketball team given the talent.

          • 88 Straight

            Bruins had a very good year. It wasn’t the most talented team in the country, nor the best coached team. SC should win PAC-12 in football but I doubt you have enough in the trenches to win it all. Certainly Darnold is the great equalizer but Helton isn’t Saban, Meyer or Swinney.

  • Jethro G Sabbath

    How many white guys are going to start?

  • Tyler Durden

    He better know that jerry neuheisel is an assistant coach for A&M. That might be interesting.

    • gotroy22

      Traitor!

      • Tyler Durden

        Um it is called being employed. Somehow I bet you don’t know anything about that. Jerry is free to work wherever and whenever he wants.

  • Danny

    Lots of dropped passes is a big problem.

    • gotroy22

      The downward spiral of last season began with dropped passes leading to the OT loss to A&M.

  • Coach Thom

    But how far in the future? September will be here before we know it. Teach the lads to catch and run precise patterns. That’s all I’m asking.

    • Richard

      U’d prefer no playbook ?
      What’s the problem ? It’s an outline of all we want to do. One player said he was glad bc now he knows what everyone is supposed to do on each play.
      It is a record of the collective knowledge of one very smart coach. I’m glad to see he takes his job this seriously.
      The drops and sloppy patterns were a product of a coach who simply had run outta gas for doing the job correctly. Same w/ Klemn. Both of them were tired, didn’t care and had to go