UCLA football training camp day 8: Linebackers settle into new alignment

Lokeni Toailoa (52, pictured in a 2016 practice) forced UCLA coaches to make a change at linebacker with his strong play (Photo by Rachel Luna/The Sun, SCNG)

After Lokeni Toailoa‘s stellar play during the first three days of training camp, linebackers coach Scott White knew he had to find a way to get the sophomore onto the field with the starters. So the defense’s carefully crafted plan at linebacker, the one shaped during 15 spring practices, was scrapped. Middle linebacker Kenny Young moved to the weak side. Josh Woods moved back to the strong side. Toailoa plopped down in the middle.

The move has proved to be worth the trouble as the Bruins now have their three most consistent linebackers on the field together.

“Lokeni’s a guy that’s kind of ahead of his time here,” White said. “He’s a guy that everybody respects, he’s come right in the door, obviously being a very heralded recruit here and he’s lived up to that every day.

More about Toailoa’s transition to the starting defense

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Notes and observations from Day 8:Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes

  • Attire: Full pads
  • The offense scored its first win of training camp. The team hasn’t done its offense vs. defense period every day, at least not with the running prize, but Wednesday, the offense, led by an extremely sharp Josh Rosen, won the red zone lockout period (drives starting at 25 yards) and earned the right to run. It was a welcome sight for the unit after Tuesday’s dismal practice. During the five drives, the offense scored points on four of them (two touchdowns, two field goals). The one scoreless drive ended with a turnover from the No. 2 offense as Denzel Fisher tipped a pass from Devon Modster intended for Eldridge Massington and Krys Barnes snagged the ball.
    • Rosen started the offense off well with a 21-yard pass to Christian Pabico. Rosen threaded the ball through a tight window to get it to Pabico, who laid out to get the catch and beat Darnay Holmes in coverage. Rosen found Jordan Wilson for a two-yard touchdown pass two plays later.
      • Rosen’s second drive ended in a 35-yard field goal from J.J. Molson. The offense moved the ball to the 10-yard line thanks to an Octavius Spencer, who was flagged for what I think was excessive celebration on a pass breakup against Darren Andrews. With first-and-goal from the 10, the defense stepped up. Rosen’s pass to Caleb Wilson on first down went off the fingertips of the tight end, then Poasi Moala, who was starting at right tackle after Sunny Odogwu and Kenny Lacy were sidelined, gave up a sack to Jaelan Phillips. Nate Meadors broke up the third-down pass to Andrews, forcing the field goal.
        • Spencer was kicked out of practice for the penalty, by the way.
    • Modster’s first drive of the period resulted in the above tipped-pass interception, which came on the unit’s first play. Against a weakened offensive line, the No. 2 defensive line feasted during the second drive. Keisean Lucier-South and Osa Odighizuwa shared a sack on first down of the No. 2 offense’s drive and Odighizuwa added a solo sack on second down. Alex Van Dyke dropped the third-down pass, but a 55-yard field goal from Molson split the uprights and gave the offense the overall win.
      • The second offensive line was severely damaged because Najee Toran missed the entire practice, which pulled Michael Alves up to the No. 1 line at left guard. Odogwu, while dressed, hasn’t taken a team snap in two days. Lacy, Odogwu’s replacement at right tackle, didn’t take many team reps in the second half of practice either, which brought Moala up to the first team.
    • Austin Burton and the third-team offense got one play during the red zone period and they made it count: a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Lasley. A great throw from the freshman. And it’s a big help having Lasley, a proven talented receiver, to throw to on the third team.
      • Lasley returned to the field after he missed yesterday’s practice. Coaches said earlier this week that they know Lasley is incredibly talented, but need him to rein in his emotions and play with consistency to earn his way back in the rotation.
  • Again, Rosen had one of his finer days of work. He was zipping passes through tight windows and finding receivers in stride all over the field. It was everything you would expect from Rosen, who had some especially nice throws to Andrews on long passes.
    • Pabico, who struggled Tuesday with the No. 1 offense, bounced back well. He got back to catching the ball consistently, ran a few really good routes, and did all of it while working against Holmes and Meadors. Pabico caught a nice touchdown in seven-on-sevens from about 25 yards from Rosen, then played a pivotal role in another touchdown drive for the No. 1 offense, catching back-to-back passes before Rosen found Andrews for the 15-yard touchdown.
  • Mossi Johnson had multiple interceptions, one against Andrews in one-on-ones and another off Modster in a team period.
  • In the final team period, which was called “legacy,” the offense starts backed up near its own end zone and goes hurry-up, no huddle all the way down the field. Meadors had an interception on Rosen in the end zone during the period.
  • Personnel notes:
    • Out/on sideline injured: Soso Jamabo, Audie Omotosho, Toran, Austin Roberts
    • Absent: Nate Starks, Brandon Stephens
  • Molson was 4 for 7 on the day and 2 for 5 during his specific score team period. He connected from 43 and 45, but missed from 50, 52 and 52.