UCLA unexpectedly cancelled media availability Wednesday so no video interviews to pass on today. Here’s a short notebook about Giovanni Gentosi and a funny scene at practice with assistant coaches DeShaun Foster and Demetrice Martin.
Since no big story from practice today, I’ll circle back to a few questions from the end of training camp Q&A that I missed.
I was expecting Sunny Odogwu to be right tackle. What is your take on the O-line shuffle? Does it improve the run game, the pass game or both (or neither).
I think everyone was expecting Sunny Odogwu to start at right tackle. But I think it’s indicative to the character of the new coaches, including offensive line coach Hank Fraley, that they’re willing make a change when they one thought one was needed. I feel like last year, when things were not going well at the beginning, the main talking point for the whole offense was about staying the course and hoping that it smooths out eventually. When it never smoothed out and the team wanted a change, it was already past the point of no return. I respect that this coaching staff is willing to trust their eyes and be bold in making personnel decisions, whether its putting Christian Pabico with the starters or shaking up the offensive line to include Michael Alves. We’ll have to see if fortune favors the bold in a few weeks.
Odogwu was not a full participant in every practice, but when we saw him, I thought that he looked a little slow. He struggled with Keisean Lucier-South, Jaelan Phillips and Rick Wade around the edge and he seems too tall to move to guard. He’s a very tall 6-foot-7 and guards are generally a little shorter because they don’t want to block the passing lanes.
Haven’t heard much on Dymond Lee. Is he practicing at QB or WR? Do you expect him to get some playing time this season?
Dymond Lee is practicing as a receiver. He made the move back in spring. I don’t expect him to get much playing time this season as he’s buried pretty far down the receiver depth chart.
J.J. Molson misses the pressure kicks at the end of the last couple of practices. Only kicker in camp when almost every other school has 2-3. Surely there was a way to bring another one with 105 spots. What do you think that is about?
It was definitely interesting to see that J.J. Molson was the only kicker. I was surprised to see that. I don’t know how things work at other schools or what UCLA has done in the past, but I think a problem this year was that the team practices on both fields for team periods and seven-on-seven, which calls for a lot of bodies when it came to offensive and defensive players. Practicing on both of the fields simultaneously is the most efficient way to maximize practice time, but the team needs to essentially go four-deep at every position to get that done. I don’t recall them doing both fields too often during last year’s training camp.
I believe that the Stanford game was the turning point for the team last year with all of the pounding that the team took, and obviously a few weeks later with the loss of Josh Rosen. How does the defense’s size and depth look? Will it survive the pounding it will take against a huge Stanford line in Week 4 and be able to move on successfully?
I believe the Stanford game was a huge turning point, not for the physical nature of the game, but because UCLA was less than a minute away from capturing its white whale. Stanford was the team’s biggest game because it spent all offseason preaching physicality in order to finally conquer the Cardinal. When the Bruins came so close but walked away with a loss, I think that could have been a big emotional hit.
But about the defense: It’s definitely smaller up front. Eli Ankou and Eddie Vanderdoes were both listed at 325 pounds last year. Their replacements Boss Tagaloa and Matt Dickerson are listed at 305 and 290, respectively. Despite the smaller size, the line is still, in my opinion, going to be OK in the long run because its versatility and athleticism. The defensive line is also the deepest unit on the team, so I wouldn’t be worried about depth.
Which receiver can really get up there and out-rebound a DB on a pass that is thrown up there for grabs?
Alex Van Dyke is probably your best bet going strictly on size. He’s 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. The problem is that he’s not very consistent catching the ball. It seems like he doesn’t catch the easy passes, but can come up with some of the harder ones that you don’t expect him to get based on the fact that he didn’t catch the soft ball earlier. Eldridge Massington is also a big receiver and can use his size to get to a jump-ball. As I wrote in the original end of training camp Q&A, I think Massington and Van Dyke are in the third tier of receivers and will get playing time in some situations.
He probably won’t be matched up against defensive backs that often because of his position, but Caleb Wilson is also a big receiving threat.