Head coach Jim Mora
Quarterback Josh Rosen
Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley
Receiver Eldridge Massington
Linebacker Jayon Brown
Offensive lineman Conor McDermott
One day down, 14 more to go. Here are a few observations and notes to pass along from the first day of spring practice.
Read the notebook from the first day of camp, focusing on Jim Mora’s aversion to the “pro-style” label.
— A prominent storyline of the spring will be how the offense progresses under new offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu. Whether the scheme is that much different than what Noel Mazzone had can be debated, but Jim Mora is adamant that it’s not as different as everyone’s making it out to be. The changes include a different snap count and an increased amount of time you’ll see Josh Rosen under center. The snap count changes made for an ugly first period of scrimmaging as there were likely more false starts than completed passes.
— Indeed there will be tight ends and fullbacks in this offense. At least one tight end was in almost every set. Nate Iese seems to be a top option right now, as the former fullback lined up with the No. 1 offense during the scrimmage periods. Giovanni Gentosi also lined up at tight end. Cameron Griffin and Ainuu Taua took snaps at full back.
— Mora said there were 20 snaps of a 3-4 defensive front during practice and downplayed the hubbub about making a big change to a 4-3 defense. He said the team played about 50 percent of its snaps with four down linemen last year, so it’s not a look the Bruins are unfamiliar with, he stressed. However, linebacker Jayon Brown said after practice that the team is focusing on the 4-3 front more in an effort to be better against the run.
— Freshman wide receiver Theo Howard had likely the catch of the day, making a great adjustment in the air to catch a back-shoulder pass over a defender.
— Eight other freshmen are on the spring camp roster: Linebackers Breland Brandt, Mique Juarez and Lokeni Toailoa, receivers Demetric Felton and Theo Howard, quarterback Matt Lynch, kicker JJ Molson, defensive lineman Nick Terry, defensive back Leni Toailoa.
Juarez worked into the second string linebacking unit, playing as an outside linebacker. He dropped into coverage and came off the edge. Mora said the North Torrance High alumnus did not look out of place, which is a good thing for an 18-year-old who just started college within the last 36 hours.
Molson connected on all four of his field goals.
— The first string offensive line looked like this (from left to right): Conor McDermott, Kenny Lacy, Scott Quessenberry, Poasi Moala, Kolton Miller
— DB Fabian Moreu, DB John Johnson, DL Eddie Vanderdoes, WR Mossi Johnson and OL Tevita Halalilo were all limited in practice as they’re working back from injuries. They worked out individually on the side of the field.
Tell me what you’re most curious about in practice and I’ll try to keep my best eye on it for the coming days.
Up next: Day 2 of practice, Thursday, 7 a.m., intramural field
UCLA opened spring practice today. As you would expect on the first day, it was sloppy at times, especially during the 11-on-11 scrimmage periods, but there are 14 more practices to iron out those mistakes. Here are some post-practice comments from head coach Jim Mora, quarterback Josh Rosen, linebacker Jayon Brown, offensive lineman Conor McDermott and defensive lineman Eli Ankou.
Head coach Jim Mora
QB Josh Rosen
DL Eli Ankou
LB Jayon Brown
OL Conor McDermott
UCLA left tackle Conor McDermott will return to school for his senior season, stabilizing a Bruin offensive line that loses three starters.
The 23-year-old announced his decision on Tuesday night, writing in an Instagram post: “After long discussion with my family and coaches, I’m proud to say I am returning for my senior season at UCLA. I am committed to earning my degree from UCLA, and helping my brothers win a Championship on the field.”
McDermott had said in August that the idea of jumping to the NFL was in the “back of his mind,” but decided to stay at UCLA after requesting a draft evaluation. He has started 19 games at left tackle through the past two seasons, and will enter this final year as the team’s most valuable offensive lineman.
His decision to stay gives the Bruins a significant boost up front. The unit is losing fourth-year starting center Jake Brendel to graduation, as well as juniors Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch. Redmond was academically ineligible for the Foster Farms Bowl last month, and signed with an agent before the Bruins’ loss to Nebraska. Benenoch, who is projected as a late-round draft pick, declared last week.
UCLA will also return offensive guard Kenny Lacy, who started 10 games this season, and soon-to-be redshirt sophomore Kolton Miller. Miller started a game at left tackle in place of McDermott, and four more at right tackle.
Scott Quessenberry, who started 19 games in 2013 and 2014, is also set to return after sitting out this past season recovering from shoulder surgeries. He has spent most of his career at guard, but could replace Brendel at center.
UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone returned to practice on Thursday morning, after being hospitalized earlier this week.
The 58-year-old had been with the Bruins on Monday, but missed their Tuesday and Wednesday sessions.
“It was great,” said left tackle Conor McDermott. “I love seeing him out there. I was in the middle of the second team period, I turn around and see him, I raised my hand up — ‘Coach Mazzone!’ …
“We were praying for him and worrying about him, of course. We’re happy he’s back.”