Friday, August 10, 2007

Friday Practice Report

Hey, hey, my first ever practice report! In fact, this is my first ever UCLA practice. It was a great time and my brother and cousin joined me for the day up in Westwood. On a side note, I met Deja Blue out on Spaulding field. I knew it was him as soon as he walked by the stands. Let’s just say that Deja has a very unique writing style and the free spirit and joyus attitude that you see in his posts is a reflection of his personality and style in the real world. We chit-chatted for a few minutes on the bleachers while the squads were running through their drills. He told me the most important thing was to have a good time during the practice and I definitely did.

Anyways down to the details. Like I said, I’ve never been to a practice before so I couldn’t tell you if it was slow or fast or if the players were more or less energized. To me it seemed like things zipped by at a whirlwind pace; especially during the scrimmages. By the time a play completed and I jotted down a few notes they were lined up again and running the next play. I scribbled like mad, and filled a few pages in my notebook, so hopefully it all makes sense.

We got to practice kind of early and I was really surprised to see nobody (and I mean nobody) on Spaulding field at about 9:00am. Only the camera guys were setting up on the big scaffolding lifts so they can film the practice. My brother and I decided to hit the bookstore and stock up on some more Bruin gear. By the time we got back to the field at 9:30 a few players were on the field including Raymond Carter in crutches. He looked in good spirits and he has such a radiant smile, but you could tell he was disappointed to not be on the field.

Some good news was seeing Rodney Van and Chris Horton walk into the practice field with no braces or boots. Horton had a pretty big wrap about his right leg. The two of them spent most of the first hour just running back and forth on the field. They were easing themselves back into practice but they didn’t seem to limp or have any other noticeable problems. Which was good news.

I scanned all over the field with my binoculars but I couldn’t find #95 Brian Price. I got confirmation from Dohn’s blog that Price is still not cleared to practice; too bad because I was hoping to see the big tackle from Crenshaw in action. Speaking of tackles, Darius Savage looked slimmed down form the pictures I saw in the spring. He looked leaner and fit. He’s still 4th on the depth chart but hopefully he can work his way up the ladder.

When the practice started and the players broke up into squads, I mainly watched the quarterbacks. I saw Norvell doing this drill with them that was interesting. He had a large broom in his hands and he was swiping the broom at the QB’s as they threw passes into their target nets. I guess that was to simulate defenders swating at them during a game.

When the offense got together, they ran a number of single back sets. Lots of 3 and 4 receiver packages and they spent a number of reps throwing screen passes and swing passes to Markey. Coach Dorrell spent a good chunk of time with the receivers and Eric Scott is not back with the program yet.

The defensive backs were in front of us by the bleachers so I got to watch Walker put them through their paces. It was great to see them up close. I have to say, I was impressed with the quickness and acceleration of Michael Norris and Alteraun Verner. They really stood out in the drills and that translated into the scrimmage (more on that later).

While all the action was going on around Spaulding, there was a nice little moment with Raymond Carter. He was standing on the side and his older lady (maybe his mom or an auntie?) came by and gave him a really big hug. He gave this great big smile and the two talked for a while. It was a nice exchange and you could tell she was giving him some encouragement. Hopefully Carter’s surgery is a success and this enthusiastic and talented young man can get back on the field as soon as possible.

They started scrimmaging about an hour and half into practice. We could hardly see from the bleachers, so we moved over to the parking structure to get a better view. Because of that, I missed the first few series. Here is a log of the action once we got into a better position. They would blow the whistle almost as soon as there was contact so the yards gained are up until the whistle is sounded. I wasn’t always 100% sure on the yards, so most are guestimates…

Olson at QB.

  • Run. Kalil Bell in the middle hit about 2 yards past the line of scrimmages.
  • Pass. Play action handoff the play was whistled dead.
  • Run. Chris Markey to the left for a 4 yard loss. Play was totally blown up.
  • Run. Craig Sheppard left hit about 3 yards past the line of scrimmage.

Cown at QB.

  • Run. Justin Fareed up the middle hit at the line of scrimmage.
  • Run. Craig Sheppard up the middle hit at the line of scrimmage.

After that they switched to 7-on-7s. I was impressed by the number shot gun formations and the misdirection and different looks they put together.

Olson at QB.

  • Shot gun formation. Complete to Markey underneath.
  • Shot gun formation. 15 yard pass to Brandon Breazell bounced off his hands. Doh! Should have had that one.
  • 4-wide outs short pass underneath that was picked off by Alteraun Verner.
  • This was an interesting set where Paulsen moved from the TE spot and lined up as a wide out. He looked like the primary target but was well covered and Ben ended up going through the progression and just tucking and running the ball.
  • Slant pass out to Rasshan. Nice catch and good throw.

Cowan at QB.

  • Cowan to Cowan connection. Beautiful catch in coverage about 10-15 yards out.
  • Shot gun formation. Kahlil Bell catch underneath and slips past the defender to the house!
  • Shotgun formation. pick by Kyle Bosworth! Not sure who Pat was throwing to on that play. Wasn’t a white jersey anywhere near by.

Olson at QB.

  • Shotgun formation. Good coverage, no pass.
  • Shotgun formation. Alteraun Verner steps in front of the pass and knocks it down. Great play
  • 10 yard complete to Jamil Turner on the left.
  • Hit Marcus Everett underneath about 2 yards.
  • Connects with Chris Markey for 3 yards
  • Nice pass to Joe Cowan for 5 yards
  • 4 wideouts. Connects with Chad Moline for 3 yards.
  • Beautiful pass to Marcus Evertt for 15 yards.
  • Pass to Rashan about 20 yards down field. Ossar falls down and Verner makes this spectacular pick while diving to the ground himself.
  • Complete to Jamil Turner for 5 yards.
  • 3 receivers clustered on the right side of the line. Connect to Kalil Bell for 5 yards.
  • Shot gun formation. Ben throws an ill advised ball into double coverage. Lucky that wasn’t picked.
  • Markey goes in motion to the left. Pass to Sneed on the right and he drops it. Saw him doing pushups for that one.
  • Great pass and grab by Terrance Austin over the middle around 20 yards.
  • Hit Craig Sheppard as an outlet receiver in the backfield and he was met by a group of defenders before he got back to the line of scrimmage.
  • Pass is high to Terence Austin and it goes off his finger tips. He looks frustrated that he missed it but I thought it was too high for him to catch. Anyways, he was doing pushups for that so I guess the coaches didn’t agree with me.

Back to full 11-11 scrimmage in the middle of the field

Olson at QB

  • Run. Reverse to Ossarr Rashan that fools nobody. He gets hit for 6 yard loss.
  • Pass. Ben hesitates on a quick pass and fumbles the ball. Not pretty.
  • Run. Chris Markey to the left side and the line collapses for a 2 yard loss.
  • Run. Kahlil Bell up the middle hit about 2 yards past the line of scrimmage.
  • Pass. Shot gun formation. Throws the ball into the ground instead of taking the sack.

Cowan at QB

  • Run. Up the middle for a loss. Not sure who had the ball.
  • False Start.
  • Run. Pitch to Chane Moline on the left hit around the line of scrimmage.
  • Run. Somebody, missed it, ran into a big pile in the middle for no gain.

Olson at QB

  • Pass. Throws it into the dirt instead of taking the sack.
  • Pass. Pocket starts to collapse and Olson slipped past the rush and dropped a nice little dink pass to a jumping Ossarr Rashan.
  • Run. Up the middle for about an 8 yard gain.
  • Run. Kahlil Bell hit around the line of scrimmage.

At this point the offense huddled up and had a pep talk. They started woofing and jumping around to get themselves more fired up.

  • Run. Kalil Bell up the middle hit about 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Pass. Ben tossed a nice pass to Markey but he was already touched in the backfield for a sack. Bruce Davis was whooping and shouting after that play. He looked pumped.
  • Run Kalil Bell right hit back about 2 yards.

Cowan at QB.

  • Run. Chane Moline right for no gain.

Michael Pitre is down on the play and is laying flat on the ground pounding the turf with his hand. He is down for a few minutes and the trainers are attending to him. He eventually gets up and walks it off. Hopefully nothing serious, it didn’t look too bad after he got back up but it was scary there for a few minutes.

  • Run. Chane Moline up the middle and he goes about 2-4 yards before being touched. The defensive coaches yell out “too slow! Too slow!” about how fast the defense reacted and closed on the ball

At this point they switched to a goal line situation and ran a few plays from about the 2 yard line.

Olson at QB.

  • Run Kahlil Bell up the middle. Hit about 1 yard behind the line of scrimmage.
  • Pass to Trevor Theroit to the left and he gets tackled about an inch outside of the goal line.
  • Run. Chane Moline to the left for a 2 yard loss

Cowan at QB.

  • At this point my wife is on the phone and I have no idea what’s going on and I miss a few plays
  • Run. Chane Moline up the middle for a touch down!

They move back to the middle of the field and run a few more series in full scrimmage.

Olson at QB.

  • He starts out under center and they switch to a shot gun. He delivers a nice pass to Joe Cowan who makes this great sliding reception.
  • Michael Norris deflects the ball and really should have had a pick. The ball was intended for Ketchum about 10 yards down field.
  • The next ball goes high to Everett on the near sideline.

Cowan at QB.

  • Michael Norris makes another great play, steps in front of Breazell and knocks down the pass.
  • Pass. One of the few deep passes all day. The ball is a bit under thrown and Austin doesn’t adjust enough to get it. Incomplete.
  • Pass. Craig Sheppard nice catch 4 yards.

Olson at QB.

  • Pass. Olson throws the ball into the dirt
  • Run. Lots of motion and it looks like some kind of pitch-gone-run and the play is whistled dead before it gets too far.
  • Pass. Left side of the line to Breazell for 6 yards.

Cowan at QB.

  • Run. Chane Moline pitch hit for loss of 2 yards.
  • Pass. Cowan rolls left but nobody is open. He tucks and scrambles.
  • Pass. Brian Bozworth knocks down a pass over the middle. Nice play.

That’s it. It was a lot of plays in a short period and things were zipping by pretty quick. Overall, the offense seemed to struggle for most of the scrimmage. I came away with a feeling of being under whelmed by their performance. Maybe I my expectations were a little high for the first day of pads, but I was hoping for a little more progress.

In the 7-on-7’s Olson looked very sharp and was placing the ball very well. They ran a lot of shotgun and different sets and there were a lot of new looks. When the 11-on-11’s came around it seemed like they were using a more conservative set of plays. There were more 2-back sets and not nearly as much shotgun. Ben had a hard time in the full scrimmage. Some of that might be the great defensive effort and it is always hard to tell when your playing yourself in practice. They didn’t throw hardly any deep passes and I’m not sure if that was by design or if the coverage was just that good.

If you don’t think Alteraun Verner is going to be a huge star in the blue and gold then you’re crazy! That guy was all over the field. He had two interceptions including that ridiculous leaping catch while on the ground. Michael Norris also looked very good and I think our secondary is in very good shape this year.

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