Physicality escalated Friday at UCLA football’s fall camp as the Bruins wore full pads for the first time this week.
After two days of players wearing shoulder pads, UCLA graduated to a fully padded session on the fifth day of camp, a development that was particularly beneficial for the Bruins’ offensive line.
Line coach Adrian Klemm noted after Thursday’s practice that padless play allowed defenders to be more “slippery,” firing faster through openings and leaving blockers less to grab.
“In terms of your aiming points, it’s hard to stay on them,” Klemm said. “You can’t grab or hold – you know, you’re not supposed to hold but that’s what you do, you get your hands up in the breastplate.”
The lack of pads, combined with the glut of experience and talent along the UCLA defensive front, has challenged the Bruins’ pass protection this week.
Klemm’s group, though, has nevertheless looked much better than it did in the spring, and Friday’s addition of pads only helped them further.
“I feel like we’re really coming together more as a unit,” said redshirt sophomore right tackle Kolton Miller. “I mean, starting out the summer, I thought it would be a little bit more choppy like it was in spring, but things are flowing.”
It helps that Klemm has already determined a starting unit: Miller and redshirt senior Conor McDermott at the tackles, redshirt juniors Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala at the guard spots and redshirt junior Scott Quessenberry at center.
“The more you can work together, the more you have your plays down and your calls,” Miller said. “It just strengthens the unit and it makes it easier to be successful.”
For much of the spring and summer, most would have expected Quessenberry to slide over to guard and prospective graduate transfer Jake Raulerson to man the center position. But Raulerson was not admitted to his desired graduate programs, and headed instead to Arkansas.
Quessenberry, in turn, stayed at center, and Moala stepped in as a starter along the line. After dealing with hand injuries throughout the last two years, Moala is finally healthy and confident, Klemm said.
“As an offensive lineman, if you can’t use both of your hands, sometimes you lose a little bit of confidence,” Klemm said. “Maybe he’s not as strong at the point as he’d like to be – all of a sudden, you start doubting yourself a little bit.”
Moala also said Friday that he’d been able to focus more on football after spending previous years distracted by other issues.
“Last couple years, there’s just been a lot of off-the-field issues back home, financial struggles and whatnot – my mind wasn’t fully here,” Moala said. “This year, I just chose to put my mind on the right path and just commit to football and just stop worrying about the outside obstacles that used to be prohibiting me from doing what I had to do here.”
Quarterbacks coach Marques Tuiasosopo offered his thoughts on the Bruins’ collection of backup quarterbacks after Friday’s practice.
On redshirt senior Mike Fafaul: “I think when you go from the first group to the second group, it’s almost like a 1A and 1B in terms of the quality of work that he’s putting in, and I’m really excited and proud of him. He’s just really taken to what we’re doing, and he’s challenging himself, he’s outspoken in our room, and he’s pushing not only himself, but he’s pushing (sophomore quarterback) Josh (Rosen). And he’s being that senior that you want. It’s a lot of fun to be around him. He pushes me. He’s a great kid, and it’s showing from him out on the field.”
On freshman Devon Modster: “The nice thing about Modster is: When he came in, we just kind of threw him in there, to see how he’d handle it. It’s not too big for him. He went right in there, I put him with the first group in a couple periods, and he looked like he wasn’t a deer caught in the headlights. He’s so even-keel sometimes that you wonder if he’s ready to go, and then he’ll step up in the pocket and just rope a ball on the sideline. So very positive things that he’s doing, and I really like what he’s done here, in his approach.”
On freshman Matt Lynch: “(He’s improved in) understanding what we want, understanding the schemes enough to where you can feel really comfortable about making throws. I think in the spring, some of the throws he wasn’t making just because he was nervous or didn’t feel comfortable. He’s really made a lot of strides. He’s been a bright spot as well. And so we’ll just see how it goes. He’s taking the bull by the horns, he’s making the most of it.”
On freshman Dymond Lee: “He’s committed to play this position. He’s good enough to go play another position, but he wants to do this. He understands the situation coming in, and he’ll get some more reps as we move forward in camp. But he’s studious, he’s in there studying, he’s always asking what he can be doing better. So he’s engaged. And a guy in his situation can kind of go two ways, when you don’t get as many reps as you want early on. But he’s staying focused, and he’s a great kid. You know, that’s a special thing about being out here with this group is that they’re all good guys.”