Posted by Bryan Fischer
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA kicked off fall camp Monday evening on a picturesque day in Westwood and while there wasn't much to report from the no pads practice, the Bruins got off the field without any injuries and with noticeably more depth at certain skill positions than years past.
Given the Bruins injury history (which is a very long, almost comical one), escaping every practice to the nearby icebaths without a signficant injury is key as the team looks to finally build some depth in year four under head coach Rick Neuheisel.
"These are all our guys," Neuheisel said. "We recruited them, we've coached them, it's our job now to get them to where they can compete successfully."
Quarterback Kevin Price took the field without a knee brace and intends to keep things that way unless ordered to wear one by trainers. The oft-injured quarterback missed most of fall camp last year before starting the opener and sat out all of spring practice with a knee injury. He took reps with the first team offense as expected and was sharp throwing the ball out of the pocket but still seemed to be a bit rusty with his timing running the offense.
"Not once did I feel limited physically. Like I said before, I feel 100 percent physically," Prince said. "I just have to make sure I know the playbook the best and can execute it the best. I do that and I think that will get me on the field."
With highly touted freshman quarterback Brett Hundley sidelined for a few weeks following knee surgery, Richard Brehaut was the man looking to take the starting job away from Prince but looked uneven throughout the two-plus hour practice. Brehaut tossed a few interceptions - including one into double coverage - but did make a several nice throws in the pocket. He said afterwards that he believes it is 50/50 between him and Prince to start but based on the number of reps and how Neuheisel coached during individual drills, it seems as though the head coach favors last year's starter.
Offensive line depth is still an issue and the team will be without one of their most flexible players in guard/tackle Jeff Baca, who is recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the spring. At this point UCLA will mix and match with several inexperienced players and finding the right group remains one of the big questions the offensive staff is looking to answer early on in camp.
"It's a work in progress," Neuheisel said of the line. "Especially at the inside positions. We're going to have to work through that and then see which freshmen can help with depth. The next question is when does Baca get back."
Tight end Joseph Fauria stood out, literally, as the tallest player on the team but also with his play catching passes over the middle. He seemed to only have one drop and there's no question that he'll be a big target for the quarterbacks to use if they're (likely) being chased out of the pocket by a few defenders. Wide receiver Shaq Evans and tailback Johnathan Franklin also impressed with their speed and quickness.
On the defensive side, ends Datone Jones and Owa Odighizuwa both looked good and the latter in particular seemed bigger and more confident than he was in the spring. Defensive tackle remains a work in progress but the Bruins should be able to get a decent pass rush from the front four if the ends do their job. Linebacker Patrick Larimore looks a little bigger than last year but still was able to cover one of the numerous tight ends the offensive sent out during 7-on-7 and team periods. The secondary was solid but not spectacular.
All in all, it certainly appears that UCLA has their deepest, and possibly most talented, team under Neuheisel but it remains to be seen if that can translate to wins on the field. It's early and there's plenty of time to incorporate some new pieces but for day one, things were not bad at all for the Bruins.