UCLA Football; Dust In The Wind

If you were one of the few brave fans that went to the UCLA spring practice Thursday, the best thing you could say was that it was over. After several days of unruly Los Angeles heat, Thursday’s practice was held in 60-degree temperatures made all the colder by a constant, whipping wind. Many of you reading this in other parts of the country are laughing at the tepid weather. But remember when, if you were students in LA, what that felt like at 8am. The wind was enough that the video camera on one of the elevated lifts blew over twice, and equipment routinely got lifted off the platform and thrown to the ground. The cameraman commented that the coaches were going to hate the video because it was impossible to keep the cameras still under the wind conditions.

UCLA Football; Dust In The Wind

If you are the UCLA quarterbacks or receivers, the best thing you can say about Thursday’s practice is that it is over. It was a tough day all around for the signal callers and pass catchers. Even in the routine passing drills the timing was off both for Devon Modster and Matt Lynch and any number of the receivers. Both were over throwing the wide-outs and tight ends. Once they tried the longer timing patterns, all they were doing was tempting the fate of the wind gods. Even if the throws were close to accurate, the winds took care of that.

UCLA Football
UCLA quarterback Devon Modster rolls out on a bootleg pass during Spring Camp.

There was a lot of work on rolling the quarterbacks out in bootlegs to try to stretch the field horizontally. Most of the passes were kept to within 20 yards, and those that weren’t, the wind took care of them, (We weren’t kidding. It was crazy out there). It was here that it became more evident that Modster is pulling away in the Spring quarterback competition. He was more effective rolling out to both sides and was no longer short hopping the shorter throws. That’s not to say either quarterback was the stuff highlight videos are made of, but in a two-person race, someone has to lead.

The offense did have some good moments in the seven-on-seven drills. Many of them came from the running backs. Soso Jamabo, Bolu Olorunfunmi, and Brandon Stephens were each surging for chunks of five and six yards per run. Olorunfunmi had back-to-back runs of 10+ yards right up the middle.

Both quarterbacks had some degree of success moving the ball “between the 20’s,” (so to speak on the shortened fields), late in practice, but got bogged down in the red zone in seven-on-seven drills.  Modster threw two interceptions. Defensive back Quentin Lake grabbed the first one in heavy traffic, leaping over receiver Stephen Johnson III.  On the next drive, Modster threw back-to-back passes to the right front of the end zone. The first was actually a tough pass in a sudden wind gust but was dropped by Theo Howard. The second was in the exact same spot. It was picked off by Nate Meadors, who read the route the entire way.

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UCLA receiver Theo Howard with a catch in 7-on-7 drills at Spring camp.

Modster did get one touchdown drive. He caught Christian Pabico on a 10-yard pass that turned into a 25-yard gain down to the two-yard line. He found Stephens in the middle of the end zone on the next play. Lynch also get one touchdown pass on a 20-yard pass to Howard at the goal post.

Defensive lineman Greg Rogers was absent again from practice. There was an unconfirmed digital media report Thursday morning that he was transferring. Head coach Chip Kelly said Rogers was absent because he was injured, just like linebacker Mique Juarez, and tight end Jimmy Jaggers who have been out since Saturday. Players who are hurt but can go through moderate or conditioning drills wear yellow jerseys. Those who cannot participate are held out completely. Rogers’ status then is murky. Kelly would never discuss the status of any individual transferring so no one was going to ask him. As far as UCLA is concerned publicly, Rogers is simply injured. That leaves the one unconfirmed digital media report on his status.

The Bruins have one more open practice this Saturday. Practice is then closed next week, prior to the Spring Scrimmage next Saturday, June 21st.