This team has all the signs of the great teams…confidence, high expectations, hard workers, strong coaching, and no glaring weaknesses.
After what most consider to be a successful season two of the Jim Mora era, the team now returns 17 of its 22 starters.
The players for the most part are looking bigger and faster. We have to give credit to the strength and conditioning program.
Some random notes on the offense after the first practice:
Quarterback: Brent Hundley definitely looks and acts the part. During the off-season, Hundley spent time with NFL veterans like Tim Tebow and Philip Rivers, as well as UCLA coaches understanding the nuances of the position and reading defenses.
Asiantii Woulard, like Hundley, definitely looks and acts the part of a big time D-1 quarterback. Physically, Woulard appears ready – big, fast and strong. He still needs more time to grasp the offense. It doesn’t seem to come naturally to him yet. But that is to be expected. He is still a freshman and between now and fall practice, he will have an opportunity to improve the mental aspects of the position.
Jerry Neuheisel looks a little bigger and has a confidence (bordering on cockiness) about him. Both he and Woulard will make solid backups this season. We feel we are in good hands should Hundley need to leave a game.
Craig Lee looked great. Fast, strong, elusive. His issues in the past included blocking protection, and understanding the offense. Unable to tell how much he has improved in these areas, if at all, but he will definitely be getting some carries next season. This guy is just too good to completely keep off the field. Yeah, it is only one practice, but Lee stands out.
With the loss of Shaquelle Evans, it will be interesting to see who steps up. Jordan Payton and Thomas Duarte both looked very consistent. We are looking forward to seeing how Devin Fuller and Devin Lucien progress this spring. Someone need to be THE MAN, so who will it be?
On a down note, Coach Mora stated that former starting left tackle Torian White has been dismissed from the team today. We really liked Torian as a player, and in our limited contact with him, liked him as a person as well. There is a lot of speculation as to why he was dismissed, and we have heard it has to do with something beyond his court case. Since only a few inside people really know the truth, we will leave the character assassination to other sites.
Across the board each lineman that we saw looked bigger, more athletic and stronger than we remember. With the loss of White and Su’a-Filo, this is welcome news.
Simon Goines is out with a knee injury.
Caleb Benenoch looks like a new person. Coordinated, faster, and ready to take the left tackle position.
Poasi Moala – Mora made a point to speak about the strides Moala has made. And looking at him, we can see why. Yeah, he is only a freshman but he looks ready to play.
Some good news in light of White, Su’a-Filo, and Goines is that massive lineman Malcolm Bunche, a University of Miami graduate who is now entering graduate school at UCLA will be eligible in a couple days. His cannot practice until some academic paperwork is squared away but will provide some needed experienced depth on the line.