UCLA football: What to make of Bruins as spring practice opens
LOS ANGELES — A brief preview of what’s to come with UCLA football in the 2014 season was finally shown this week as the Bruins opened up spring practices.
One of the last programs to begin the spring period, some questions were finally answered and new faces shown.
Here are all the news and notes as the Bruins begin spring ball.
Who is here
As head coach Jim Mora says, the most important recruit of the season was locked up in January when quarterback Brett Hundley announced that he would return for his redshirt-junior season. And Mora had rave reviews for Hundley in his first practice Tuesday morning as well, saying that the mass amounts of film he watched and the time he spent picking the brains of NFL quarterbacks over the winter are already showing.
— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) April 2, 2014
"He’s been religious about getting out and throwing and getting the receivers out here," Mora said. "He’s been wearing Noel and Taylor (Mazzone) out in regards to understanding this offense."
"A big part of being a quarterback is really knowing the game," Hundley said. "Knowing the defense, knowing what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, knowing our offense and why we’re doing what we’re doing."
Hundley is locked and loaded but his backup is not yet set. With highly-touted freshman Asiantti Woulard coming off of a redshirt season and last season’s backup, Jerry Nueheisel, not ready to cede his position, the two are locked in a battle.
"I think the backup quarterback position is interesting," Mora said. "Jerry is not a guy that is ready to go and give up the position and we recognize that Asiantii has potential but he needs to perform."
The offensive line got a boost with graduate student transfer Malcolm Bunche, a tackle from Miami, who is able to practice and play right away.
Defensive end Owamagbe Odighizuwa is back to full strength and ready to go after spending last season recovering from two off-season hip surgeries.
— UCLA Football (@UCLAFootball) April 1, 2014
Early enrollees Adarius Pickett (cornerback), Najee Toran (offensive guard), Ron Robinson (safety) and Zach Whitley (linebacker) are all practicing as well and in the midst of position battles.
Who is not
The biggest news out of Westwood is that suspended tackle Torian White is no longer with the team. The L.A. Times reported that he is not enrolled at UCLA for the spring quarter either and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office said his November sexual assault case is still open and White is still under investigation.
Mora said he was not allowed to discuss why White, who was suspended following his arrest, is gone, only saying, "He is no longer with the team."
Defensive lineman Eddie Vanderdoes is out for spring but expected to be ready by fall after breaking his foot during the offseason.
All-American linebacker Anthony Barr is on his way to the NFL, as is hard-hitting inside backer Jordan Zumwalt and it’s impossible to ignore the void left behind.
Spring Ball is Back #UCLAFootball2014
— Brett A. Hundley Jr (@BrettHundley17) April 1, 2014
"I think it’s natural to watch the spot that Anthony Barr left open," Mora said.
Kenny Orjioke, Aaron Wallace, Deon Hollins and Whitley will all get reps at both spots with standing out for his versatility to play both inside and out.
The Bruins are looking to go fast this season.
Arguably one of the speedier teams in the Pac-12 last season, they were still out-raced by Oregon and this season, they want to be the team defeating beating opponents both on foot and in the count.
"A lot faster," Hundley said. "Last year we thought we thought we were fast, but I feel like this year we can be even faster. So we’re changing some things up with the offense and changing some things up with the calls just to give us an extra second or an extra five seconds of not having to do so much but rather, just keeping it short and getting to the play."
— UCLA Athletics (@UCLAAthletics) April 1, 2014
Spring is about working out the kinks and testing new packages. But most of all, the Bruins are just trying to get better. It’s the third year under Mora and presumably Hundley’s final and they’re ready to take a big step forward.
"We have limits and expectations about how we want to play," Hundley said. "We’re trying to push those expectations and push those limits of what we can and can’t do and what we can achieve as an offense."
"We kind of concur that that we’ve taken another step up," Mora said. "We know what the expectations are and we know what our expectations are and we’re trying to meet them everyday in our attitude and the way we work."