UCLA Football: 4 Things to Watch For in Spring Practice
Spring practice is right around the corner for Jim Mora and the UCLA Bruins. The period will begin Tuesday, April 1, at Spaulding Field in Westwood, Calif. The month-long practice session will culminate with the annual Spring Showcase at StubHub Center April 26.
This month of practice will allow the fans to get a deeper glimpse into the squad. It will also afford the fanbase an opportunity to get a look at some of the younger players kept under wraps a season ago.
Here's a look at four things to watch for during spring practice for the UCLA Bruins.
*A full schedule of UCLA's spring practice can be found here.
The New Additions
UCLA will welcome multiple additions to the team during this period. Among the most notable are Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche and early enrollee Zach Whitley.
It will be fascinating to see Bunche perform. The fifth-year senior transferred in to UCLA from Miami. His inclusion into a somewhat thin offensive line group boosts the depth and brings the Bruins experience and versatility.
With the uncertainty surrounding Torian White and Simon Goines, Bunche could very well play as a tackle. However, he also could be slotted in as a guard if need be.
Whitley, meanwhile, graduated from his high school in time to enroll in January and participate in spring practice. The Army All-American is loaded with potential. He's fast, aggressive and very physical.
UCLA lost both Jordan Zumwalt and Anthony Barr from its linebacker corps. With playing time available at either position, Whitley has the chance to come in and prove himself early.
The OL Group
The offensive line will be a point of emphasis (as it seemingly always is) heading into the spring.
Starting tackles Simon Goines and Torian White will both be unavailable for the period. As a result, the younger players will have the opportunity to stake their claims for minutes.
Redshirt freshmen Kenny Lacy and Poasi Moala will get a longer look. Lacy figures to add depth at guard, while Moala will potentially impact the two-deep at the tackle position.
As mentioned on the previous slide, Bunche will be able to be integrated within the team.
This period also figures to give the coaching staff a look at the development of its young starters like Alex Redmond and Caleb Benenoch. With an offseason of conditioning, expect their bodies to be transformed and trimmed up from when they competed as true freshmen.
Introduction of the Redshirt Freshmen
Both Eldridge Massington and Craig Lee have the ability to contribute this season on the offensive side of the ball.
Massington redshirted last year, in part to rehabilitate from a torn ACL suffered in high school. The lengthy receiver from Texas has impressive speed. In high school, he ran a 10.52 in the 100-meter dash. Assuming he's fully healthy, Massington should be able to stretch the field vertically and give Brett Hundley another weapon to work with.
Lee should bolster the precarious running backs stable. There isn't one tailback on the roster with the "every-down back" moniker. The Redlands, Calif., native should instantly become the fastest member of the group. Even if he doesn't get a ton of touches, expect UCLA to utilize his speed in one fashion or another.
Other redshirt freshmen to watch for include Asiantii Woulard, Johnny Johnson and Tyler Foreman.
The Jeff Ulbrich Era
With Lou Spanos leaving for the NFL, Jeff Ulbrich has been promoted to the title of defensive coordinator. It will be interesting to see how he makes the transition from position coach to leader of the defense.
From a schematic standpoint, spring practice likely won't be overly complicated. However, there could be a tweaking in philosophy from his predecessor.
The spring will afford Ulbrich the opportunity to assess the existing talent on the roster. It will also likely give him an idea on how he plans to utilize the said personnel.