The first week of fall practice for Jim Mora and the UCLA football team has gone smoothly thus far. It's a continued progression for this program—as it hopes to feature in a BCS bowl game for the first time since 1999.
In terms of position battles, there aren't too many. I'd say that this is truly indicative of the depth Mora and staff have built up.
Detailed below will be various storylines thus far from camp. It will include an injury update, suspension news, schematic changes, positional changes and more.
Suspensions of 3 Freshmen
As the team began practice in San Bernardino this past Monday, some bad news broke in regards to three incoming freshmen.
Wide receiver Jordan Lasley, linebacker Dwight Williams and quarterback Aaron Sharp have all been suspended due to what Mora termed as "not living up to the standards that we're looking for during the summer months."
Will UCLA win the Pac-12 South in 2014?
The trio is unable to participate in the fall camp and will rejoin the team after UCLA's opening game versus Virginia.
This development certainly isn't a positive by any stretch. Williams, Lasley and Sharp will now be put behind the proverbial eight ball in terms of learning not only the system and schemes but also how the program operates. Fortunately for the Bruins, none of the freshmen were considered potential contributors this year.
There haven't been many injuries occurring during the camp. However, Mora did deliver some news publicly about various members of the team not participating at all in San Bernardino.
Both Darren Andrews and Johnny Johnson are out for the season, reported by Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News. Andrews will undergo microfracture knee surgery, while Johnson will sit out another season due to shoulder ailments. Ian Taubler has also retired due to injury.
Tackle Simon Goines will undergo minor ankle surgery, according to Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times.
It's been a frustrating last few seasons for the talented lineman. Goines has been beset by both knee and ankle injuries for the duration of his time in Westwood. At the beginning of camp in San Bernardino, he sat out the first few days as a means of precaution. Apparently, the rest didn't make much of a difference.
Goines was projected by many as the potential starting right tackle. However, the development of Caleb Benenoch has helped to assuage any possible concerns at the position. Conor McDermott, Poasi Moala and Ben Wysocki are also all capable of manning the position, if need be.
Freshman linebacker Cameron Griffin suffered a separated shoulder earlier in the week. Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register reported that the potential prognosis doesn't look too good.
Aside from a few nicks and bruises, Griffin has sustained the only serious injury in camp up to this point.
A New Left Tackle?
Benenoch began the camp at left tackle, with transfer Malcolm Bunche slotted in at left guard.
As the week progressed, Bunche slid over to left tackle—and apparently has won the job. Offensive line coach Adrian Klemm was very effusive in his praise of the veteran lineman.
As Klemm said, "he seems very comfortable at the position. He's a grown man, he's mature and a lot different than the other guys. He's a joy to have in the room."
Malcolm Bunche got his first reps at LT today. OL coach Adrian Klemm likes him there for now. Called him a "mauler," vs P12's finesse guys.— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) August 7, 2014
Bunche truly does offer UCLA a great deal of flexibility. During his time at Miami, he competed at both guard and tackle. Based on the injury situation, he could slot in realistically anywhere on the line, save for center. As a fifth-year senior, he's also providing a veteran presence for a relatively young group.
UCLA OL coach Adrian Klemm on Miami transfer Malcolm Bunche: "I think we found our left tackle."— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) August 7, 2014
Starting defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes called Bunche "a monster with dad strength." At 6'7" and 327 pounds, he's the biggest offensive lineman on the roster.
Defensive Scheme Change?
It appears as if UCLA will be "more multiple" when it comes to a defensive scheme this upcoming year. This is necessitated by the strengths of the roster.
In 2013, the base defense was a 3-4. The Bruins operated out of it most of the time in order to maximize the ability of pass-rushers such as Cassius Marsh and Anthony Barr.
Nothing like a little Myles Jack to get you ready for some UCLA football. pic.twitter.com/03IKj6KzHy— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) August 6, 2014
There's a dearth of pure pass-rushers currently on the team. However, the defensive line is absolutely loaded up front. A quartet of Vanderdoes, Ellis McCarthy, Owamagbe Odighizuwa and Kenny Clark likely ranks as one of the best in the entire country.
In nickel situations, UCLA could opt to use linebackers Kenny Orjioke and Deon Hollins in rushing roles off the edge (similar to that of Barr last year). Additionally, the versatility of McCarthy and Vanderdoes also allows for UCLA to run a 3-3-5.
In the secondary, look for sophomores Tahaan Goodman and Priest Willis to battle it out for the "fifth" starting spot in the secondary.
Of the true freshmen in camp, several have flashed their big-time abilities from high school.
Wide receivers coach Eric Yarber believes that wide receiver Alex Van Dyke can figure into the mix as a red-zone target. Yarber also has been impressed with Van Dyke's speed and quickness. Kartje too feels as if Van Dyke has a lot of potential.
Two freshmen who seem to have clear paths to playing time: Matt Dickerson and Jaleel Wadood. Both on 2nd team D to start today.— Ryan Kartje (@Ryan_Kartje) August 4, 2014
Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport has been very high on defensive back Jaleel Wadood. Linebacker Kenny Young has also impressed. His hitting ability has been noted, despite the lack of full pads thus far in practice.
Vanderdoes gushed about defensive end Matt Dickerson, speaking about his pass-rushing abilities and overall size. He likened the Serra High School product to "a bigger Cassius Marsh."
With the transfer of Kylie Fitts, I'd assume that Dickerson will see time right away in the rotation.
There have been a few notable positional changes throughout the roster.
Slot receiver Jalen Ortiz has switched over to corner in order to add both depth and speed to the secondary. Safety Tyler Foreman has moved to outside linebacker, and Taylor Lagace has moved to fullback from his outside linebacker spot.
When defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin told Adarius Pickett he was switching to RB, Pickett said, “I’ll leave here the starter." #UCLA— Jack Wang (@thejackwang) August 9, 2014
Perhaps the most intriguing move is freshman Adarius Pickett, switching from cornerback to running back. In high school, Pickett was an outstanding tailback. He displayed impressive vision, patience and explosiveness.
When looking at Pickett physically, he's got a bulky, yet powerful lower body. As he gets older and matures, there could be questions as to how he'd fare as a defensive back.
By switching over to tailback, he provides UCLA with the potential to contribute right away. It will be fascinating to watch his development in the upcoming weeks.