Week 2 hasn't exactly been kind to Jim Mora and the UCLA football team. As is the case with most squads, there have been a rash of injuries in this second stanza of camp.
Most notably, the offensive line has been hit considerably hard by various bumps and bruises. Fortunately, there haven't been any serious injuries to date.
Additionally, two true freshmen may have solidified starting gigs. One of those players was highly touted coming out of high school. The other was projected to potentially redshirt. Due to a strong fall camp, a starting spot looks likely.
Three true freshmen—previously suspended from the team—made their way back to the team for the second week of fall camp.
Reserve linebacker Cameron Griffin and walk-on wide receiver Sam Handler are out for the foreseeable future. Handler suffered a torn ACL, and Griffin endured a shoulder injury. Neither were projected to contribute this season.
The offensive line in particular has been hit very hard by the injury bug. Starting center Jake Brendel went down with a minor MCL injury. It doesn't appear to be overly serious. Left tackle Malcolm Bunche expects Brendel to be back for the Memphis game at the latest, per Ed Lewis of BruinSportsReport.
The injury does cause a ripple effect of sorts. Projected starting left guard Alex Redmond has taken some snaps at center. He also has been in and out of camp due to heat-related issues.
Sophomore Scott Quessenberry has been battling for the right guard job and is also the true reserve to Brendel. However, a concussion has taken him out of practice (per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times).
Both Conor McDermott and Carl Hulick have also been battling ailments. Hulick has been plagued by overheating, and McDermott is still coming back from shoulder surgery. Not to mention, Bunche, Caleb Benenoch and NaJee Toran have also dealt with minor nicks and muscle pulls.
UCLA suffered a scary moment with projected top receiver Devin Lucien. On Tuesday, the Crespi High School product fell during practice on an attempted pass catch. It appeared initially as if he hit his head on the ground. An ambulance came onto the field and took Lucien to a local hospital.
Thankfully, he was released shortly afterward. Foster reported Lucien went down (again) due to the heat.
Starting safety Randall Goforth dinged up his shoulder in practice. An MRI was taken, and it was negative. Reserve corner Marcus Rios has been out due to a migrane problem.
Fortunately, the rest of the roster appears to be relatively healthy.
With the number of heat-related problems, it will be interesting to see whether or not the camp will continue in San Bernardino, Calif. The hot, rugged climate allows for the team to function outside of Westwood—without distraction.
Mora obviously instilled this plan three years ago in order to create a culture built upon toughness and grit. At this point, I believe this specific "goal" has been achieved.
In the future, it could be a scenario in which the team practices in Westwood for one week, whilst using the second week of camp for team chemistry building in San Bernardino, Calif.
It will be something to monitor heading forward.
UCLA did receive some positive news on the injury front. Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, expect Brendel and Lucien back next week. Per Mora, Quessenberry should also be back early next week.
Both Toran and linebacker Kenny Young have taken gigantic steps in solidifying starting spots for the Bruins.
Toran is undersized, at only 267 pounds. However, he makes up for his lack of relative size with heart, effort and aggression. The injury to Quessenberry has helped his cause in potentially winning a starting gig. The two had been battling against each other for the vacant spot up until Quessenberry's injury.
The Texas native benefited from enrolling in school early. It enabled Toran to acclimate to the program at a quicker pace, and thus also allowed for a more advanced understanding of the offense.
According to Toran (via offensive line coach Adrian Klemm), it sounds as if he will get the starting nod versus Virginia in the season opener.
Young has been perhaps the most impressive freshman during the camp. The New Orleans native has displayed uncommon maturity for a young player. He's constantly communicating on the field and seemingly has a firm grasp on the defensive scheme.
Per David Woods of BruinReportOnline.com, here's an interview with Young and his impression of camp thus far.
It would be a relative shock to not see Young start next to Eric Kendricks in the middle versus Virginia.
Jordan Lasley, Dwight Williams and Aaron Sharp have all rejoined the team. Initially, the plan was to keep the trio out until after the first game of the season.
However, Mora has relented and brought the crop into camp. It's interesting development for sure and one which will help the group get into football shape.
Of the three, Lasley is potentially the one with the best opportunity to play this season.
Fellow freshman Adarius Pickett has switched from corner to running back. In his short time with the offense, he's been impressive. Mora in particular has commented about Pickett's ability to "run hard. He's only 190 pounds, but he runs heavy. You can feel it when he runs."
Pickett can add an interesting dimension to UCLA's backfield. There isn't a prototypical big back on the roster, and the freshman from El Cerrito, Calif. could potentially fit the bill. In high school, he was a vaunted tailback.
Lastly, the outside linebacker starting spot opposite appears to be clearing up a bit. One would assume Deon Hollins, Kenny Orjioke and Aaron Wallace will all play this year.
Hollins has a terrific first step. His quickness alone will get him on the field on third down situations. Wallace is the best of the three versus the run, and he is also the most experienced. Orjioke is by far the most impressive physically and athletically.
At this point, it looks as if Wallace has the inside track at the starting spot. Surely, his experience as a redshirt junior has helped him inch ahead.
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