UCLA Football: Complete Spring Game Preview
UCLA will be participating in a spring game for the Bruins faithful on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
Fans of the program will be able to get a good look at how the squad has developed thus far in the spring period. The game will also allow spectators to see new members of the team such as Malcolm Bunche, Craig Lee and Mossi Johnson.
For coach Jim Mora, a productive afternoon of work is desired. Players will also have the opportunity to impress the coaching staff in a game-like atmosphere. Mora is hoping to have at least 20,000 fans in attendance.
Here's a full spring game preview for the UCLA Bruins.
When: Saturday, April 26 at 5:00 p.m. PT
Where: StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
TV/Radio: Pac-12 Network
Unlike last year's Spring Showcase event, this will be a true game. Head coach Jim Mora has split the rosters into two teams.
Team White will be led by defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich. The team will be comprised of the first-team defense and the second-team offense.
Team Blue will be coached by offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone. Mazzone will be in charge of the first-team offense and the second-team defense.
Position Battles to Watch
There aren't many position battles to note as of now. Once the rest of the incoming recruiting class enters in the summer, we will get a better indication of the real competition at certain spots.
With that said, the two most important position battles exist at quarterback and running back.
Redshirt freshman Asiantii Woulard was expected to snag the spot behind QB Brett Hundley. However, he hasn't looked particularly great during the spring. Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register spoke about Woulard's struggles.
As a result, the door has opened for Jerry Neuheisel. While he lacks the physical talent of Woulard, he's more experienced, and in all likelihood, has a better understanding of the offense.
The running back position is deep, talented and a bit convoluted.
Jordon James will likely begin as the starter. Steven Manfro and Paul Perkins will also be vying for time, but the back with perhaps the most natural talent is redshirt freshman Craig Lee. It will be fascinating to see how he looks in the spring game.
Each back figures to have a role in some capacity this season. Their play in the fall will go a long way in determining how much they participate during the season.
The Progression of Brett Hundley
Now a redshirt junior, UCLA's signal-caller will be entering his fourth year in the program. Hundley opted to bypass the NFL in order to polish his skills as a passer.
His decision was also helped by the fact that UCLA will be a threat to not only win the Pac-12 but also to compete for a potential spot in the four-team College Football Playoff.
I don't expect him to see extended snaps in this game. However, it will be interesting to see if he's made strides in some areas of concern from last season—namely pocket awareness and accuracy.
The Introduction of Younger Skill Players
A quartet of young skill players will be given a chance to perform in this contest. Receivers Eldridge Massington, Mossi Johnson and Kenny Walker all have the ability to add explosiveness to the wide receiver corps. Johnson and Walker in particular appear to be quick and elusive.
At the running back position, Craig Lee will be introduced. His speed out of the backfield could make him valuable going forward.
The Offensive Line
The offensive line is seemingly always a question mark with this program. The starting tackles in 2013—Torian White and Simon Goines—are both unavailable for the spring. White has been dismissed from the team, and Goines is recuperating from various injuries.
These developments offer young linemen Kenny Lacy, Najee Toran and Poasi Moala a chance to impress the coaching staff. Newcomer Malcolm Bunche is also in the process of being integrated within the unit.
What the Experts Are Saying
Ryan Kartje of the Orange County Register spoke about the importance of the spring game for Woulard. This could be "a big opportunity to show off what [Woulard] has learned."
The backup quarterback derby between Woulard and Neuheisel is also of great importance. As Kartje said, "judging between [Woulard] and Jerry [Neuheisel] would be one big thing to watch."
Ed Lewis of Bruin Sports Report believes corner Fabian Moreau has been the best player all spring for the Bruins. The talented defender out of Florida has also garnered massive praise from Mora.
As Jack Wang of the Los Angeles Daily News reported, Mora believes Moreau will not only be a potential All-American but also a future first-round NFL draft pick.
Thomas Duarte: Duarte sprained his ankle during the later portion of camp and will be held out as a precaution.
Devin Fuller: Experiencing back soreness, Fuller will not play on Saturday.
Caleb Benenoch: Per Chris Foster of the Los Angeles Times, Benenoch will play on Saturday. He had been previously plagued by a hyperextended knee.
Offensive Line Musings: As mentioned on a previous slide, Goines has been out the entire spring. Fellow tackle Conor McDermott has also been unavailable during the spring due to recovery from shoulder surgery. Starting guard Alex Redmond has been playing with a club on his hand for the duration of spring practice. He will play on Saturday, per Kevin Bowman of the Daily Bruin.