Five Observations from the UCLA Football 2012 Spring Scrimmage

May 7, 2012

This weekend’s spring scrimmage offered Bruin alumni and fans an opportunity to see the progress made by the team since last fall. If Saturday's event at the Rose Bowl is any indication, fans should expect to see a significantly improved offense in 2012 from the revamped Bruins.

The scrimmage was not actually a game, but rather a collection of situations presented to the players ranging from live kickoffs and punts to simulations of overtime. With this in mind, the numbers don’t translate into full game numbers. Still, the stats can be used by the coaches to compare players’ performances at a particular position.

Below are five observations from the scrimmage:

#1 The Quarterback Situation Remains Unsettled

Richard Brehaut, Kevin Prince, and Brett Hundley all showed flashes of potential. Brehaut completed two long passes down the sideline that resulted in 63 and 69-yard touchdowns to redshirt freshman Tyler Scott and senior Jerry Johnson, respectively. In total, Brehaut completed 12 of 16 passes for 249 yards and 4 touchdowns without throwing an interception.

Prince has battled a sore shoulder throughout camp but performed well on Saturday, completing 8 of 11 passes for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns without an interception.

The highly anticipated debut of redshirt freshman Brett Hundley was met with generally positive results, as he completed 12 of 20 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown. The touchdown came on a beautiful 41-yard pass to Scott. His scrambling ability was on display as well with several elusive runs, including one of 15 yards for a touchdown.

Hundley, however, was the only quarterback of the three to throw an interception, as he threw an errant pass while being flushed from the pocket that was intercepted by senior cornerback Sheldon Price.

Despite that play, defensive back Aaron Hester noted, “Hundley stood out today. He is going to make some big plays for us on offense this year.”

#2 Effective Pass Rush

If healthy, the Bruins’ pass rush will be a disruptive force this fall. The quarterbacks were wearing red jerseys and could not be tackled during the scrimmage, making the identification of sacks a bit of an art rather than a science.

Official stats noted at least 5 sacks on the day, including 2 from senior end Datone Jones, and 2 from senior nose tackle Donovan Carter.

Junior end Cassius Marsh and junior outside linebacker Keenan Graham also had several hurries. Graham was particularly impressed with the group’s “conditioning and ability to finish strong,” as the pressure on the quarterbacks increased throughout the afternoon.

#3 Receiving Corps Ready

The Bruins appear to have several wide receivers ready to fill the shoes of departed seniors Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree. The defensive backfield was admittedly somewhat depleted during the scrimmage, but the receivers for the Bruins showed significant potential.

Senior Jerry Johnson’s large frame was on display Saturday, and was evidenced in his ability to out-muscle a defensive back on a 9-yard jump ball for a touchdown. Overall, Johnson had 5 catches for 125 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Redshirt freshmen Tyler Scott and Devin Lucien also flashed great potential. Scott had a couple of long receptions including a 63-yard reception from Brehaut, and a 41-yard reception from Hundley. Lucien exhibited great hands and significant strength with a stiff-arm of a defensive back late in the scrimmage.

The receivers have a long way to go before fall camp arrives, but according to Lucien, they will be “working to perfect their craft” throughout the summer in order to be ready to contribute in the first game on August 30th at Rice.

#4 Redshirt Frosh Running Back Steven Manfro Impresses

Bruin fans should take notice of redshirt freshman running back Steven Manfro. Manfro was an unheralded recruit out of Valencia High School in 2011, but his presence was felt all over the field on Saturday.

Manfro returned kicks and punts, and played a prominent role out of the backfield. He had the most exciting play of the day when he returned a kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown. Manfro has great hands for a running back, as evidenced by his 7 receptions for 105 yards.

Fellow running back Malcom Jones noted that Manfro “really fits well in the slot and is difficult to catch once he gets going.”

Linebacker Graham remarked that Manfro was a “star on the scout team last fall.” Defensive end Brandon Willis was “happy to see Steven perform well on the field as he was doing the same things throughout practice last fall.”

#5 Improved Fan Morale

The morale among Bruin alumni and fans appears to be significantly improved from previous years.

There were approximately 13,000 fans in attendance at the Rose Bowl on Saturday which would have been difficult to imagine at the end of the 2011 season. The excitement throughout the crowd was palpable, and big plays from the offense gave those in attendance reason to be optimistic about the upcoming season.

The change in morale is evident among the players as well.

Hester remarked that this is the “most comfortable and confident I’ve been during my time at UCLA,” and noted that coach Mora has an innate ability to “bring out the best in his players.”

Willis echoed Hester’s sentiments in stating the "tempo and overall level of energy are different from past years."

Saturday was a great opportunity for Bruin fans to see the progress made by the new coaching staff. Much like the renovations taking place on the west side of the Rose Bowl, this Bruin team is a work in progress and figures to be significantly improved by the time game one arrives on August 30th.

By Chris Harker
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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