After spending the offseason in the weight room, the UCLA football team finally got a chance to take to the practice field on Thursday afternoon. The bottled-up energy showed, as things got a bit physical between the offense and defense.
On one play, quarterback Kevin Prince took off to run, then hurdled an apparent tackle attempt despite it being a non-contact, no-pads session. On another play, receiver Taylor Embree made an acrobatic catch near the sideline, but only after he was pushed by the cornerback. On another play, backup safety Stan McKay nearly leveled receiver Josh Smith, who was coming across the field on a slant pattern.
Despite the close calls, coach Rick Neuheisel and junior safety Rahim Moore were pleased with the intensity level.
A few musings from the two-hour practice session:
-- Prince's best throw came midway through practice, when he connected with Nelson Rosario on a fade pattern to the right corner of the end zone. Prince threw the ball so that only Rosario could get to it -- and Rosario did, snagging it with one hand over Sheldon Price's outstretched arms to draw the day's loudest response.
-- The offense's use of the pistol formation was successful at times -- and not so pretty other times. Prince showed good mobility on option runs off the edge and found his targets while on the run. But there were also at least three botched snaps.
-- Redshirt sophomore tailback Milton Knox sure didn't look discontent when the team came together at the start of practice. Knox, who slipped to the No. 4 spot in the depth chart behind Johnathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman and Damien Thigpen, jumped on top of the team huddle and skipped his way to the stretch lines. Offensive coordinator Norm Chow approached Knox as he stretched, shook his hand and smiled as he walked away.
-- Tight end Joseph Fauria, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame, suffered a groin injury but it didn't seem serious. According to Neuheisel, center Kai Maiava "tweaked his shoulder," but should not miss any time. Tight end Morrell Presley suffered from leg cramps.
-- Incoming freshman Dietrich Riley was on the field speaking to offensive coordinator Chuck Bullough before some current players even made it out of the locker room. When the safeties came together for individual workouts midway through practice, Riley inched his way closer to get a feel for what they were doing. Incoming freshmen Anthony Jefferson, Cassius Marsh and Jordan Zumwalt were among those who attended.
-- Smith, who sat out last season after transferring from Colorado, was a bright spot on offense. He looked to be in sync with with Prince despite not having the chance to run with the first unit last year. Smith spoke about his first Spring Practice: