The early part of UCLA's football practice Wednesday lacked focus and sharpness and coach Rick Neuheisel was not happy with the effort, so he stopped everything and gathered the team in a huddle for a chewing out.
The energy returned and the last half hour turned into a spirited, high-energy affair.
"I wanted to remind everybody how important these last two periods were," Neuheisel said of the rare stoppage. "I wanted to make sure that they understood that we had to give everything we had these last two periods to get what we needed out of today’s practice and they responded."
A few tidbits:
Safety Dalton Hilliard has a concussion after crashing into a teammate during team drills. Hilliard went to the ground and laid there for about five minutes as trainers attended to him, but he was able to walk off the field with help. Paramedics arrived in an ambulance to examine him in a training room, but left after a few minutes. A school spokesman said Hilliard would undergo precautionary X-Rays on his neck and shoulder. Hilliard separated his shoulder Oct. 2 against Washington State.
Neuheisel spent extra time working with the defense -- something he rarely does. But the Bruins have given up 123 points in their last three games, including 60 points on Oct. 21 against Oregon. "I just was making sure that they understand that I was looking forward to some tempo," Neuheisel said. "I got back over to the defense to make sure that they understand that I’m watching everything. I need everybody to go. And they responded. I was pleased with that."
True freshman Jordan Zumwalt is in the mix to replace injured middle linebacker Patrick Larimore. Zumwalt took most of the first-team reps Tuesday and Wednesday as Steve Sloan worked with the second team. Zumwalt worked some at middle in fall camp, but was eventually moved to strong side linebacker. He said he prefers middle. "I feel more comfortable there," he said. "It feels more natural for me, making the reads there and being in space." The biggest challenge, he said, is that the middle linebacker is the so-called quarterback of the defense and has to call plays and change formations on the field. "You have to lead your team and as a freshman they may not follow me but I’ve got to get them to follow somebody so as long as I get them to follow someone, I’m doing my job," Zumwalt said.
Quarterback Richard Brehaut made some good deep throws in individual drills and hit a very nice touchdown pass to Randall Carroll in the back of the end zone during seven-on-seven, but he also made a few poor throws that sailed or landed short. Also, the receiving corps didn't help with at least half a dozen drops -- several by Jerry Johnson and one bad one by Morrell Presley.
Aaron Hester, who lost his starting cornerback job against Oregon, was back in the fold and sharing reps with the first-team defense. Andrew Abbott and Courtney Viney, who started against Oregon, were also working in there. In the nickle package, strong safety Tony Dye was moving to the nickel back spot freshman Dietrich Riley took Dye's safety spot.
Receiver Nelson Rosario suited up but was limited as he tries to recover from a sprained ankle. Neuheisel said his status for Saturday is still up in the air. Cornerback Sheldon Price did not dress for practice and had a brace on his sprained knee.