If UCLA's passing attack is to improve from last season, it's going to need a better performance by its wide receivers.
Wednesday's practice didn't offer much hope in that regard as receivers continued to be plagued by the kinds of dropped passes that stifled several scoring drives last season.
Randall Carroll missed a perfectly thrown pass by Kevin Prince, freshman Devin Lucien couldn't come up with an over-the-shoulder ball after getting behind the defense, Ricky Marvray had a ball go right through his hands and Taylor Embree had one pop out of his bread basket and nearly into the arms of linebacker Sean Westgate -- who stayed with the theme and dropped it.
Later, the running backs got in on the act with Johnathan Franklin and Malcolm Jones each dropping wide open screen passes.
"As you get into camp, concentration wanes and that’s what we as coaches have to fight against," coach Rick Neuheisel said. "We have to make sure that every day is a competitive environment and we have to make sure that guys are hanging on to the ball and doing the things that they are capable of doing if we’re going to achieve our full potential.
"As disappointed as I am in it, I’m also aware that they are capable of making those plays and they will."
Each successive dropped pass drew louder and louder sighs and cat calls from the restless fans in attendance, with one fan shouting "Aw, come on!" after Carroll's inexplicable drop.
Marvray said the drops are simply a result of lapses in concentration. He acknowledged he was already trying to think of what his next move would be after he caught the ball.
"When we start thinking too much, that’s when the ball gets on the ground," he said. "I’m one of those that I’m always trying to think of what’s my next move after I catch it and I haven’t even caught it yet. Then the ball goes through my hands and it’s on the ground."
Nelson Rosario ended the string of drops when he caught a pass of about 30 yards from Prince, drawing a cheer and a call of "It's about time" from one of the Bruins fans.
"It’s not a lack of talent," Rosario said. "Everybody can catch, it’s just confidence. A lot of guys get down on themselves. We've just got to keep calm and catch the ball."
Easier said than done with the history of this group. It has been a mind-boggling problem because the UCLA receiving corps is one of the deepest positional groups on the team with speed and size all around. Receivers coach Mike Johnson said he has seen some improvement, but days such as Wendesday are inexcusable.
"When we put our hands on the ball, if we touch it, we have to catch it," he said. "Regardless if it’s low, high. If we touch it, we have to catch it."
Rosario said he was pretty sure Wednesday was an aberration and that the Bruins receivers will be a potent weapon in the offense this season.
"Honestly I’m not worried about us having a problem dropping balls," he said. "All it’s going to take is one or two of us making some big plays and everybody is going to want to do it and it’s just going to snowball from there."