Some wrin­kles show­ing

Los Angeles Times - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Ben Bolch ben.bolch@la­ Twit­ter: @latb­bolch

One of Josh Rosen’s first passes dur­ing prac­tice Fri­day was a flea flicker. It fell in­com­plete, but just the con­cept seemed en­thralling for those who en­dured the monotony of UCLA’s play-call­ing last sea­son.

“Fun” and “cre­ative” were not words as­so­ci­ated with the Bru­ins’ of­fense in 2016, when a re­ceiver pass from Jor­dan Lasley against USC in the sec­ond-to-last game of the sea­son rep­re­sented the team’s first trick play of the sea­son.

En­ter new of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Jedd Fisch, who seems like Steve Jobs com­pared to pre­de­ces­sor Kennedy Po­la­malu’s Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell. UCLA’s of­fense has ap­peared rel­a­tively in­no­va­tive dur­ing the first three days of train­ing camp, with lots of quick passes, Rosen roll­outs and even an op­tion pitch from Rosen to tail­back Bran­don Stephens.

Those in­clined to hold off on any de­fin­i­tive take­aways a month be­fore the sea­son opener, re­al­iz­ing that of­fenses typ­i­cally show very lit­tle this time of year, might want to re­con­sider.

“We’re show­ing a lot,” Bru­ins coach Jim Mora said with a smile when asked about what ap­pears to be a more dy­namic of­fense. “There’s a lot of wrin­kles, there’s a lot of dif­fer­ent uses of per­son­nel group­ings, ca­dence and tem­pos and for­ma­tions and move­ments. I think the play­ers are en­joy­ing learn­ing it and com­ing out here and ap­ply­ing it and we’re early in the learn­ing process still, so it’s not go­ing to be per­fect all the time, but you see some re­ally great things.”

Mora noted that a va­ri­ety of play­ers have been en­gaged in the new scheme.

The con­nec­tion that ap­pears to be a sta­ple is Rosen and re­ceiver Dar­ren An­drews. Rosen found An­drews for a 55-yard touch­down Fri­day,

Bolu Olorun­funmi is also mak­ing a strong case to be the fea­tured tail­back af­ter hav­ing dras­ti­cally in­creased his lean mus­cle mass in re­cent months.

“He’s run­ning well,” Mora said, “he is run­ning with burst. … Bolu’s been im­pres­sive.”

The other side

UCLA over­hauled its of­fen­sive coach­ing staff and its play-call­ing with hopes of chang­ing its for­tunes. The plan on de­fense is for con­ti­nu­ity to lead to more of the same.

The Bru­ins brought back all four coaches and re­turn six starters on de­fense, which was a rel­a­tive strength last sea­son. UCLA ranked fifth in the Pac-12 Con­fer­ence in to­tal de­fense (382 yards al­lowed per game) and third in pass de­fense (210.5 yards al­lowed per game).

Tom Bradley is en­ter­ing his third sea­son as the team’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, and that fa­mil­iar­ity should have its ben­e­fits.

“A lot of times, you get the look from some­body and he says, ‘I got it, I got it,’ and he re­ally don’t got it,” Bradley said. “But I don’t know that well enough. Now I know them to know there’s guys I can go to and say, ‘Listen, are we too far’ or ‘Is this too much?’ And they’ll be hon­est.”

Mora has listed the de­fen­sive line and the de­fen­sive backs as the two po­si­tions where UCLA has the great­est depth.

It also helps that those po­si­tions are rife with vet­er­ans who know what’s ex­pected of them.

“Ter­mi­nol­ogy is not a prob­lem for them any­more so they can push it to the next step,” Bradley said. “It’s sub­tle lit­tle things now be­cause they know their as­sign­ments. When you know what you’re do­ing, it’s a lot eas­ier to study your op­po­nent and not worry about, ‘Oh, jeez, am I right?’ So I think that’s go­ing to be a plus.”

Quick hits

The Bru­ins were down two run­ning backs in prac­tice. Soso Jam­abo was held out be­cause of tight­ness in his back, Mora said, and Jalen Starks was ab­sent be­cause of a fam­ily emer­gency. … Mora called it “a tough day for the young guys” af­ter play­ers com­pleted sum­mer fi­nals, fin­ish­ing the por­tion of train­ing camp in which they had to deal with both foot­ball and school­work. He was vis­i­bly up­set with de­fen­sive backs Oc­tavius Spencer and Nate Meadors when the team gath­ered af­ter prac­tice. “I think men­tally, it’s tough,” Mora said. “It’s fa­tigu­ing to them. But I’m proud of them for how they pushed through it.”

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