Word to the Pac: If you aren’t snapped up and strapped on in 2003, Craig Bragg will hurt you. Big time. Today, CBra was on fire. In the one-on-one passing drill, Bragg got started with a beautiful two-move shimmy to get off the line against press coverage, then blew up the left sideline and hauled in a perfectly thrown bomb courtesy of John Sciarra that had one of the largest crowds to attend a Spring Practice oohing and ahhing in appreciation. Matt Ware tried valiantly to recover, but even his great speed wasn’t enough on this play given the quality of the throw Sciarra made.
Another superior play that stands out saw Bragg again go deep, but about 20 yards downfield, he stopped on a dime and turned to the outside (catching this observer completely by surprise). The poor cornerback, unaware that Craig had license to temporarily suspend the laws of physics, continued to fly downfield. Another perfectly timed strong throw by Sciarra resulted in a wide-open completion for significant yardage. The ultimate timing play, this pattern requires perfect pass protection, but it’s damn entertaining for a one-on-one drill! Good call, coach…
#87 continued to be a favorite of all QBs throughout the one-on-one drill, the 7-on-7 drill and the 30-play or so scrimmage.
Why has Bragg emerged as the go-to guy for UCLA? In no particular order, first there is his talent. More important than his speed is his ability to change direction in surprising ways: Craig is a master of the one, two or three-step shake and bake, he uses them all, and he doesn’t have to think about it, it just happens. (Recall the TD he made vs. Arizona last year on a simple hitch pass that made the DB look foolish.) The result is that he gets separation 90% of the time…which is hell o’ attractive if you’re looking for a guy to throw to. Second is his work ethic. Only Junior Taylor routinely “finishes” plays as hard as Bragg does (more on what I’m talking about later). And Bragg is always there after practice for a half hour catching passes off the “passing machine” (two spinning tires angled to fire a football out fast in a perfect spiral). Not surprising that membership in that group (just Bragg and Tab Perry last year) is up to six or eight now. Third is his production from the last two years. Fifty-five catches in 2002 tends to earn the respect of the team.
In general, the WRs and the QBs had the edge today over the DBs. Credit Karl Dorrell’s decision to take Wednesdays off instead of practicing four days in a row. The QBs came out today with fresh arms, and the WRs with fresh legs. As a result, the passing O was sharp and looking good.
Plays that stood out were bombs from John Sciarra to Garrett Lepisto (perfect throw) and from Matt Moore to Idris Moss, despite a great effort by Matt Clark to play the ball—it was just ideally placed a fingertip out of Clark’s reach. Tab Perry made a couple of nice catches inside with Matt Clark draped all over him, and Josh Roenicke made a beautiful leaping, outstretched catch with his hands on an out thrown high and outside (giving the CB no chance to intercept the pass).
Booming over the practice field is Coach Embree’s voice shouting encouragement, technical reminders, or the admonition to “Finish!” to the WRs and offensive players in general. This has nothing to do with Scandanavia, but instead reminds the intended receiver to run with the football all the way into the end zone. The Bruins are generally in great physical condition, because most run out each play at a good clip. But Taylor and Bragg stand out for their stamina.
Based on who was running with whom, the strings for WRs today went something like this: the ones were Bragg, Perry and Taylor (all have that status), the twos were Idris Moss and Antwuan Smith (both of whom look very comfortable and are doing pretty special things each day in each drill), and the threes were Josh Roenicke, Chris Steck, Jacques Lazarus, Brett Mitchell and Ryan Smith. Again, the situation is very fluid, and guys shuffle around a lot, so everything is fixed in jello at this point. Compared to prior Bruin teams, this group already looks more fundamentally sound (and after just six practices).
Comparably for the DBs, the ones today were Matt Ware (RC), Matt Clark (LC), Ben Emanuel II (FS), and Jarrad Page (SS). The #1 nickel back is Glenn Ohaeri. The twos were Kevin Brant (FS), Eric McNeal (SS), Marcus Cassel (LC), and Keith Short (RC). The threes were Jibril Raymo (FS), Glenn Ohaeri (SS), Jebiaus Brown (LC) and Keith Short (RC). Ben Emanuel had a great quote in the Daily Bruin: “I’m not a coach, but Matt Clark is the man out there!” Again, the engravings are in jello…