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Linebacker Jordan Zumwalt is a big hit at UCLA scrimmage

Sophomore sends running back Malcolm Jones to the turf with a crushing tackle in one of the top plays of the contest.

April 17, 2011|By Eric Sondheimer
  • UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt chases down Oregon State's Ryan Katz during a Pac-10 game last season.
UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt chases down Oregon State's Ryan Katz… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Big hits get noticed, and sophomore middle linebacker Jordan Zumwalt pumped up his UCLA defensive teammates Sunday during a 70-play spring scrimmage when he encountered a charging Malcolm Jones in a short-yardage situation and sent Jones crashing to the turf as if Jones had just run into a brick wall.

It produced a roar of approval from teammates and served as an example of the defensive intensity and fundamental tackling skills that new defensive coordinator Joe Tresey has been loudly preaching during practices. And it got Zumwalt some bragging rights with his good friend Jones.

"I'm going to tell him I blasted him, and he'll say I didn't," Zumwalt said.

With less than a week remaining before UCLA's annual spring game Saturday, Coach Rick Neuheisel said the team is taking steps toward improvement.

"It's important we put the pedal to the metal and finish strong, but I feel very strongly that we've made progress and we know what our weaknesses are and have a few months to fix them," he said. "We also have a number of weapons on offense that can help us win games, and I think our defensive personnel is buying into Coach Tresey's system. When we get everyone healthy, it's going to be a fun-looking defense."

The only touchdown during the scrimmage was a three-yard run by Jordon James. Quarterbacks Richard Brehaut (four for eight, 38 yards) and Brett Hundley (six for 13, 62 yards, one interception) both had trouble at times getting the ball to open receivers.

"We missed some balls that shouldn't have been missed," Neuheisel said. "Unforced errors is the term they use in tennis. We had unforced errors. That's disappointing."

Hundley, a freshman from Chandler, Ariz., continued to show an ability to run the ball, gaining 34 yards in seven carries. Even if he doesn't win the starting job in the fall, Hundley's versatility would seem likely to compel Neuheisel to develop some packages to take advantage of his running skills.

"I think we have a real good player," Neuheisel said.

Johnathan Franklin led all rushers with 44 yards in seven carries. Morrell Presley, Ricky Marvray and Jerry Rice Jr. each caught three passes.

Kicking woes

Redshirt freshman kicker Kip Smith made a 31-yard field goal on his first attempt, then missed from 31, 52 and 48 yards.

Expert opinion

Former UCLA tight end Marcedes Lewis of the Jacksonville Jaguars attended practice, and the 6-foot-6 Lewis offered observations about 6-7 tight end Joseph Fauria, who has been having a productive spring practice.

"He's a little raw, but you can't teach size," Lewis said. "He's a young man growing into his body."

Remembering Smith

Neuheisel returned to practice after attending the funeral for former UCLA assistant Homer Smith in Alabama.

"A tornado touched down in Tuscaloosa," Neuheisel said. "That's typical Homer — go out with a bang."

Lending their legs

Receiver Nelson Rosario did not participate in the scrimmage to help UCLA's track team finish in a tie with Oregon during a dual meet at Drake Stadium. Rosario finished third in the long jump with an effort of 24 feet ¼ inch.

Receiver Randall Carroll was excused after an hour of practice and finished second in the 100 meters and helped the 400-meter relay team to a victory.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

twitter.com/latsondheimer

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