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UCLA still looking for consistency among receivers

Offensive coordinator and receivers' coach Mike Johnson rotated three receivers during the Bruins' practice Thursday after players continually dropped passes.

August 11, 2011|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA receiver Ricky Marvray celebrates after a touchdown reception against Texas last season.
UCLA receiver Ricky Marvray celebrates after a touchdown reception against… (Eric Gay / Associated Press )

There was a clear message being sent by UCLA offensive coordinator/receivers' coach Mike Johnson on Thursday.

You don't catch. You don't play.

For a second consecutive day, wide receivers were letting opportunity literally slip through their fingers. By the end of practice, Johnson was rotating three guys at receiver — Shaquelle Evans, Ricky Marvray and Devin Lucien.

"I'm looking for consistency," Johnson said. "I got a couple guys who are showing me they want to play. If I have to play with two guys the whole game, then that's what we're going to do."

Lucien, a freshman, was impressive this week. That included a sharp deep route, where he adjusted to make a catch on a slightly under-thrown pass Thursday. Evans and Marvray each had one drop, but were consistently making difficult catches.

The others?

Taylor Embree sat out practice with what was called a "tight" calf muscle. Jerry Johnson is in the final stages of rehabilitation from a broken leg and is limited to individual workouts.

The rest of the receivers appeared to have different leases as doghouse tenants. Josh Smith sat out 11-on-11 drills. Nelson Rosario saw limited action. Randall Carroll saw a little more time but had two drops.

A rash of dropped passes during Wednesday's practice allowed Johnson to reemphasize his position during meetings.

"You can get them to the right spot, but you can't catch it for them," Johnson said. "I'm looking for guys to do things right and are consistent. If you make the same mistakes, do the same things over and over again, then you are not going to play."

James gets a look

F-back Anthony Barr sat out practice with a sore hamstring Thursday, a day after Damien Thigpen suffered a hamstring injury that could sideline him for weeks.

That left the Bruins without an F-back on the field. So Jordon James shifted from running back to fill the void. James was the logical choice, having worked some at F-back during spring practice.

"He is just that kind of nifty guy," Coach Rick Neuheisel said. "He's a capable receiver. He's got great legs. We can do lots of things with him. He's physical enough to block."

James said, "I'm still a running back," but added, "Anything I can do to help the team, I'm going to do."

James, a redshirt freshman, said, "There's not much difference between running back and F-back." The biggest adjustments, he said, "were learning what to do as a slot receiver and running the fly sweeps. I did a little review of the playbook today."

And kick, 1-2-3

Replacing kicker Kai Forbath has proved tougher than anticipated.

Redshirt freshman Kip Smith, the heir apparent, labored during spring practice and his accuracy has not improved this week.

"We're looking for some consistency that we haven't been getting," Neuheisel said. "We have nothing but high hopes for Kip, but he has been anything but consistent at the start."

Punter Jeff Locke and walk-on Joe Roberts will get long looks. Locke also handled kickoffs last season.

Forbath, who signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, made 85 of 101 field goals in four seasons and was the Lou Groza Trophy winner in 2009.

Quick hits

The Bruins will be in full pads starting Friday. Saturday will be the first two-a-day practice, starting at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. … Monrovia High School's Ellis McCarthy, ranked second nationally among defensive tackles by Rivals.com, attended UCLA's practice Thursday.

chris.foster@latimes.com

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