LOS ANGELES — Amid the chaos of UCLA’s first fall practice on Wednesday night, Jim Mora didn’t make note of many individual performances. But when asked of any players who jumped out at him, the head coach singled out two of the team’s youngest players: defensive tackles Greg Rogers and Martin Andrus.
After four freshmen joined the team in time for spring practices, the Bruins welcomed the rest of their 2017 recruiting class to the field this week. Scout.com ranked the group as the 19th-best recruiting class in the country. The class is far from realizing its full potential, but didn’t waste much time getting acquainted to college football.
Antelope Valley alumnus Mo Osling III swatted a pass away from running back Joshua Kelley during seven-on-seven drills. Fellow freshman defensive back Quentin Lake (Mater Dei) did him one better, snatching a tipped pass out of the air for an interception off quarterback Matt Lynch.
Osling and Lake are just two members of a vaunted group of UCLA defensive back signings that was considered one of the best in the country on National Signing Day in February. Lake, the son of former UCLA All-American Carnell Lake, even stayed after practice for a few extra minutes, pushing a tackling sled across the Spaulding Field’s new green turf.
As is the curse of young talent, standout moments often came with an opposing mistake. Lake received a stern talk from defensive coordinator Tom Bradley for drawing a penalty on an interception return. Andrus ran the wrong way during an individual defensive line drill.
UCLA signed five offensive linemen last year, hoping they can help solve the program’s struggles with depth at that position. Freshmen rarely make immediate impacts on the offensive line and it’s unlikely that any will do so for the Bruins this year, but Mora on Wednesday said he was impressed with Stephan Zabié, a four-star recruit in high school who picked UCLA over Ole Miss and in-state Texas.
The 6-foot-5, 290-pound freshman is a raw, but talented prospect. He only played one year of high school football during the past three seasons because of transfer eligibility issues that also caused confusion while coming to UCLA. He was cleared to join the Bruins only a few weeks ago, putting him months behind his classmates.
“You could tell that he hasn’t been in our strength and conditioning and mostly conditioning program, but I know this: when I did look at him, his athleticism and his footwork were just…