Eric Yarber, who coaches UCLA's football receivers, saw a pass bounce off Devin Lucien's hands during a drill last week and blurted: "Tonight at 6: Ball attacks man."
Later, Yarber attacked receivers with a "noodle" — the type a child might use to float in a pool — as they caught passes. Next he jabbed at them with a red boxing glove attached to a stick. Both props were used in drills designed to improve concentration.
UCLA is hoping the combination of quarterback Brett Hundley and a batch of athletic receivers creates an aerial circus. Yarber would be ringmaster.
He is, in a word, animated.
"His meetings are a little like the 'Tonight Show,'" said receiver Jordan Payton.
Added Thomas Duarte: "They are very energetic."
Lucien agreed, saying, "They are fun, but you can get called out any second. My favorite line of his was, 'Throw it up on the shelf so the little kids can't play with it.' I always had things taken by little kids, so I knew what he meant."
Yarber said he keeps things light on purpose but added, "They know when to laugh and they know when to get serious."
UCLA's receivers are "a tight unit" who "don't care who gets the credit," according to their coach.
The top six are Lucien, Payton, Duarte, Devin Fuller, Kenneth Walker and Eldridge Massington, but there are others who could fill roles.
Of the group, one stands out: "Coach Yarbs," Fuller said. "Sometimes in the meeting room he will show us how to get in and out, making cuts. He shows a little quickness. I try to do my best impersonation of him."
Pickett now a running back
Adarius Pickett is still listed as a defensive back on UCLA's online roster, but on Monday, the freshman talked about how much he likes scoring touchdowns.
It's a good thing for him, then, that he's not playing defensive back anymore.
After spending spring practice and the first week of training camp as a defensive back, Pickett has made the transition to running back, the position he played in high school. UCLA recruited him to play defense, but according to Pickett, Coach Jim Mora said on a recruiting trip that Pickett might be moving back to running back at some point in his UCLA career.
It didn't take long. UCLA has good depth at defensive back, but struggled with running back injuries last year. That, combined with Pickett's style of play, made the move to offense make sense.
"I like to run inside the tackles," he said. "That's what I find that I'm best at. I know a lot of our running backs like running outside, but I just like running inside."
Pickett said that he's still learning the offensive playbook and trying to get used to UCLA's up-tempo approach. His future at the position is unclear, but for Pickett, it's too early to think about that right now.
"I can just try to be the best at running back, and if not, I'll try and transition back to defensive back," he said. "We'll see what happens down the road."
Redmond's temporary move
Sophomore offensive guard Alex Redmond is playing center while UCLA recovers from a rash of injuries to its top three centers. Redmond's move isn't going to be permanent. He was a freshman All-American at guard, so while he's getting a better grasp of the playbook at center he also knows he's going to be a guard this season.
"I'm glad they trust me enough to put me at center," he said. "I know the offense, I think it will help, but I still feel like working at guard will make me a better guard than playing center will."
UCLA cornerback Marcus Rios is expected to have a follow-up checkup with a specialist Tuesdayregarding migraine headaches. Rios was held out of practice last week, but is expected to return this week. … The Nick Pasquale Foundation has made a donation to UCLA for the building of its football facility. The amount was undisclosed, but is thought to be five figures. Nick Pasquale was a walk-on receiver who was killed when struck by a car last September.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times