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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

The UCLA Football Spring Showcase returns to the Rose Bowl

 

Jevone Moore

UCLA quarterback Justyn Martin gets ready to complete a pass last Saturday at the Rose Bowl during the Spring game.

In a return to a UCLA Bruin football tradition, the Rose Bowl was the setting for the UCLA Bruins Football Spring Showcase on Saturday afternoon, April 27. A crowd of 11,703 fans enjoyed the opportunity to watch the Bruins play some spring football and bring back the tradition of the Bruin Walk, where the team walks through the tailgate party areas on the way to the stadium. It gives the Bruin players an opportunity to engage with fans and family before the game.

It feels like the fun in Bruins football is returning under new head coach DeShaun Foster. After the spring game practice was over, the fans were on the field at the Rose Bowl, getting autographs from the players and ringing the victory bell. Among the alumni in attendance were NBA All-Star guard Zach Levine, former UCLA football stars Wendell Tyler, Gaston Green, and Zach Charbonnet. Laiatu Latu, who was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft held two days earlier, was also in attendance.

Great turnout today, Foster said. "Lot of support from the alumni. It was just amazing to kind of bring that atmosphere here to the Rose Bowl for a spring game and get it back to what we used to do. We came out and did the Bruin Walk, it was awesome. The players loved it, the parents and fans were out there, so I'm really excited about what's going on with the program right now."

Quarterback Ethan Garbers continued to look good, a fact that Coach Foster mentioned as well. "Ethan continues to impress me," Foster said. "The way he came into that bowl game, he has continued to play that way the whole spring. A lot of touch passes, he is just taking full command of the offense. I was excited for him. The sky is the limit."

Led by Garbers, the offense looks good going into the 2024 regular season. The receiving group is loaded, with starters Logan Loya and J. Michael Sturdivant returning for another season. The two starters combined for 95 receptions and nine touchdowns in 2023. Wide receiver Titus Mokiao-Altimalala, who missed the entire 2023 season with an injury, has returned and was the star of spring practice, catching everything thrown his way.

The Bruins also added transfer wide receiver Rico Flores from Notre Dame. Flores was a four-star receiver who played his high school football at Folsom high school in Folsom, California. In his one season at Notre Dame, he caught 27 passes for 342 yard and one touchdown. The 19-year-old transfer has three seasons of eligibility remaining.

Running back T.J. Harden, who rushed for 827 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2023, returns for the 2024 season and he looked sharp on offense. Harden and speedy running back Keegan Jones will provide a solid 1-2 punch in the running game. Backup quarterback Justyn Martin flashed a strong arm and good mobility in his brief appearances.

It is difficult to get a lot out of the one-on-one drills and the 11-on-11 scrimmages, but it was easy to see and feel the energy from the players and the fans. The highlight of the whole scrimmage may have been a Garbers handoff to Joshua Perry, a liver transplant recipient at UCLA, who took the ball and ran in untouched for a touchdown. UCLA players followed him into the end zone and hoisted Perry on their shoulders in celebration. A special celebration highlighting a special day of Bruins football.

 

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