Before hunkering down for finals, the Bruins got in one last run out at Wasserman Football Center.
UCLA football (8-4, 6-3 Pac-12) wrapped up its third practice in three days Sunday morning, preparing for the upcoming bowl season without knowing its next opponent. Coach Chip Kelly said the Bruins were hoping to get the news of which bowl they were going to be invited to before they broke up for the day, but the Holiday Bowl did not announce the UCLA-NC State matchup until a few hours later.
Sunday marked the Bruins' final practice of the week, though, with exams scheduled Monday through Friday, meaning the prep for the Wolfpack won't begin until next weekend.
There were only three players who appeared to miss Sunday's session due to injury. Defensive lineman Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi was in a hoodie and sweatpants and running back Christian Grubb was once again in a t-shirt making his away around the weight room.
Safety Williams Nimmo Jr. was in pads and his full uniform, but he also wandering around the side of the field where the injured players typically linger.
One player who notably rejoined the team out on the field was running back Brittain Brown, who participated in all three practices over the weekend. Brown missed the final two games of the regular season against USC and Cal, but Kelly has said he was close to playing in both contests and now seems to be fully available.
Brown switched off as RB1 with Zach Charbonnet, as the two of them took handoffs from quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in drills. Keegan Jones was paired up with Ethan Garbers, Ethan Fernea was with Chase Griffin and Deshun Murrell was with Chase Artopoeus.
Also notably running with the quarterbacks was Parker McQuarrie, who entered the transfer portal Tuesday morning but continues to practice with the Bruins.
The same cannot be said for punter Luke Akers, who also entered the transfer portal Tuesday but has not be present at practice. That became clear very early on Sunday morning, as the first period of the day was dedicated to punt blocks and kickers Nicholas Barr-Mira and Ari Libenson were the two standing in at the position.
Special teams coordinator Derek Sage ran that drill, which involved Barr-Mira and Libenson punting soccer balls and an assistant tossing a football near the goal line for the defenders to recover. After the period was over, Barr-Mira grabbed one of the soccer balls and lined it up at the 10 yard-line outside the left hash, then took a running start and curled it between the uprights on his first try.
While Barr-Mira practiced some field goals, Libenson did some more punt work on his own, so he could get his first game action of the year come the Holiday Bowl. Barr-Mira and kickoff specialist RJ Lopez are the other options who could temporarily take over at the position.
The defensive line lost its full-time coach when Johnny Nansen left for the Arizona defensive coordinator job on Wednesday, but defensive analyst Clancy Pendergast – the former Arizona Cardinals and USC defensive coordinator – is filling in at the spot for the time being.
There may be more bodies coming and going before practices get underway again this upcoming weekend, but for now, the Bruins still have the number to field a deep roster yet again when the Holiday Bowl kicks off on Dec. 28.