This morning, UCLA Football held the first Spring Practice of 2018 under new head coach Chip Kelly and the theme of the morning was “a clean slate.”
Coach Kelly met with the media before practice began and he emphasized the fact that this morning’s practice was the first chance that he and his staff have had to see the players do anything football-related.
Ben Bolch of the LA Times asked the first question. Bolch asked, “What are you kind of hoping to get accomplished both today and over the course of the Spring?” Kelly’s reply was interesting. Kelly responded:
No idea. Never been on the field with them. Never seen them before. So, your first view is our first view. They’ve been with the strength and conditioning coaches since January and we’ve never been on the field with them. It’s all new for us.
We know them as people, but we don’t know them as players because we haven’t done anything football-wise. This is our first day to do anything football-centered.
I don’t know, I mean, I have no idea what this team is all about. So, that’s what the whole spring will be about trying to figure it out. I couldn’t tell you a strength or weakness or whatever just because we haven’t had chance of dealing with it.
In response to a question from Curt Sandoval of ABC7, Kelly stuck to the blank slate theme while not being concerned with challenges.
I don’t think there’s any challenges. I think, it’s just take it as it comes. So, I think sometimes you put pre-existing challenges up and, you know, I’m really concerned about this and, then, two days in you like I’m not concerned about it at all. So, why would you make a checklist of what to be concerned about? So, just let it flow and see what it’s like.
He was also asked about changing the culture of UCLA Football. Again, Kelly refused to look in the rearview mirror. He said:
They know what we’re trying to get accomplished, but I don’t know what the other culture was. So, I can’t tell them if it’s a change or not a change. We haven’t spent any time talking about what was done in the past. It’s just: “This is kind of how we do things.”
Interestingly, he explained that the coaching staff hadn’t looked at any game tape. He didn’t seem to find it useful because you don’t know what was being tried in the past. He also was realistic about the personnel involved. Kelly said:
We have enough time before our first game against Cincinnati to be on the field and work with these guys ourselves. So, you don’t want to have any preconceived notions. Specifically, if you look at the offensive line none of those guys played most of them graduated. So, when you’re looking at quarterback, Josh was the quarterback. So you could watch Josh play. You can admire Josh and see a hell of a quarterback, but, you know, there’s not much you can put on it. So, it’s open deal for everybody. Today is the first day for everybody.
Kelly confirmed that the only recruit currently practicing with the team is Kyle Philips, but he added that “two or three more” are expected to join in when Spring Quarter begins.
He also downplayed similarities to what he did at Oregon, saying that was six years ago and that “we’ve learned a lot since then.”
The full video of Coach Kelly’s interview is courtesy UCLA Athletics on YouTube.
There were several noticeable changes on-the field. The first is that the quarterbacks are back to wearing bright red jerseys, instead of the yellow ones they’ve worn the past few seasons. Yellow jerseys were still worn by some players like Jaelan Philips. It appears that the yellow jersey restricts a player to conditioning drills only. This is based on a tweet from Bruin Report Online.
#UCLA DE/LB Jaelan Phillips is in a yellow jersey and only participating in conditioning. He injured his wrist in off-season scooter accident, but he’s healing well and it’s anticipated he’ll possibly be full-go when practice resumes in April.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) March 6, 2018
Also, the specialists are no longer wearing the black jerseys they used to wear. Today, they were wearing white as was the defense.
Aside from the jersey colors, there was one other noticeable change. Every offensive lineman was wearing a pair of the heavy knee braces, typically worn by players who have had their ACLs reconstructed. The obvious intent here is to have these guys wear them in an attempt to reduce knee injuries.
The final observation really has to do with the speed of practice. While UCLA practiced with tempo under Jim Mora, the pace today was even quicker.
Bruin Report Online tweeted the average time between plays in 11-on-11 drills, among other info.
UCLA’s first practice goes about two hours and five minutes (ended at 9:21 a.m.). Average time between plays in 11-on-11s was about 15 seconds. Good deal of practice time for offense was devoted to QB/HB handoff exchange in the zone read.— Bruin Report Online (@BruinReport) March 6, 2018
Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News has some observations as well as other personnel and injury notes. Most notably is that Boss Tagaloa was the center with the first team offensive line.
Of course, the defense is always ahead of the offense at the start of Spring Practice, at least when the coaching staff is introducing a new offense. As such, it was no surprise that there were quite a few interceptions thrown by the quarterbacks and, by quite a few, I mean at least three that I saw.
The catch of the day goes to Theo Howard, who made an absolutely amazing one-handed grab. A photo of it is the photo on this article. But, one photo doesn’t do it justice. So, be sure to look for the photo gallery from this morning’s practice when it gets posted.
Let’s wrap things up with post-practice video of Adarius Pickett and Andre James, also courtesy of UCLA Athletics on YouTube.
Both of these guys spoke about the pace of practice. James also spoke about the transition from right tackle to left tackle and the addition of Boss Tagaloa to the offensive line.
The Bruins return to Spaulding Field on Thursday morning at 7:15 am for Spring Practice #2.