Personnel issues were at the forefront of today’s pre-practice media session with UCLA Football Coach Chip Kelly. It was Kelly’s first interview since Tuesday and, with several players missing some time this week, he was asked about them.
The first injured player he was asked about was Josh Woods who had been expected to help anchor the defense this season.
“Josh is out for the season,” Kelly said. “He had sustained a knee injury a couple of days ago and will not be able to play this season.”
“He’s just a great young man,” he continued. “He’s everything you want in a football player and that will be a big hole for us to try to replace.”
Kelly was quickly asked about the status of some of the other guys who missed time this week.
On freshman linebacker Bo Calvert, Kelly said, “Practicing.” Je’Vari Anderson “may not practice today, but he’s day-to-day.” Keyon Riley is “not enrolled in school.”
The Bruins responded to the first significant injury of training camp by inserting junior college transfer Tyree Thompson into Woods’ spot next to projected starter Krys Barnes during a formation drill Sunday. Other candidates to play inside linebacker are Lokeni Toailoa, a part-time starter last season, and Mique Juarez. The team also ran Leni Toailoa and Bo Calvert through drills at the position during practice.
Other than the news on Josh Woods’ injury, the other big news from Kelly’s interview was his backtrack on playing time for Josh Kelley. On Saturday, August 4th, Kelly said, “[Kelley] is going to see significant playing time, I hope, if he can stay healthy.”
Here’s the interview in which he said that.
This morning, in response to Ben Bolch starting to ask about Josh Kelley’s getting “significant playing time,” Kelly did a 180-degree turnaround, saying “I never said that. I said Josh Kelley was awarded a scholarship, but I haven’t talked about time for anybody.”
Kelly continued, “That hasn’t been discussed in our staff meetings. If that was said, then that was not....” Kelly stopped short without completing that thought before continuing. “There’s been no discussion about who gets what playing time or all those other things because playing time is actually earned so we have two more weeks before we play a game.”
That makes it one of the most interesting things Kelly has said (and now unsaid) all camp. To be sure, his previous comment includes the two conditional qualifiers “I hope” and “if he stays healthy”, but, even factoring in the qualifying comments, the original comment sounds, at least, like an expectation from a guy who says he has no expectations.
At the same time, Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News asked Kelly about the fact that he was impressed by the lack of mental mistakes by the freshmen early in camp. In this case, Kelly admitted, “Then, I was wrong in saying that. They are making a ton of mental mistakes. I was wrong in saying that.”
They are like every freshman. They’re learning a new system. They’re trying to get acclimated. The biggest thing for us is “Do they play hard?” and it’s important for them to make mistakes because that’s how you learn. So, I’m encouraged with their mindset “when they do make a mistake, it’s not the end of the world. It’s like alright...‘What did I do wrong? How do I fix that?’ and then ‘How do I get better?’” We’ve got a bunch of guys that don’t really make the same you said twice which is good. So, they’re learning while they’re out there but they’re all doing a good job. I’m impressed with their effort. That’s the thing that we’re really excited about.
Here’s Chip Kelly’s full interview from this morning. Thanks to Tracy Pierson of Bruin Report Online for sharing Coach Kelly’s interview.
After practice, Leni Toailoa reacted to the loss of Josh Woods.
“It’s hard to explain the feeling,” Toailoa said. “It hurts because you’ve seen how hard he worked all offseason and everybody was thinking like this gonna be his year, but he went down.”
We’re gonna need someone like Krys Barnes. We’re gonna need guys like him to step up...Nate Meadors...We just need more characters in the defense to step up...Adarius Pickett...those kind of guys...well, really...we need everybody to step up in the defense and I think we’ll be okay.”
The final interview for today is with linebacker Rahyme Johnson who say the injury occur.
“He tried to scoop up a fumble and somebody ran into his leg or something like that,” Johnson said. “I don’t really remember, but it looked bad.”
Johnson also spoke about the new attacking mentality of the defense. “It suits the entire defense well,” he said. “We have physical guys. We have tough guys and I think that’s the biggest thing you know. The tougher guys, we’ve got to play harder and go faster and just them drilling that to us is just making us play harder.”