After UCLA announced the suspension of six players this morning for this week’s Cincinnati game, head coach Chip Kelly met with the media before practice and he was asked about the announcement immediately.
“If you do something wrong, there’s a punishment that’s involved in it,” Kelly said. “So, that’s the way we’ve always done it. Or, the way I’ve always done it. I don’t know what was done here in the past, but if you’re suspended, you’re suspended.”
As we learned this morning, Kelly confirmed that three of the players are suspended for multiple games.
Kelly was later asked about what kind of impact having six players out for the game would have. Kelly explained his thoughts on it:
It doesn’t matter what it is. That’s my pitch. We don’t really spend a lot of time...this is what it is. If you made a decision that’s gonna hurt your team decision, that’s gonna hurt your team. So we’re gonna move on and they understand what the punishment is. They’re gonna hopefully learn from it a minute to learn. It’s a teachable point for them to understand how their actions can impact other things. Playing football here at UCLA is a privilege and with that privilege goes responsibilities.
The discussion quickly turned to the question of who would start at quarterback this week.
To no one’s surprise, Kelly has still not named a starting quarterback. As we know, the race is down to Michigan transfer Wilton Speight, Devon Modster, and the uber-athletic Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
Kelly continued to play his cards close to his vest when reporters asked him about selecting a starting quarterback. “Those three kids have really distanced themselves,” Kelly said. “So, we’re still looking at that, but it’s again I said every time I’ve been in a quarterback competition, it’s happened organically.”
Kelly discussed the continuing competition in more depth. He explained:
So, there’s still some grouping there with those three. So, it’ll be one of those three guys. It’s an organic thing. It’s not a set day that this is this. We’re not fair to the other guys if we just said, ‘We’re going to pick a guy today and let’s pick him.’ The one thing that’s good is that there’s been a good, healthy competition and the three of those guys have really done some really impressive things.
Understandably, this seems like a decision that will could come down to game time, at least publicly.
Kelly seems to be bringing his “Win the Day” philosophy that he became famous for using at Oregon to UCLA. Earlier this month, in the second part of his three-part series on Kelly, Ben Bolch explained how “Win the Day” became the Ducks’ mantra at Oregon.
The coaches were looking for a “rallying cry” to unite the team, but, Bolch wrote, “[n]one of the proposed mantras made any sense.”
Eventually, Kelly, then the Ducks’ new offensive coordinator, suggested, “Why don’t we just win the day?” The rest is history.
It’s what Kelly seems to be trying to do the same thing in Westwood, which explains why when Bolch asked Kelly what his biggest question mark is for the team this morning, Kelly responded by saying:
We’re not in question mode. We’re in “Let’s have a really good Monday.” I don’t think we’re taking a macro approach to it, like, “Hey, what about this?” We’re into “Hey, what is Monday?” And Monday for us is first downs in two-minute situations and end of games and halves. So, that’s kind of what our approach is for today, which is Monday. So, we’re not looking “big picture.” We’re looking “Monday.”
Win the day, indeed.
While Chip Kelly might not be in “question mode,” a lot of fans still have questions about the offensive line and the Bruin defense.
After practice today, Andre James discussed the development of the offensive line. James talked about the development of expected starting center Zach Sweeney. “Having [Zach] last year with Scott Quessenberry helped him a lot,” James said. “And, having Coach Frye work with him, too...I think he’s doing a great job.”
He also spoke about the development of freshman Chris Murray. “His confidence is something you don’t see in a lot of freshmen,” he said. “O-Line is a position where you don’t see a lot of young guys come up and play at an early age, especially as a freshman. It’s very impressive.”
Overall, he had positive things to say about each of the potential quarterbacks, but his most glowing review went to freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
“The dude’s going to be the future, I think, of this program,” he said. “From what I’ve seen out of him has been very impressive.”
The other big question mark is the Bruin defense. Last season, UCLA’s defense let opponents trounce them for 287.4 rushing yards per game, on 5.76 yards per carry. No matter who the Bruins were playing, the defense would constantly let opposing offenses gash them for big runs.
Redshirt senior defensive back Adarius Pickett addressed the suspensions. “I feel like it’s an opportunity for some of the other players to get a chance to get their feet wet and get on the grass and just to play,” Pickett said. “My job as a leader on the defense and a leader on the team is to make sure everybody is ready to go.”
He’s seems quite confident that the rushing defense will have a change of fortune this season under new defensive coordinator, Jerry Azzinaro. Pickett said that he wants to see the defense “stop the run and...force turnovers” on Saturday. “That’s going to be the biggest key to our success as a defense this year,” he said. “Force turnovers...I know last year, that was a kind of thing we didn’t do well. So, just get the ball out, whether that strips, takeaways, whatever it may be, just get the ball out.”
He was asked what makes him so confident the defense can stop the run. Pickett replied:
Schematically, the defensive line understanding where they fit, linebackers understanding where they fit and also the secondary, understanding whether you’re a corner or a safety, you’re going to have a fit in the run game, depending on the call. Understanding where we all fit schematically, I feel like is the biggest thing to stopping the run. If everybody does their right assignment the way we’ve been coached to, we’re going to be very successful.
This seems like a pretty vanilla quote on the surface, but, for a defense to thrive, there must be cohesiveness on that side of the ball. Understanding what position you’re supposed to be in will minimize mistakes and penalties as well.
It also sounds a lot like the Patriots’ “Do your job” philosophy.
The video of the interviews with Andre James and Adarius Pickett is courtesy of the UCLA Athletic Department.