Ever since Chip Kelly was hired as UCLA head football coach, there’s almost been an air of mystery surrounding the program.
Indeed, the mystery continues as training camp opened yesterday with practices completely closed to the public and to the media for the first since “at least the start of the Karl Dorrell era in 2003,” according to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times.
Well, when you put it that way, maybe the decision to close practice isn’t such a bad one after all.
But, that also means that, here at Bruins Nation, we have to adapt our coverage of training camp as well. Because I live in the LA area, I would typically go to as many of the open practices as I could in order to bring you my own personal observations. Unfortunately, we will now have to rely on the eyes and ears of Ben Bolch, Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News, and other credentialed media, all of whom are only being allowed, as Bolch writes, “a 20-minute window that includes stretching and some drills.”
That’s not much when you figure that most practices typically run about two hours.
Bolch’s article also notes some of the other changes that have been made from years past. No longer will assistant coaches be addressing the media. This isn’t much of a surprise after none of them gave interviews during Spring Practice, but some of our more casual readers may not have noticed or been following along that closely in the Spring.
Another change comes from the fact that the players who will be interviewed after practice “have been selected by school officials for the first nine days of camp,” according to Bolch. In the past, the media could request players they wanted to interview.
There’s another, more subtle change that has been made from Spring Practice to Fall Camp. That’s the shade of blue being worn by half the team. Instead of the royal blue practice jerseys we’ve been used to over the years, half the team is now sporting a lighter shade of blue which more closely resembles the powderkeg blue that the team wears for home games.
The new practice jerseys can be seen in the video tweeted out by UCLA Football that includes clips of yesterday’s practice.
Meanwhile, Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News focused on some of the position battles that will take place over the course of camp. But, she took a look at some of the “other” battles that will take place and not just the one for starting quarterback.
Specifically, she wrote about the state of the offensive line where only Andre James and Michael Alves return. She writes that Josh Wariboko-Alali “slid into the starting left guard spot during Friday’s practice.” She is expecting a battle at left tackle between graduate transfer Justin Murphy and Jake Burton, who had played with the first string during Spring Practice.
She also mentions that Andre James is expecting a position battle at center between Boss Tagaloa, who made the switch from defense during the spring, and redshirt freshman Zach Sweeney, who Nguyen notes “took first-team snaps on Friday.”
In a separate article where Nguyen discusses the highlights from practice number one, she offers an early two-deep depth chart based on who lined up with whom during walk-throughs. It’s worth checking this article out for her depth chart alone. This article also mentions the fact that only Atonio Melfi was seen wearing a yellow, non-contact jersey because he “is dealing with an Achilles injury from high school.” Everyone else who had been injured or otherwise banged up during the spring appears to be healthy.
Nguyen also notes that “Lokeni Toailoa and Chigozie Nnoruka were not seen at practice, but it’s possible they had an academic conflict as it’s currently finals week of summer quarter.”
Finally, she mentions that Mique Juarez appears to have slimmed down and the weight loss has him “moving well.”
In addition to his article on the first day of camp, Bolch began the first of a three-part series on Chip Kelly and his coaching career so far. Yesterday’s article looks at his early career including his time at New Hampshire and his move to Oregon while this morning’s article looks at his transition from Oregon to the NFL. Both articles go in depth in an attempt to really introduce Chip Kelly to readers and they are both worth the read.
I’m going to wrap up things up with the player media inteviews from yesterday. Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen for these videos. First up is Andre James.
James discusses the state of the offensive line and some of the position battles there as well as the fact that the strength and conditioning staff recognizes the need the players have for sleep to help their bodies recover.
Then there’s Adarius Pickett. Pickett discusses more about the sport science program that’s been instituted as well as the player-run practices which took place over the summer. Pickett also spoke about how Paul Rhoads has been a year-round coach for him, helping him out by mentoring him.
And, that wraps up things for Day One of Fall Camp.