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UCLA Football: Quarterback Battle Enters the Spotlight on Day Two

On Day 2 of Fall Camp, each of the quarterbacks met with the media.

The quarterback battle started in Spring, but won’t be done until a leader emerges, according to Chip Kelly.
Joe Piechowski

Day two of Fall Camp was another day in just helmets, but it was hardly just another day. That’s because the second day of training camp put the quarterback battle squarely in the spotlight. After practice, each of the five contenders for the starting quarterback job met with the media for the first time since, at least, spring. For some, like graduate transfer Wilton Speight and freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson, it was their first time facing the Los Angeles media.

Speight sounded like the old pro, with an interview session that was much longer than any of the other quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, Chip Kelly met with the media before the start of practice yesterday. Kelly was asked about host of different things and his answers ranged from the sublime to the amusingly ridiculous. Meeting with the media for the first time since closing fall camp, he explained his decision to close practices. “We’re getting ready to play a game,” Kelly said. “So, we don’t want people watching us play until we play Cincinnati.”

Beyond that, Kelly spent most of his time discussing the position battle at quarterback. When asked about when he would like to decide on a starter by, Kelly said that he’d like to have decided on a starter by yesterday. All joking aside, he explained that it has to happen “organically and authentically,” meaning that he wants someone to take charge and emerge as the natural choice to lead the team.

He refused to rule out the possibility that he could end up playing multiple quarterbacks in games, saying that his philosophy is to “play to win.” Kelly added, “If it means we’ve got to play seven quarterbacks, then I’ll play seven.”

The full video of Coach Kelly’s interview from yesterday is courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

In his first session with the Los Angeles media, Wilton Speight discussed a host of topics including his decision to transfer to UCLA as well as his recovery from the back injury that ended his season last year at Michigan. “By March or April, my body felt better than it did heading into last season and that’s where I stand right now,” Speight said.

He also mentioned how he is mentoring freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson. He described the transition from high school to college as “drinking out of a firehouse” because of how much new stuff gets thrown at a freshman.

Thanks to Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News for sharing all of today’s quarterback interviews. Here’s Speight’s full interview.

Speaking of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, one of the things he was asked about was the new redshirt rule which allows players to play in up to four games while still redshirting. “I think it’s cool,” he said. “That’s not what I’m focusing on. I’m trying to play. It’s Plan B if anything happens during the season.”

Meanwhile, Devon Modster, who had the best spring of the quarterbacks who participated in Spring Practice, Modster said that he worked on his leadership and trying to drive the ball more in order to win the starting job.

When asked about how Wilton Speight has fit in so far, Austin Burton, who had the best Spring Game, said, “He’s the dad of the group.” It sounds like Speight may have a slight lead in the leadership of, at least, the quarterbacks due to his experience.

Matt Lynch spoke a little about what Coach Kelly is looking for in a starting quarterback. “He’s looking for a quarterback who makes the right decisions and makes the best decisions and who leads his team to victory,” Lynch said. He also spoke about how Wilton Speight has “hopped right in to the quarterback group and he’s our best friend.” Lynch continued, “It’s hard for someone new like that to jump in and be so close with the quarterback room and the whole team and he fit in right away. So that’s good.”

Of Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Lynch said, “He’s smart. He definitely was trained well throughout high school and he just adds another competitor in the race for the quarterback job.”

Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for the results of that race to happen sometime between now and September 1st.

Thanks again to Thuc Ngi Nguyen for today’s quarterback videos.

Go Bruins!!