Let’s catch up on all the news coming from UCLA Bruins Football so far this week.
The biggest piece of info that Coach Chip Kelly had on Monday morning when he held the first of his two weekly media sessions was that the starting quarterback job isn’t necessarily Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s when Wilton Speight is healthy enough to play.
In fact, Kelly’s interview started with an interesting exchange between Chip Kelly and LA Times reporter Ben Bolch. Bolch was t rying to find out about whether the job was Thompson-Robinson’s moving forward, but Kelly handled the questioning with the deftness of a Washington politician.
Bolch started off asking if Wilton was healthy enough to practice and Kelly responded by saying, “We’ll try to see what he can do, so we’ll see.” Bolch followed up by asking if Speight is Kelly’s starting quarterback when he returns. “No. We’ll just see where he is health-wise,” Kelly said. “There’s no promises to anybody. We want to make sure he’s healthy before we do anything, so. Those are all our decisions.”
That led to another follow-up from Bolch asking if Speight is Kelly’s starter when he comes back. Kelly gave what is quickly becoming his standard response to what he perceives as a dumb question where he details a basic conversation. “Is he healthy? Our doctors tell us he’s healthy and then we say, ‘Good!’”
But, Bolch wasn’t letting up. He clarified the question to mean as it pertains to who the starting quarterback will be. Kelly went back to another of his standard, albeit frustrating, responses. “Well, who practices,” he said. “I mean, you can’t name a guy a starting quarterback who hasn’t practiced. So we’ll see who practices this week and who’s available to us.”
Bolch still wasn’t satisfied, though. He tried to pin Kelly down by asking if there was a temptation to name Thompson-Robinson the starter moving forward. Kelly’s response, both surprisingly and, somehow at the same time, unsurprisingly was straight-forward. “No,” he responded. “Our temptation is to beat Fresno [State].”
Later in the interview, Kelly revealed how reporters may want to question him in the future when discussing Darnay Holmes. In response to a question about what makes Darnay such an unbelievable cornerback, Kelly responded:
He’s got an unbelievable work ethic. So, he’s another guy that, if you ask who practiced the best for us last week, Darnay would have been one of those guys. And, the way he plays on Saturdays is a reflection of his training that goes on during the week.
So much for the idea that Dorian Thompson-Robinson is here to stay.
In other words, perhaps the media isn’t getting the answers they are seeking because they aren’t asking their questions of Chip in the right way. After hearing that, if I were Ben Bolch or any of the other media members present, I would ask Kelly in his last pre-game interview of the week on Wednesdays, “Which quarterback (or running back or other position) has practiced the best during the first two days of practice?” That might just get a straight answer from Kelly.
While I wouldn’t be surprised in the least to hear Kelly respond by saying, “We’ve got a few more days of practice left this week. So, we’ll see how it goes.”, I would still ask the question that way and, if Chip tries to duck it, I would follow-up with, “I didn’t ask who was starting this week. Obviously, there are a few more days of practice. I was just asking who had the best first two days so far this week.”
We’ll have to see if anyone gets that crafty with their questions when today’s interview with Kelly becomes available.
Thanks to Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online for sharing Chip Kelly’s interview.
Also on Tuesday, freshman Chase Cota gave his first interview as a Bruin. It started off a little funny because Cota obviously wasn’t used to the being the focal point of so many media members as he asked, “Who do I look at?” before being asked a question.
While Kelly was coy about whether Dorian Thompson-Robinson would be the starter if Wilton Speight is healthy, Cota didn’t hesitate to speak about how the freshman quarterback improved from Cincinnati to Oklahoma. “He just seems like a lot more relaxed the second game,” Cota said. “He knew what the shots are going to feel like after the first game. So, he knew going into it like, hey, this is going to be a battle. He was aware. I was aware. And, he stayed composed through it all and in the end he ended up playing better in the second half than the first half so you could tell that he was confident in himself.”
Chase Cota’s interview is also courtesy of Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online.
Michael Ezeike also gave his first interview on Monday. Ezeike was asked about what he did differently during last week that earned him the playing time he had against Oklahoma. He said, “After the first week...after I didn’t get in that much, I just went right back to work the next week. I really put my head down...just came back working and earned the starting spot out wide.”
The most interesting question he was asked had to do if he was technically a tight end because he subbed for Caleb Wilson a lot in the first half. Ezeike said, “Honestly, they don’t really talk much about that. They didn’t really tell me much. They just told me, they gave me a specific personnel to play in. It’s “Cheetah” and it’s basically when the tight end comes out and there are two A’s on the field. So, I would just be, basically, a second A and it wasn’t necessarily like I was filling in for Caleb, but he was just coming out and there were two A’s on the field.”
Michael Ezeike’s interview is also courtesy of Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online.
Finally, this morning, we have yesterday’s post-practice interviews, courtesy of UCLA Athletics.
Nate Meadors was up first. Meadors took responsibility for the problems in the secondary against Oklahoma. He said:
Definitely, our secondary has the whole played good. I just I fell off a little bit and I didn’t make the plays I need to play. So. I take it all on me for what was going on in the back end. So, that was that. We’re moving on from it, though...Learning lesson.
I think I just got to make the play. You just got to make the play. Quarterback was putting it in a good spot. The receivers were making great catches. So, kudos to them but I just got to make the plays.
It’s refreshing to hear players taking responsibility for not making the plays that they should.
Martin Andrus also spoke after practice yesterday. He spoke a lot about the need for the defense to be “situationally aware.” From listening to Andrus, it sounds like the defensive coaching staff has been trying to teach the players about anticipating what could be coming based on down and distance.
“We’re still trying to figure everything out as far as situations,” Andrus said. “We gotta be situationally aware, I feel. But, like I said, we’re improving each week. I feel like once we get that down, we’ll be good.”
He continued, “Like run and pass downs…I feel like we couldn’t get much of a pass rush last game because we weren’t situationally aware. So, I feel like if we could be more situationally aware, that would help us out and give us more pre-snap cues....”
When asked how the defense could become more situationally aware, Andrus responded, “For the players, you just knowing the down and distance...taking our pre-snap surveys. As a D-lineman, I’m supposed to look at the backfield set and the alignment stances and all that stuff. That’ll help.”
This makes it sounds like being situationally aware is something new for the defense this year, despite the fact that it sounds so basic that you would think that it shouldn’t be something new being taught to the defense. If it is, indeed, something new, that could partially explain why the defense was historically bad the past few seasons.