Since this was the first time UCLA head coach Chip Kelly met with the media since Devon Modster announced his transfer on Friday, Kelly was asked about it.
“He’s going to try to transfer to a junior college,” Kelly said. “He said he’s going to try and go see if he can play somewhere else. We support him in his decision. He was in a really good battle with both Wilton and Dorian and was the No. 2 quarterback for the last two weeks. It’s still in the process, but he felt like he wanted to go now and play, and said he was going to transfer to a junior college.”
Kelly was also asked about the status of Wilton Speight, given that he worked out more last week, but Kelly deferred to question to Speight himself.
At the same time, Kelly declined to say that Speight would be the starter when he returned. “Whoever gives us the best opportunity against Colorado or Washington, or whoever we’re going to play is going to be the guy that’s going to play,” he said.
Eventually, the conversation turned towards Colorado and, more specifically, the Buffaloes’ quarterback Stephen Montez. Kelly offered his impression of Montez:
Very athletic. He’s big. He’s a 6-5 kid. I saw him at media day and didn’t know he was that big. A big physical kid. He’s a thrower. He really wants to...can beat you with his feet, but really wants to throw the football. So, he’s really dangerous from that standpoint because he has the ability to keep plays alive. He can keep plays alive and then throw the ball deep over the top. So, he’s kind of the whole package when you’re trying to defend a quarterback.
That led to talk about Buffs receiver Laviska Shenault, Jr. After a little ribbing of Ben Bolch for not being able to pronounce Shenault’s name, Kelly offered his assessment of him:
He’s talented. They play him all over the place. They play him inside. They play him outside. They play him as a wildcat quarterback. He’s big. He’s physical. I think he’s listed at 6-2 and 220, and I think he’s all of that. So, he’s tough. Not only is he strong going to the ball and catching the ball but he’s a real dangerous threat as a run after the catch.
After practice, the players who were interviewed were long snapper Johnny Den Bleyker and safety Adarius Pickett.
Despite being a junior this year, this was Den Bleyker’s first interview since joining the program in 2016. I’m glad he finally got that opportunity.
He was asked about his fumble recovery against Fresno State. He told a story about how it was his mom’s birthday. Den Bleyker said:
It was a really cool experience. It was actually my mom’s birthday. So, she was getting on me a little bit. She said, “You’ve gotta go do something special for me.” Yeah, so, it was a really, really nice thing to have her in the stands and have her experience that. I was really happy I was able to make some kind of contribution to help Bolu score. It was really an overall awesome experience.
It was actually Den Bleyker’s second career fumble recovery on a punt and he mentioned that he’s like to be able to do it a third time.
Later in the interview, Den Bleyker was asked about the team’s mindset. He spoke about a group chat the team has through an app called Teamworks that all 108 players are on. He said that there’s no negativity. “We actually have a group chat with everybody in it,” Den Bleyker said. “There were a lot of positive messages last night. This bye week is going to be our week to get better—it’s our improvement week. We try to take every week step-by-step; we want to improve all together.”
Adarius Pickett, meanwhile, spoke about how the defense is continuing to improve. “I feel like we’ve been getting better every week,” Pickett said “I feel like it’s a learning process for a lot of players and we just have to continue to get better. As we had improvement week last week, I think we came out to practice with the right mindset and I feel like today was a very good practice as well. So, I feel like we’re moving in the right direction right now.”
He also spoke specifically about the secondary’s play. Pickett said:
As far as the secondary, I think we’re communicating well. I think we have done well tackling, and fitting the run. I think we have to get better on the deep with the 50-50 balls but another thing is those guys hit too. So, it’s going to be a challenge. We have to get everyone else going...linebackers...defensive line....We have to continue to improve, too, in the secondary. So. the defense...we’re just going to continue to play well and get better.
Pickett also exuded the confidence that the team will start to succeed when speaking about the mindset of the team. Pickett said:
We’re in good spirits. From a leadership aspect, it’s making sure that some of the guys continue to have the positive mindset. Some things haven’t swayed our way, but, as long as we continue to stay together as a team and push forward, we will have success at the end. I’m very excited to see us come out on Friday and play. It’s going to be a good game.
Thanks again to UCLA Athletics for making yesterday’s videos available.