Yesterday morning, Chip Kelly delivered more bad news when he met with the media for the final time before Friday’s game against the Colorado Buffaloes.
The UCLA Bruins offensive line has gotten thinner because redshirt freshman center Zach Sweeney has medically retired due to a shoulder injury. Kelly explained, “Zach Sweeney has medically retired with a shoulder injury. He’s no longer...just came over the other day and he’s no longer going to be able to play. So, he’s medically retired.”
Sweeney was the last remaining offensive lineman from UCLA’s 2017 recruiting class. Think about that for a moment. None of the offensive linemen that Jim Mora recruited in the 2017 recruiting class remain on UCLA’s roster today. While Mora did recruit well in the early years, it’s a pretty big indictment of the state of recruiting in Mora’s latter years, especially given how big of a need the offensive line was.
Of course, Sweeney will have the opportunity to stay at UCLA on his scholarship if he chooses to stay at UCLA.
In other news, Kelly spoke about whether any of the freshmen who have played will have their playing time limited by the new redshirt rule which allows players to play in up to four games while still being redshirted.
“No, the freshmen who have played so far have earned playing time,” Kelly said. “So, they’re going to continue to play. We don’t plan on pulling back on Chris Murray or Kyle Philips or Chase or Martell or Kaz or Dorian. Those guys have earned playing time, so they’ll continue to play this year.”
Kelly seemed pretty adamant about that, which raises the quarterback question again. Earlier this week, Kelly said that grad transfer Wilton Speight would not be assured of keeping the starting quarterback job he earned for the Cincinnati game in Fall Camp. Indications are that Speight has increased his activity during practice, but whether that would put him in the backup or starting role going forward remains to be seen.
But, if Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn’t play in more than one more game throughout the rest of the season, he would retain his redshirt.
Sometimes, I don’t understand why the credentialed media asks some question the way they do. After mentioning that Speight has been cleared for practice and is practicing, Kelly was asked how he’s approaching the decision of who to start at quarterback this week. Of course, Kelly fell back on his standard answer.
“I’m approaching that we’re going to have a really good practice today,” he replied. “Our game’s not till Friday and we’re on Tuesday. So, a lot of things can happen between now and Friday, so.”
That, of course, results in the typical follow-up question about what is going to go into that decision and Kelly gives his standard explanation.
“Just, who’s available, who’s healthy, who’s our best opportunity to beat Colorado,” Kelly said.
Really, the question should be asked like this: Based on Sunday’s and yesterday’s training sessions (remember, Kelly calls practices training sessions), which quarterback performed better?
Now, Kelly may have a way to dodge that question, too, but he tends to be straightforward with his answers, even if he has a tendency to reply to certain questions in a way that answers the question without really answering the question.
One of the more telling things, though, came at the end of the interview when Kelly said, “Yeah, I think we have a decent understanding of what these players are capable of doing.”
Thanks to Matt Joye of Bruin Report Online for sharing Chip Kelly’s full interview.
After practice, Caleb Wilson discussed what the team worked on during the bye week.
I think we really just focused on execution and communication, really talking everything out and making sure everybody’s on the same page in every single aspect and every single assignment. So, we’re all in the same page. We should be able to execute more well and make sure we’re not turning over the ball and we’re making most of our possessions.
Wilson did offer an interesting perspective on why he may not be seeing as many receiving opportunities as a lot of Bruin fans would like.
I don’t get it covered the same way I did last year. I don’t really get a lot of one-on-one matchups anymore. I don’t really get a lot of pre-releases. So, it’s a little more difficult for me to get as many open looks as I did last year cuz I’m no longer a secret. But, we have a lot of other weapons. So, normally, the other receivers and tight ends will open things up and my time will come.
Meanwhile, Bo Calvert explained what drew him to UCLA and his explanation offers insight into why top recruits would want to come to UCLA.
Coming into UCLA, one of the biggest reasons why I want to come here is to play early and the opportunity to do that. I think we’ve seen that, in these first couple games, I’ve been able to play a good amount and it’s been exciting to contribute so much early on. So, it’s been really exciting for me. That, on top of with the great coaching staff, and obviously I wanted to stay local in California and UCLA is great school—number one public school in the nation—and just the opportunities you have here and then obviously playing early too as well.
I think giving kids the chance to play early can be a big tool in the coaches’ pockets when they hit the recruiting trail. I don’t think many of the top recruits out there are going to say, “I don’t care about playing early.” These are kids who are used to being the top dog in high school. So, being told that they can compete for a starting spot right away can actually be big when it comes to recruiting, even if UCLA doesn’t have a lot of on-field success this season.
Thanks to UCLA Athletics for the video of the player interviews.