Yesterday might have been a holiday for most Americans, but the UCLA Bruins football team was back to work after losing Saturday’s opener to Cincinnati.
Before practice this morning, UCLA head coach met with the media and, from listening to his answers, it sounds like he remains focused on getting the team to where it needs to be.
The first thing he addressed was the status of starting UCLA quarterback Wilton Speight. Kelly indicated that he is “still banged up a little bit, but it is nothing serious.”
“It’s gonna be a year of firsts for a lot of these guys, because none of them have played before,” Kelly said, speaking about the team’s upcoming road trip to Oklahoma. “So, they played in one game. Now, they get a chance to go on the road and play in one of the best environments of college football.”
Kelly also spoke about what he thought about the play of freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson after he had a chance to watch the game film from Saturday. “I thought there was a lot of good a lot of real positive things to build upon,” Kelly said. “There’s some inconsistency, but that’s to be expected for a freshman in his first game.”
Kelly explained what impressed him the most with Thompson-Robinson on Saturday:
The one thing that I was really impressed with him is his demeanor and everything. Nothing was too big for him. When you talk to him after series, he knew what the breakdown was or where the issue was on that play. He had a really good understanding of what we’re doing. So, I was pleased with Dorian.
The key takeaway from Kelly’s interview is that, now, having played a game against another school, the team and, especially, the freshmen have a game under their belt. While there were inconsistencies across the board, the coaching staff can now set a course to correct those inconsistencies.
The inconsistencies included penalties. While UCLA was only penalized six times all game, Kelly was quick to point out that those were all penalties that the team should be able to control and that the coaching staff would be working on fixing them.
For all the anger and handwringing that has gone on among UCLA fans since Sunday, Kelly sounded like a man who knows where the team’s problems lie and, most importantly, has a plan for fixing them. Will they be fixed overnight? Probably not, but what seems to be most important to Kelly is that the team makes progress and gets better continuously moving forward.
Quentin Lake, son of Bruin legend Carnell Lake, offered his thoughts on how the defense played. “I think we played well,” Lake said. “We were flying to the ball. Effort was great.”
“We’re a young team so you’re always going to get some misalignments and stuff like that,” Lake continued. “But overall, I think we played really well. Defense was hustling. Back-end was doing their thing. We were hustling to the ball. Defensive line did well. Of course, Rick Wade with the strip sack and all that. But, overall I think the defense played really well.”
Lake also explained what he thinks the defense will need to do against Oklahoma this week. He spoke about doing what the defense can control:
I haven’t checked too much about them. But I just know for us, personally, we have to be able to do the extra. So we have to work hard in the film room and really understand their tendencies and stuff like that. Hustle to the ball. I know they’re obviously a great team. I’m not going to take any credit away from them, but, for us, it’s just a matter of doing our job. Don’t do more than what you have to do. Do your job, hustle to the ball, play hard and that’s all we can control. Just do what we can control.
Offensive tackle Andre James gave his assessment of the play of the offensive line.
“Upfront, we need to correct some things,” James said. “It’s a starting point, for sure, but just a lot of room to grow. So, we’re just gonna continue to do that and just continue to build on what we did good and fix what we didn’t do so good on.”
Overall, when Chip Kelly and the players on this year’s team speak about correcting the team’s problems, it just seems to feel different than in past years, but we will have to wait and see and look for that improvement on game day.