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Spaulding Report: UCLA Football Opens “Spring Training” Looking to Improve

The Bruins held their first training session this morning as they look to build and improve on last season’s results.

Dorian Thompson-Robinson, now wearing #1, looks to throw a pass downfield during the first session of UCLA Football Spring Training.
UCLA Athletics

This morning’s first training session of the Spring was a pretty standard first session. The quarterbacks weren’t quite as accurate as they will eventually be. There were a lot of drills intended to improve the players in the long run. At the same time, the 11-on-11 team period focused on different third down situations.

It was to be expected that contact was non-existent as the players were not in full pads this morning.

The quarterback group was a little smaller than anticipated this morning. That’s because Matt Lynch has opted to switch positions from quarterback to tight end. This change could help Lynch get on the field more this year.

That change left just four guys in the red quarterback jerseys. Of course, you had Dorian Thompson-Robinson. The other three quarterbacks were Austin Burton, who looked to be the most accurate passer during drills today. Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News writes, “During the final team period, which was entirely focused on third downs, Burton completed passes on three straight third downs, earning would-be conversions on third-and-4, -7, and -10.”

That said, I’m willing to give DTR a pass because it’s just the first day and quarterbacks usually need to take some time improving their accuracy at the start of the Spring or even the start of Fall. But, if Thompson-Robinson hasn’t improved his accuracy significantly by the end of Spring Training, it may become time to be concerned.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Chase Griffin, the only QB recruit of the 2019 recruiting class, was training this morning. I think I saw him throwing early on in today’s session, but he wasn’t throwing for the majority of the session. It was rather odd. He did seem to be working on his footwork as much as possible and he was very...umm...energetic, sprinting from location to location on the field wherever the quarterbacks needed to be. Ben Bolch of the LA Times is calling this an “apparent injury,” but I just don’t know if that was the case.

One of the other interesting things about first sessions like today is figuring out who is who and who is missing. For the second Spring in a row under Chip Kelly, UCLA has not yet published a Spring Roster at the start of Spring Training. The most noticeable number change was Thompson-Robinson who is now sporting the #1 jersey after wearing #7 last season. Martell Irby has also changed his number from #15 to #6. One I didn’t miss was mentioned by in the Daily News article by Thuc Nhi. Elijah Gates has switched back to #9 after switching from #9 to #18 last season.

Of course, the new guys have had numbers assigned to them. Griffin is wearing #11. Another guy Bruin fans may be interesting in watching is running back Keegan Jones, who is wearing #18. William Nimmo was wearing a yellow #32 jersey this morning and it appears that Jaylen Erwin will wear #81. Because the defense was primarily on the north practice field, I was unable to determine what number Datona Jackson is wearing.

Speaking of new guys, there was one more new guy this morning and that’s JC transfer and walk-on punter Carson Olivas, who wore #99 today.

In addition to Nimmo, Thuc Nhi reports that Josh Woods, Kenny Churchwell and Dymond Lee were all wearing yellow non-contact jerseys and working on the side.

It looks like there are four more guys who have left or are leaving the program earlier than expected. Thuc Nhi mentions that Marcus Moore, who had been suspended indefinitely, Mique Juarez, Moses Robinson-Carr and Rick Wade were “absent.” Bolch writes that “Wade has been forced to stop playing because of a neck injury that will require surgery” and that he will graduate this quarter and take a “job in commercial real estate.” As for the others, if they weren’t on the field or on the sideline with the walking wounded today, it’s pretty safe to not expect them back. Hopefully, Chip Kelly provides an official update on the other three players when he meets with the media on Thursday.

Speaking of meeting with the media, Boss Tagaloa and Darnay Holmes were the two players who met with the media today after practice. While trying to explain that he knew what to expect, Tagaloa kept catching himself starting to use the word “comfortable” and he’d quickly pull that back seemingly because he knows that the coaching staff doesn’t want the players to feel comfortable. It was kind of fun to watch him re-word his answer to stress that he’s learning new things about both the offense as well as his teammates.

Meanwhile, Holmes spoke a little bit about how he’s become more vocal now that Adarius Pickett has graduated.

Thanks to UCLA Athletics for the video of both players.

The UCLA Bruins return to the practice field for Spring Traning session #2 on Thursday morning at 8 am PT and for session #3 on Saturday morning also at 8 am PT. If you’re planning on heading out to watch a future session, leave your camera at home because UCLA is not allowing any video or photography of the training sessions and bring your binoculars if you want to be able to have a better view of the action on the north practice field.

Go Bruins!!!