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UCLA Football: Chip Kelly Has the Healthiest Team of His Career

As the Bruins prepare for their season opener, the UCLA Football team is healthy and ready for action.

NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s interviews started off with UCLA Bruins head coach Chip Kelly before practice and the first important thing he noted is that he’s never had a team this healthy at this point in camp. The only player officially out is redshirt senior linebacker Tyree Thompson.

The media started in asking the questions most fans are wanting the answers to at this point: When will he name a starting quarterback? Have you started preparing for Cincinnati yet? And, of course, in true Chip Kelly fashion, we didn’t get any answers. We’ll get the starting quarterback when the depth chart is officially released before the first game and they’ll start preparing for Cincinnati on Saturday, like any other game week. Although, Kelly did have this to say about our first opponent:

They’re an 11-2 team. They are really, really well coached. They were 4-8 his first year and 11-2 his second year. They’re really good on the defensive side of the ball, obviously. That’s Luke’s specialty. Their quarterback’s a really good runner, I think he’s added another dimension for them. So, it’s a real formidable opponent to play in the first game. It will be a really big test for us.

After last year’s flat opener, fans are chomping at the bit to see any signs of improvement in Kelly’s second year. Game one will give fans a pretty good idea of what to expect this year.

Kelly was also questioned about giving scholarships to walk-ons and there is no target date for that, at least not one that he was willing to reveal.

However, another area the media asked about was awarding #36 to Ethan Fernea, the number worn by Nick Pasquale until his untimely death in 2013. Fernea is a senior walk-on, and was chosen by the coaching staff to wear the number for his dedication to the team and behavior both on and off the field. Kelly seemed to understand the importance of carrying on Nick’s legacy and the Pasquale family was present to award the jersey to Fernea last Sunday.

Kelly is still taking things day to day, trying to be “better today than we were yesterday”, and continually refers to the “micro operation” he is running in Westwood. Ben Bolch of the LA Times tried to ask him about his vision for year three or year five, and Kelly quickly cut him off and stated:

I had a vision of trying to have every day be a successful day and I think that’s how we’ve always approached it: on a daily basis, not on a long term basis. It’s never been that way and it never will be that way.

When Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the Los Angeles Daily News asked about the success Justin Frye has had coaching the offensive line, Kelly said, “he’s really in tune to the learning styles of each individual player in his position”. Continuity from last year was also noted and how much that will help the offense going in to this season. Kelly noted, “It’s the one thing you can’t teach.”

The video of Kelly’s interview is courtesy of Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News.

After practice, wide receiver Ethan Fernea was interviewed, proudly donning the number 36 jersey. For this year, the Pasquale family has chosen to bring the number back to the team, and award it to a deserving member to honor the memory of their son. Fernea had this to say about Nick Pasquale:

I think he embodied a lot of the characteristics that make an ultimate team player: hard work, discipline, just being a great teammate. First of all, it really just motivates me to try to bring positive energy every day and try to be the best teammate I can be.

Fernea says it is a “huge honor” and “really humbling” to be chosen to wear the number 36 jersey and, as a walk-on, he is constantly working to support the team in any way he can. He mentioned being taken under the wing of Christian Pabico as a fellow walk-on receiver and setting the goal to get on the field and contribute as much as possible. Fernea also mentioned that there is a camaraderie among the walk-ons, as it is “a little different experience than the scholarship player.”

Here is Fernea’s entire interview, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:

Go Bruins!