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UCLA Football: Bruins’ Task at Hand Is to “Go 1-0 This Week”

The Bruins have started to prepare for their game on Thursday against Cincinnati. Overall, everyone sounds pumped, but there is a reason to be concerned about the UCLA defense.

NCAA Football: Cincinnati at UCLA
Lokeni Toailoa prepares to tackle Cincinnati running back Michael Warren II during last year’s game at the Rose Bowl.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Chip Kelly started off yesterday’s practice by greeting the media with “Happy Monday” because, with the team playing on Thursday this week instead of Saturday, the coaching staff was treating it like a normal game week which would normally start on a Monday.

He didn’t really have a whole lot to say. He declined to say whether he thought the team was ready to play Cincinnati on Thursday, choosing instead to say that they were “100% ready for a Monday practice.”

One person who Kelly said a lot about was Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder. “He’s a really good quarterback,” Kelly said. “But, I think what sets him apart from some other guys is he actually runs like a running back.” He continued to explain:

“Sometimes, it’s almost like a two-back offense back there when you have both those guys in the backfield. He throws a really nice ball. So, he’s a true dual for that quarterback that you have to account for both things sometimes you have a guy that’s more of one than the other but I think he’s really both. So, I think that’s an added threat with him. He came in our game last year and did some really good things running the football. He really made some big plays and converted some big third downs. So, we’ve got to be aware of him at all times.”

The question of the day for Kelly came from Ben Bolch of the LA Times. Bolch noted that the Bearcats went from 4-8 two years ago to 11-2 last year and he asked Kelly how hard it is to make that kind of a jump. Bolch may have been asking the question as a subtle way to see what Kelly thinks of UCLA’s chances to improve on last year’s 3-9 record.

It didn’t matter.

Kelly didn’t take the bait. He responded by saying that Bolch would have to ask the Cincinnati coaches that question.

He did, however, discuss the progress which UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has made. He reminded everyone that DTR played as a true freshman in the first game of the season with just three weeks of training camp under his belt because Thompson-Robinson was not an early enrollee and wasn’t able to participate in Spring Practice last year because of that.

“He just is so much more comfortable,” Kelly said.

All of the videos from yesterday and today are courtesy of UCLA Athletics.

After practice, linebackers Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toailoa discussed the upcoming season.

“We’ve got a lot to prove this year to everybody, to ourselves, to our program and our alumni,” Barnes said. “We’re ready to shock the world. I think we have the mentality to do that this year.”

Barnes also spoke about the loss of Tyree Thompson as well as how some of the younger guys have jumped in to fill the void. Specifically, he mentioned freshmen Carl Jones, who shifted from defensive back to linebacker during camp, and Adam Cohen as guys who have stepped up.

Lokeni Toailoa spoke about how much fun it is to think about playing together with his brother Leni Toailoa. “Growing up, we’ve always been the ones working out together,” Lokeni said. “Everything I did, he did. He was there. Everything he did, I did. I was there. So, it’s fun. It’s been our dream.”

He was asked if he sees this week’s game as a do-over from last season when the Bruins lost to the Bearcats. He explained that they really just see the task that’s in front of them. Toailoa said:

Once last season ended, our next task at hand was to have a great off season. We did that. Offseason ended, it’s time to have a great camp. We did that. Now, with our next task at hand is to focus on Cincinnati. That’s what our mindset is right now....

Our task at hand now is to go 1-0 and it just so happens that we’re playing Cincinnati again for Week One.

Before practice this morning, the news broke that sophomore linebacker Bo Calvert has been ruled ineligible to play against Cincinnati by the NCAA and will be out indefinitely. As Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News tweeted, no specifics have been given as to why Calvert is ineligible.

This situation has left the Bruins again very thin at inside linebacker. Nguyen later tweeted that only five non-scout inside linebackers were dressed for practice this morning.

Given that Coach Kelly probably won’t address the media again until tomorrow or Tuesday, it may be a while before more information on the inside linebacking situation is known.

After practice this morning, tight end Jordan Wilson and sophomore receiver Kyle Philips spoke to the press.

Wilson echoed Toailoa’s comments from yesterday about going 1-0 this week.

Overall, he thinks he’s in much better shape overall and attributes that to Frank Wintrich’s offseason program.

Kyle Philips was asked about how much better the receivers group is doing compared to last year. “We were watching film the other day and just everyone is just so much better,” Philips said. “All the guys are playing a lot faster. Everyone knows their role and knows what to do and everything. Yeah, it’s just a lot faster.”

On the topic of starting the season against Cincinnati, Philips said, “We’re just super pumped to get out there and just everyone wrong.”

Go Bruins!