If you watched Chip Kelly’s interview in our Spring Game preview yesterday, you know that Kelly wasn’t sure yet what format this year’s Spring Game will have. A lot of that has to do with the health availability of players. But, regardless of the format, we’ll get the best look at the team that we’ll get before the season opener against Cincinnati.
We also don’t know how long the game will last. Kelly recently said that last year’s game was only about an hour long because that’s how long Pac-12 Networks had allotted for their broadcast. But, that wasn’t quite true. Last year, like this year, they allotted for an hour on Pac-12 Networks National feed while they were prepared for a second hour on Pac-12 Los Angeles. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding last year. Regardless, the same is the case today.
The national network has only allocated time for the first hour because there are four Spring Games across the conference today. So, each one is broadcasting for an hour on the national network, but each has been allocated two hours locally.
So, it will be interesting to see how long today’s game lasts.
There are a few other things to look for today.
Austin Burton has been pushing Dorian Thompson-Robinson this Spring. Ben Bolch of the LA Times mentioned in an article yesterday:
Speight’s departure opens the way for Thompson-Robinson again, unless Burton beats him out. Both quarterbacks appear more confident this spring than a year ago, and Kelly said he’s noticed something else about Burton’s development.
“The key critical factors to being a quarterback [are] being a great decision-maker and accuracy,” Kelly said, “and I think he’s gotten better.”
Even without a quarterback battle, the eyes of Bruin fans would be on Thompson-Robinson after he struggled at times last season. It will be interesting to see how much he has progressed.
Another thing to keep an eye on today is the defense and, specifically, the pass rush. Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Daily News wrote this week:
Every practice for five weeks, UCLA defensive linemen repeatedly ran through the same circuit of drills every morning. They smacked tackling dummies, high-stepped over cones and rushed at a grad assistant pretending to be a quarterback … then did it all over again the next day.
The Bruins, tied for the fewest sacks in the Pac-12 last year, hope the extra practice produces a much-needed pass rush.
That last sentence is probably one of the most important things to pay attention to. The question that the Bruins need to answer is: “Has the pass rush improved?”
Ultimately, today’s grade may end up being an incomplete, however. That’s because the team is a little banged up after five weeks of practice.
Injuries and Non-Participation
It may seem silly to be discussing injuries at this point in the year, but, as Thuc Nhi Nguyen notes, “UCLA had eight players seen in yellow jerseys during Thursday’s practice: offensive lineman Zach Cochrun, outside linebacker Elijah Wade, receivers Michael Ezeike, Ethan Fernea and Dymond Lee, linebacker Josh Woods, and defensive backs William Nimmo and Kenny Churchwell.”
On top of that, Keisean Lucier-South has not practiced this month because of “academic obligations.”, according to Nguyen.
That leaves UCLA short-handed at outside linebacker and it might just cause Kelly to modify the format of today’s “game.”
This is your UCLA Football Spring Game Open Thread. What are your thoughts on today’s game? Leave them in the comments below.