Whereas many faculty soccer packages are closing up store after spring video games, UCLA is simply getting began.
Two inexplicable losses to finish 2020 dampened pleasure about Chip Kelly’s program that gave the impression to be constructing. However with virtually all starters returning, hope springs once more in Westwood. Right here’s what to observe for throughout UCLA’s spring practices that begin Friday:
Is Yr 4 the yr for Chip Kelly?
Kelly was anticipated to awaken a sleeping big, however thus far the Bruins have barely stirred from hibernation. UCLA inched above .500 solely as soon as amid three dropping seasons and Kelly is 10-21 in Westwood.
The look ahead to greatness has taken longer than anticipated, Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth admitted, citing immense roster turnover in the beginning of Kelly’s tenure. With ample time to strengthen personnel, stress mounts on Kelly to lastly soar into championship competition.
“Elite groups make a flip the place they go from hoping issues are going to go effectively to realizing they’re going to go effectively,” Roth stated. “That no-flinch mentality that I do assume is developed in an offseason, that’s what I need to see.”
Will Dorian Thompson-Robinson ship?
Dorian Thompson-Robinson has symbolized the potential of the Kelly period on the sector since he was a freshman anointed as this system’s savior.
Now he’s a senior with solely marginal success. After only one yr of beginning quarterback snaps in highschool, the previous three seasons have helped him catch as much as his friends by way of follow on the place. He’s had the repetitions. He wants the outcomes.
“I need to see absolute mastery,” stated Roth, who emphasised the significance of situational soccer, accuracy and ball safety. “All of these issues, he’s confirmed he can do and he’s additionally confirmed that he’s discovered his struggles there over-trying at his place. … He must be top-of-the-line quarterbacks within the nation this yr.”
Thompson-Robinson is coming off essentially the most environment friendly season of his profession after finishing 65.2% of his passes for 224 yards per sport with 12 whole touchdowns. However turnovers have been the largest headache, with 20 interceptions and 10 fumbles misplaced in 24 profession video games.
What’s subsequent for this protection?
When Kelly arrived, many defensive gamers touted the unit’s new motto of “flying round” to make performs. The Bruins lastly took off final yr.
UCLA led the Pac-12 in dashing yards per carry allowed (3.6 yards), sacks per sport (3.3) and interceptions (9). The three.29 sacks per sport ranked eighth within the nation, led by 5.5 sacks from linebacker Caleb Johnson. However heartbreaking losses to USC and Stanford through which the protection relinquished fourth-quarter leads left a stain on an in any other case encouraging yr.
Defensive backs Obi Eboh, Qwuantrezz Knight and Quentin Lake returned with an extra yr of eligibility, giving the Bruins expertise within the secondary that might want to enhance from the 274.1 passing yards allowed that ranked eleventh within the Pac-12 final yr.
Who’s the following working again?
With Josh Kelley and Demetric Felton, UCLA will ship beginning working backs to the NFL draft in back-to-back years. The working again carousel now spins towards grad switch Brittain Brown.
Brown is in line for the beginning place after dashing for 551 yards in seven video games and 4 touchdowns final season. His 6.62 yards per carry ranked fifteenth within the nation.
The Bruins may additionally search for redshirt junior Kazmeir Allen to lastly escape. Since wowing followers together with his breakaway pace in his UCLA debut with a 74-yard landing run in opposition to Cincinnati in 2018, Allen hasn’t had a play from scrimmage longer than 24 yards.
Which new faces will contribute instantly?
Kelly’s most fruitful recruiting territory throughout his UCLA tenure has been the switch portal and he went purchasing once more in 2021.
Receiver Kam Brown (Texas A&M), working again Zach Charbonnet (Michigan), quarterback Ethan Garbers (Washington) and linebackers Jordan Genmark Heath (Notre Dame) and Ale Kaho (Alabama) will be a part of the Bruins for spring practices, together with seven incoming freshmen. Kaho, a one-time five-star prospect, and Genmark Heath might assist the Bruins solidify their linebacker place.
Among the many freshmen enrolling early are four-star defensive lineman Quintin Somerville and defensive again Devin Kirkwood, a four-star prospect from Gardena Serra Excessive. Offensive lineman Thomas Cole, quarterback Kajiya Hollawayne and receivers DJ Justice, Keontez Lewis and Ezavier Staples may even start their faculty careers early.
This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.