The UCLA football team has taken a break for finals and spring break, so Go Joe Bruin looks at five things we learned in the first two weeks of practice.
Even though it was only for two weeks, it was good to have UCLA football back. But fear not Bruins fans! They return in two weeks to complete spring practice which culminates with the Spring Game on April 20.
But what about now? What have we learned since the start of practice? Even though there was not a whole lot to take away from the first two weeks, here are five things we learned about in the first part of spring practice…
1. Joshua Kelley is Picking Up Where He Left Off
More from Go Joe Bruin
- UCLA Football: It’s time for the nation to meet Dante Moore
- UCLA Football: Where are they ranked heading into week 4
- UCLA Football: Position battle breakdown for Utah showdown
- UCLA vs. Utah: Location, time, prediction, and more
- UCLA Football: Highlights from Chip Kelly’s appearance on the Jim Rome Show
Kelley will have eyes on him from now until the end of the 2019 season. And why not? He is the star of the latest incarnation of Chip Kelly‘s new offensive strategy. Kelley grew with his coach’s system last season, but he should be able to launch himself into full-on stardom as the offense prepares to take the next step this fall.
In the first two weeks of spring practice, Kelley has done everything that is expected of him, but more importantly, he is looking to get better and build off of what he started last year. During practice, he was the same ol’ speed back that we expected him to be as he would break through the line or run around the edge and rattle off solid run after run. If anything, he will be the constant UCLA needs to help their offense grow, especially with TE Caleb Wilson moving on.
2. Injuries Have Been Few and Far Between (Knock On Wood)
Surprisingly, UCLA has not had a lot of injuries for the first part of spring. There were four players in yellow/non-contact jerseys to start practice two weeks ago — LB Josh Woods, DB William Nimmo, DB Kenny Churchwell, and WR Dymond Lee — and only added two since then. Backup OL Mohamed Khalil was added to that list last week, as was WR Ethan Fernea, but Fernea has since lost the yellow jersey.
This is only a guess, but I would say that among the injured, Woods will be the only one that might not participate in spring at all. Because of the severity of his ACL injury and his potential starting role with the linebackers, it would not surprise me if the UCLA coaches wait to unleash him in the fall. Additionally, even though he is not in a yellow jersey, freshman QB Chase Griffin has not been able to throw due to a wrist injury, but is still going through all the drills with the other QBs and is doing it with a lot of spirit.
3. Keisean Lucier-South is THE MAN!
KLS was the best defender in 2018 and looks to be the best in 2019. With the defense looking to improve off of their ho-hum performance last season, the Bruins were able to rely on Lucier-South week in and week out and it has been the same this spring. You can almost guarantee that KLS will have an interception, pass breakup or some sort of highlight play in practice as he has run at 100% efficiency every single session. Not only is he leading by example, he is leading as a leader.
4. The Defense is Improving on the Pass Rush
UCLA’s pass rush was pretty much non-existent last season. With key edge players going down with injuries, the Bruins were not able to get into the backfield as much as they would like. That has not been the case this spring as the push up front has improved. Whether it is DLs like Atonio Mafi, Otito Ogbonnia, Steven Mason, and Osa Odighizuwa or LBs Elijah Wade and Odua Isibor, UCLA has been able to record “sacks” and disrupt the ball carriers when they get into the backfield. They have also made things difficult for the QBs who have been having a tough time this spring…
5. The QBs Need More Work
It is no secret that Dorian Thompson-Robinson has to work on his accuracy, but overall, he has done a decent job. The problem is, he will be expected to do an amazing job leading this team in 2019, meaning that he still has a long way to go. But he is not the only that has struggled. Backup Austin Burton has had his ups and downs. He does not have the strength that DTR possesses, so he is trying to make it counts when he can, primarily in shorter routes or using his legs, which he seems to have a lot of freedom with.
As mentioned above, Chase Griffin is not throwing right now due to a wrist injury and it has not been stated whether he will continue to be limited when the Bruins resume practice in two weeks. Once he is given the green light, expect a much more spirited QB competition.