Spaulding Report: Chip Kelly Happy with Bruins' Progress So Far
Kelly opened up recently about the recruiting process during COVID.
Before I get started with our latest Spaulding Report, I have a bit of housekeeping which I have to do. We remain tremendously grateful for all the support everyone has provided by subscribing since we debuted at the start of a pandemic.
That said, in order to keep The Mighty Bruin covering all of UCLA sports the way we would like to, we need some individuals to step forward to write for us.
It goes without saying that producing a blog which covers UCLA like all of you have been accustomed to over the years takes A LOT of work. But, if there aren’t enough hands to help distribute that work among, that becomes impossible. So, if you like what you see hear and might be interested in giving us a hand, please take a look at one of our recent articles which describes what we’re looking for.
Then, just email me.
We are really looking for at least four people to join our team. Hopefully, that’s you.
Now, on the Spaulding Report….
We have a few days to catch up on. So, let’s get right to it.
Prior to practice on Wednesday, head coach Chip Kelly met with the media for the second time in Fall Camp.
The immediate question was whether Dorian Thompson-Robinson was available. He wasn’t. It was the second day in a row the Bruins’ starting quarterback missed. As of this morning, he was still “unavailable.”
Now, it’s just pure speculation since no one inside the confines of Spauling Field will say why he’s been unavailable, but, usually, having a player missing multiple days during the first week of camp means one of two things. Either he got dinged up already which seems unlikely since the team hadn’t gone to full pads by Monday, or there is a potential academic issue keeping him off the practice field.
The third possibility, which goes along with the possible academic issue, is that he is wrapping up with finals for Summer Session A and was excused to take care of his finals, but it seems highly unlikely that he would be excused starting early this week when the last week of Summer Session A8 (yeah, it’s structured differently than it used to be) is this coming week.
Again, that’s pure speculation, but if it is any of those issues, let’s hope he either gets well enough to resume practicing soon or that he gets his academic work done so he can resume practicing.
Overall, Kelly seems to be pleased with the team’s progress so far. “We've gotten really good leadership from our older guys and, then, the young kids have really fallen right in line,” said Kelly. “They've kind of picked up and have really accelerated, but I think it's because our older players are doing a really good job of helping those young guys.”
The other big point Kelly made was in response to a question about how deep this year’s team is. Kelly said:
Compared to my first years here, yeah, and that's all I can compare it to. This is the deepest team we've had since we've been here. So, I think comparing teams from different years in different schools is…I don't really think of it that way. So…but I think since we've been here, obviously, even in the Spring…we were at 115 players in the Spring. My first Spring here, we had 65.
Now, of course, the caveat here is that Kelly is likely the reason why there were only 65 guys there his first Spring. I stopped counting long ago, but the last time I checked, a full roster of players have left the UCLA program since Kelly became head coach. I think my last count was that 75 players had left, transferred or otherwise stopped playing for the Bruins.
So, the double-edged sword to “the deepest team we’ve had since we’ve been here” is that Chip Kelly no longer has any excuses for the results on the field. In fact, the only guys who were in Westwood for Jim Mora’s last season are Shea Pitts, Ethan Fernea, Mo Osling III, Quentin Lake, Martin Andrus, Jr., Sam Marrazzo, and Odua Isabor. That’s just 6.1% of the 115 guys being guys who were on the team in 2017, even if they didn’t play. As a result, this is really Chip Kelly’s team, which means that there can be no more excuses for not winning.
He still may not get fired if he doesn’t deliver results this season because of budget issues, but the failure to produce a team which can challenge for the Pac-12 title this season should, at the very least, have UCLA looking for a replacement when Kelly’s contract runs out after next season.
Kelly concluded Wednesday’s interview by responding to a question about recruiting in the COVID-era. Overall, he explained it in good detail, which is a little unusual for him. He said:
The biggest issue for everybody was that we weren't allowed to leave campus and they weren't allowed to come on campus. So, everything was just turned into virtual.
So, there was a lot of zooms and just trying to stay in touch and present and educate whoever we were recruiting about what the opportunity at UCLA is and “Is that a good fit for what they're looking for and what are their goals andaspirations and what do they want to get out of their collegiate experience?”
So, we really had to highlight that, but the the unique part about it is that for everybody is it was the same challenge for every school. None of us were allowed to have anybody on campus and none of us were allowed to go evaluate in person. So, we just kind of had to deal with it as it came.
Well, of course, that was every school except, of course, for the Arizona State Sun Devils who decided that the rules didn’t apply to them and hosted recruits on campus anyway. Chip was just gracious and avoided taking the shot over Herm Edwards’ bow there.
But, it was interesting.
In june, when the last group of kids came in, because we had a couple of early enrollees but when that last group came in, there were eight or nine kids that we had never met in person…Deshun Murrell…Christian Burkholter…some of those kids that were from a distance that we normally would have gone out. We had them identified. We would have gone to see them that Spring during Spring recruiting. You just had to, like, “Oh, okay. I've seen him on a Zoom. Now, that's what he looks like,” but they've been great. If this ends up being our best recruiting class, maybe we should just do that all the time, but that'll take three or four years to figure that part out.
But, I'm really pleased with who we have. It was just unique. I thought our coaching staff and our recruiting staff did a great job of making sure we can constantly stay in touch with those guys.
We did a lot more group work on our recruiting and I think the other recruits helped out a lot too because they stayed connected with each other over the course of that time too.
So, the Kirkwoods and some of those guys are kind of leaders in that class. Those guys actually developed a pretty good bond over the technological part of it.
It just gives you an opportunity to reach out and touch people a little bit better, but it still doesn't replace face-to-face. So, we're glad that we can actually get back face-to-face.
It will certainly be interesting to see where the 2021 recruiting class finishes up in four to five years. That’s for sure.
Here’s Coach Kelly’s interview, courtesy of UCLA Athletics:
Thanks to UCLA Athletics for posting Chip Kelly’s interview from this morning earlier than Wednesday’s interview.
In this morning’s interview, Kelly reiterated a lot of what he said on Wednesday about depth when he was asked about certain position groups. He also intimated some details about the practice schedule and how they decide whether a practice is full pads or just shoulder pads or shells.
The only other thing of note is that Kelly addressed the progress of Ethan Garbers. He was glad that Garbers was able to get in during Spring and, overall, he’s happy with his progress.
Wednesday was another defensive day with player interviews.
One of the biggest questions for Otito Ogbonnia came from Thuc Nhi Nguyen of the LA Times. With the Olympics going on now, she asked him about what his future is as far as track and field goes because Ogbonnia has thrown shot for the track team in years past. Ogbonnia indicated that track is on hold for him right now as a result of COVID, but he left the door open to returning to it in the future.
Meanwhile, Odua Isibor discussed his physical transformation while he’s been at UCLA. He noted that he came to campus “as a twig” — weighing just 212 pounds, but he also noted that he’s bulked up while remaining quick and athletic.
Thanks again to UCLA Athletics for Wednesday’s player interviews.
After yesterday’s practice, sixth-year senior Ethan Fernea discussed his transition from receiver to running back. He mentioned that he had put on some weight and that he was learning a lot about the position from Brittain Brown and Zach Charbonnet.
We also got our first Fall interview with transfer running back Zach Charbonnet who transferred to UCLA earlier this year after spending his first two seasons at the University of Michigan. He addressed what it’s like being back home. He played his high school ball at Oaks Christian and he grew up in Camarillo. He also spoke some about playing for Coach Kelly, Coach Frye and Coach Foster.
Thanks to UCLA Athletics for yesterday’s interview video.
Our final set of player interviews comes from today with Mo Osling III and Obi Eboh.
Mo Osling’s first question was about how the quarterbacks, especially Ethan Garbers, are doing. “[Garbers is] making some good reads and throwing some good balls. All the quarterbacks been looking good,” Osling said. “So, they've been going through their progressions and stuff and making great passes and great decisions out there.”
Osling’s most interesting quote pertained to how he thinks the team is coming together. He said:
It’s a different vibe. If you guys could be out here and just watch us practice and just be in the locker room you would be like, “Yeah! This team is onto something special.” so I haven't felt like this in the past. So, this is real special for me right now.
Meanwhile, Oboh discussed the dynamic between him and Osling, given that they tend to split time with each other. He explained:
The dynamic in the room, especially between me and Mo, that's competitive and not combative and I think, since i've been here over a year now, I've actually formed a really good relationship with Mo. We play chess together all the time and we're always competing against each other and it's friendly. It's fun. It's competitive and, so, I think that makes both of us better. I don't think that, when we switch off, it kind of hinders our growth or kind of takes us out of the game. I think it pushes us to actually compete harder and be more focused so that, when we get our opportunities individually, we're going hard and we're that more focused and competing harder.
Here are the player interviews from after today’s practice. Thanks again to UCLA Athletics for sharing all of the videos featured in today’s article.
Thanks again for supporting The Mighty Bruin. Your paid subscriptions make this site possible. Questions, comments, story ideas, angry missives and more can be sent to to @TheMightyBruin on Twitter.