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Spaulding Report: Bruins Open Fall Camp Excited to Get to Work
UCLA has 27 days to prepare for the season opener against Hawai'i.
UCLA kicked off Fall Football Camp on Friday. As has been the case in the Chip Kelly era, fall camp is closed to the public. That means that, again, the information coming out of Spaulding Field will be very limited, but we’re committed to covering it, and all UCLA sports, as best we can.
Speaking of kicking things off, Ben Bolch of the LA Times has an interesting article on Bruin quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Bolch looks at what DTR went through last season, which resulted in him coming back for this season.
Specifically, he details what happened that resulted in DTR being sidelined for two games last season. It was the fact that a teammate he shared a ride to the Cheesecake Factory with had tested positive for COVID the day after the dinner which led DTR to self-report his contact with that teammate which resulted in a quarantine that forced the Bruins quarterback to miss games against Oregon and Arizona.
It reveals previously unknown details that show how DTR acted in order to prevent a larger outbreak on the team. And, it discusses his motivation for returning for this season. He seems more driven than ever.
He’s focusing on the breakdowns and insisting that new quarterback coach Ryan Gunderson help him get better. Bolch quotes Gunderson:
He says to me, ‘I want to know the bad stuff. He’s not afraid of the negative and he’s been super willing to fix it. That’s really fun, when guys are craving that information and craving the ability to just improve.
Meanwhile, after the first session of camp, Quentin Lake and Brittain Brown spoke with the media via video conference.
Quentin Lake started his session by discussing the new Jordan Brand uniforms and how excited the team was about them. While he noted that there were what he called “minor adjustments that they made,” one of the biggest changes is that the UCLA stripes have been shortened again due to the seams on the jersey. They aren’t as small as they had gotten under adidas, but they are certainly noticeable shorter than they were last season under Under Armour.
This was to be expected from Nike because it’s how every team which features a UCLA stripe on their unis from Ole Miss to the Indianapolis Colts has a shorter stripe.
Lake was asked about him missing a good portion of Spring Practice. Lake explained:
So, in Spring, I was dealing with a minor injury to my leg. For me, it was just a business decision. I didn't want to go out there and hurt myself even more. It was still a great opportunity to kind of teach the guys with me on the sideline and stuff like that. But, as of my health right now, I feel great…back to normal flying around out there…feel stronger bigger faster stronger. Thanks to [Football Performance] Coach Belton and his program during the summer workouts.
Belton comes to UCLA after having worked at Kansas since 2019 and previously worked at Southern Cal, UNLV, Washington, Baylor and Wake Forest.
Meanwhile, Brittain Brown mentioned how Russell Westbrook showed up on campus Friday and how he had to say hello because he’s “one of my favorite players.” Brown also spoke about the summer program with Coach Belton. He said:
He basically changed the game when he came in here. He just put us to the test we had a great offseason with the young guys too that came in here. He just got our mindset right and, every day, we just got to work. We came in here. We put the work in and I think it's really about the show for this camp.
Here’s the full video of Friday’s interviews, courtesy of UCLA Athletics.
Yesterday, Chip Kelly met with the media in person and he discussed all things COVID-related. He started off mentioning how he was glad to have the team back together in the auditorium of the Wasserman Football Center. “The last time we were in there as a group was 504 days ago on March 12, 2020,” Kelly said.
He continued, “We did meetings outside. What they went through last year just to be able to play those seven games was extraordinary and I’ve got to thank our administration and our doctors, especially for getting us through what we got through, but it's it's good to get back to some sense of normalcy.”
As far as vaccinations go, Kelly said:
We're probably at 98% right now. If they apply for a waiver and the waiver's passed then they're okay, but if the waiver gets denied, they have to get vaccinated. There's some medical and religious reason and it's a UC system thing. So, it wasn't the UCLA doctors here made the rule. It's in collaboration with everybody.
So, I think when we get to the Hawai’i game, they'll either be vaccinated or the waiver was approved.
Kelly was asked about the status of several players. He said that Jay Toia, who transferred to UCLA after enrolling at Southern Cal in the Spring, was out on the field practicing, but he noted that the team’s compliance director was out on the field Friday and would be out there again on Saturday.
He added that Bo Calvert would be practicing and that he could get moved to several different positions and even suggested, apparently in jest, that they could move him to offense and he’d be fine because of his versatility.
As for lineman Paul Grattan who has been charged with misdemeanor assault from a bar altercation in Philadelphia prior to transferring to UCLA, Kelly emphasized that all discipline is handled internally and he declined to say what would be done about the situation.
The final guy whose status Kelly was asked about is Keegan Jones, who missed the first two days of practice. “Right now, Keegan is unavailable,” Kelly said, and that’s all he said about it without going into any details.
Kelly also spoke about how Russell Westbrook was out at practice on Friday and how having guys like Westbrook and Tom Brady using the facility helps his guys learn about the work ethic of guys like that.
Here’s the full video from UCLA Athletics:
Finally, Bo Calvert and Caleb Johnson spoke with the media after practice yesterday.
Calvert addressed the addition of Belton. “Guys are a lot bigger [and] a lot stronger [and] faster and I think that's real testament to Coach KB and how hard we've been working,” Calvert said. “So, I’m really excited for that.”
He was asked about whether he’s switched from inside linebacker to outside linebacker or if it’s just about versatility. He said that the coaches have been “moving guys all over the place.” He seemed to take it as par for the course. “It's day two of fall camp. So, you're gonna see guys going in all sorts of different positions a couple of packages.”
Meanwhile, Caleb Johnson spoke a little about what he is expecting now that fans will be able to return to the Rose Bowl this season. You’ll remember that he transferred to UCLA last season from Fullerton College. So, he’s never played at the Rose Bowl with fans able to attend. Johnson said:
I feel like it's going to be a great environment. I feel like there's going to be a whole bunch of fans out there, especially coming out of COVID and the fact that our program's on the rise right now.
Truer words may have never been spoken.
Here are the interviews with Calvert and Johnson. Thanks again to UCLA Athletics.
We’re 27 days away from returning to the Rose Bowl for the first game of the season. And, don’t forget, UCLA is welcoming fans back with a Rose Bowl Open House next Saturday.