As the Big 10 gets ready to open its season this weekend, the Pac 12 is still getting through practices with two more weeks before the start of the season. That means those teams are still in the learning curve. So what are UCLA football’s lessons learned?
UCLA offensive lineman Alec Anderson said earlier this week, “With all this quarantine, we really had to adjust our entire lives right now and I think we are doing a great job with that. We are doing exactly what coaches are asking us to do and that is all that matters.”
UCLA Football’s Lessons Learned
While other teams have a head start on the Pac 12, players and coaches on the West Coast are watching what has gone wrong with COVID protocols across the country. With games every week being postponed due to outbreaks, Anderson said the Bruins are watching and learning. “Coach (Chip) Kelly and everybody here, they really preach about lessons learned. We want to just look at what people are doing that we can learn from and I think we are doing a great job with the daily testing.”
Fellow offensive lineman Duke Clemens went back home to Hawaii during the shutdown at UCLA. He said being back on the islands gave him time for self-reflection and growth. “I had plenty of time to get yourself better. Being in Hawaii, there is all that great food over there, so I was able to gain some pounds. And you know just getting in the ocean again and just getting my body feeling right. I was calming down and re-grouping myself and just becoming more mature I guess, and knowing what I have to do. Time by yourself really makes you think and helps you grow.”
The Food’s The Thing
The sophomore said he has yet to find a suitable Hawaiian food restaurant in the Westwood area, so his mom sends him things from home that he can cook here.
Food apparently was a big upside for many of the players when they got sent home. While UCLA has a nutrition program that many of the players laud, nothing is quite like what you can get at home. Anderson said, “Home cooking is a great thing. You can’t get enough of your mom’s food right now.”
One of the lessons learned has been that anything can happen to your roster at any time. UCLA has had one player quarantined in the last three months. Defensive lineman Steven Mason tested negative. But since he had been in contact with someone who tested positive, he was isolated. But every week teams across the country face major roster adjustments based on who has been cleared through the COVID protocols. And those protocols exist on a conference-by-conference basis.
Flexibility Is Key
Obi Eboh, the grad transfer defensive back from Stanford, said Kelly has players learning different position assignments just in case. “Right now, I play cornerback so I’m both boundary and field cornerback. So even though I am playing those positions,” Eboh said, “I think most of the guys on the team are learning basically all positions on the field, especially with COVID-19. You never know what’s going to happen, so it’s beneficial for us to all kind of know what’s going on.”
Kelly has said versatility is important, especially not knowing what will happen week-to-week with possible COVID-19 infections.
Eboh also has a lot offer with his arrival. Transferring from within the conference, he has seen all there is to see from other teams. He got his undergrad from Stanford in Management Science and Engineering. Now he is a student in UCLA’s law school.
He actually already had a relationship with UCLA defensive backs coach Brian Norwood. Eboh credits Norwood not just for him being at UCLA, but for working with players through this unprecedented time in their lives. “He recruited me out of high school, when he was at Baylor. I was playing safety at the time and he was the safeties coach with Baylor. But I would say that, whenever we’re in the meeting room, we don’t always talk X’s and O’s, it’s not always about football. We talk about life experiences and he’s been around a couple different places and has a lot of different perspectives on things.”
Perspective is everything right now, even in football.