Dorian Thompson-Robinson, barring injury, will be the starting quarterback for UCLA in the 2021. His only real competition according to Bruins head coach Chip Kelly is himself. So, while some have wanted a quarterback competition in Spring camp, UCLA football’s Dorian vs. Dorian is probably not what they had in mind.
UCLA Football’s Dorian vs. Dorian
Real Details About The Spring Schedule
Kelly met with the media for the first time this Spring on Monday. Despite his coming over to hang out with the media off-the-record on Friday, the formality of a COVID-safe conference call was still the order of the day Monday.
He straightened out the issues that led to Spring Camp starting almost a month later than usual, and later than nearly everyone else in the country. Last Word on College Football had been told off-the-record by university administrators that the late start was due to compliance with LA County COVID protocols. That turns out to be true only if you twist pertinent details into a pretzel shape. It was pointed out to Kelly that USC has the same protocols to follow but already had its Spring scrimmage. Kelly said the actual reason for the change was the calendar and NCAA rules on Spring camp.
Normally UCLA, with its quarter academic calendar, begins camp in March, shuts down during Spring break, and then returns for the final weeks of practice. However, students, and players, leaving for the break, are required to isolate for seven days. Here is where the details matter. The NCAA would have counted those seven days against UCLA’s cap on how many days they could be in camp, whether players were participating or not. Thus, the staff opted to push the entire camp back and have the full compliment of players.
The Quarterback Battle Is A One Man Fight
To that point, Kelly said health becomes a critical part of this Spring. “It’s a little bit different if we lose a kid late in May, and it is the kind of injury that is going to take some time away from his preparation in the Summertime,” Kelly said. With UCLA starting the season in Week 0, it means they will be starting Fall camp earlier than usual as well. Any Spring injuries could be costly.
No spot will get more attention for health and wellness than the quarterback spot. With three-plus years as the starter, Thompson-Robinson was the prohibitive favorite going into camp. But some were anticipating a potential battle. Sophomore Chase Griffin who played well in two starts last season and Ethan Garbers, the freshman transfer from Washington carries a lot of expectations with him. “Obviously no matter where you are, you need competition at the position,” Kelly said. “But he is the proven one coming back and has worked extremely hard during the off-season. If we had to play a game today, he’s our starting quarterback. But it doesn’t matter who the starting quarterback is today. It matters what we do for the Fall.”
Kelly said that is the heart of the quarterback competition. “The biggest competition for Dorian honestly is just Dorian versus Dorian. That’s the one thing I love about him as a guy. He’s always constantly trying to improve. And he’s always asking questions. He’s always trying to make himself the best version of himself on a daily basis. He sets the standards and the work ethic for that position.”
Kelly acknowledged the team has more depth than in previous years, and more experience. He said his focus for Spring now is development of the depth. “I think in some spots we feel like we’ve got some kids that have played for three years now,” Kelly said. “We have some depth and some experience at a lot of our positions. But how do we develop the depth so that it’s not just one guy at a position?” He said that includes getting the transfers up to speed quickly. Some have been enrolled in school since January, but some are just now getting in.
On Field Work
Allegedly there was some good seven-on-seven competition. The media was again purposely obscured from seeing any of it. It’s as if it were USC game prep week, instead of just a Monday at Spring camp. The head-to-head competition is held on the section farthest away from the designated, coned-off media section and shielded by players and staff along the sideline.
We went to seek the input of the woman who was allowed to watch from a balcony at the Luskin Hotel, (although it did not look like she was taking clear, journalistically defined notes). There were also the people hanging out along the wall in Lot 8 overlooking Wasserman for what is allegedly a closed practice. We couldn’t track them down to provide any insights on what the media is being prohibited from seeing.
The biggest of the outlets are not scurrying to get any coverage of a 10-21 program. There would be nothing much for them to see anyway. They won’t check in until the LSU game in four months. For everyone else, there is always subterfuge in the parking lot as an option.