With experience comes expectations. UCLA returns one of the most experienced teams in the country going into the 2021 season. An ESPN algorithm says the Bruins return the second most production in the country. Head coach Chip Kelly always takes in terms of the immediate. “We’re just looking to have a great Monday,” would be what we would expect to hear from him. Now, UCLA’s experience creates expectations.
UCLA’s Experience Begets Expectations
Monday, Kelly said that all training camps start at the same, “Square One.” But with 20 starters returning and a wealth of experience at the back-up spots, he says the building process can go faster. “Now, we may be able to go a little faster when we’re building because we have the kids that have experience,” Kelly said.
One of the specifics that helps is the foundation of the offense, the line. The Bruins return every starter from last season. “Continuity is key, especially up front,” Kelly said. “The communication part of what goes on on the offensive line is critical. When you have guys that have been with each other for such a long time, that’s always a benefit.” Kelly said it was one thing to have all the starters back, which is rare. But to also have the primary backups returning was a big advantage in getting through camp.
Lake As A Leader
The defense only lost one cog in the machine from last year. Osa Odighizuwa is moving to the Dallas Metroplex area. Experience is a big topic on the defensive side of the ball as well. That includes senior defensive back Quentin Lake. Now in his fifth year, Lake said he wants the secondary to be the backbone of the defense. “We’re all experienced now, getting into the later years of college and having the experience on the football field,” Lake said. He added that communication will be a fundamental key to eliminating any mistakes.
He was reluctant to call himself the leader of the defensive backfield, despite his five years at UCLA. Lake had no problem acknowledging he is a leader, however. “I feel like you shouldn’t really dedicate one person. I’m not going to sat that,” Lake said. “But in terms of how I hold myself, I hold myself to a high standard. So, I would hope everybody else sees me as a leader. Am I vocal guy? No, because that’s not really how I lead, but I lead with my actions.”
With regards to being able to move the pace of camp along faster with so much experience, Lake said he definitely sees it on the offense. “I would say the offense is, they’re rolling. Whether it is getting into more tempo situations or you know, whatever you want to call it. I feel like they are at a level that whatever Chip throws at them, they can pick it up real quick and implement that whether we’re going teams, or seven-on-seven.” He said the defense does not have as many new looks right now. “But I mean anything they throw at us at this point, since we are so experienced, we can pick it up like that.”
Blaylock Says He Can See The Difference
Lake points to Qwuantrezz Knight and Stephan Blaylock as other leaders in the defensive backfield. Blaylock has barely left the field in his three previous years at UCLA. He played in 10 games as a freshman, and then all 12 as a sophomore and all seven last season. He says he can see the difference in this camp. “It’s a lot of older guys out here,” Blaylock said. “A lot of dudes that have been in the program for two-years-plus.” He said there is a quick pace to things, “And then we are all on the same page.” He said the result of that is the defense, “Looking good, confident, and just growing every day.”
Blaylock also said communication was a big key in the maturation of the defense. He said one of his biggest of-season goals was, “Just helping out the guys around the team just so we can be more connected to one another while we’re out there.”
Spring camp is a time for everyone to feel confident about where they are as a team, regardless of how the last season, or the last three ended. Lake said he knows everything that gets done in the Spring has to be used to lay a foundation for the Fall.
(Main Image courtesy Jevone Moore/Full Image 360).