UCLA’s Roster Management Is Complicated

UCLA’s Roster Management Is Complicated
Spread the love

Now that the ink is dry on the formal letters of intent, Chip Kelly will assess what is needed still and keep a daily eye on the transfer portal to go get it. But UCLA’s roster management is complicated. And now the Bruins have more quarterback options thanks to the transfer portal.

While there are some signings of induvial talent, the class as a whole is very middling. Kelly had 12 commits and signed 11 of them. DeAndre Gill, a three-star linebacker from Washington did not sign. Kelly is not allowed to discuss the specifics of individual unsigned recruits. But he did say he does not expect to sign any more recruits during the remaining two days of the early signing period.

New Kids On The Block

Overall, UCLA’s class ranks 46th nationally on the 247Sports Composite and fifth in the Pac-12.

The Bruins did get two high value tight ends. Jack Pedersen is a 6-4, 235-pound recruit out of Vista Murrieta. His ranked as the #7 tight end in the country. He is joined by Carsen Ryan a 6-4, 235-pound tight end. On the 247Sports Composite, he is ranked as the 11th best tight end prospect in the country and the top-rated recruit out of Utah, coming from American Forks. Based on conversations Last Word has had with NFL scouts, it is easy to presume current tight end Greg Dulcich will be going to the NFL. That leaves the position filled by senior Michael Ezeike and junior Michael Martinez, should both decide to return to UCLA.

UCLA also got a big late hit with Kamari Ramsey, the four-star defensive back out of Sierra Canyon High School. He had been committed to Stanford for four months, until Sunday. Wednesday, he signed with the Bruins. UCLA is losing a lot in the defensive backfield. Qwuantrezz Knight, Quentin Lake, Obi Eboh, and Mo Osling have exhausted their eligibility. Jay Shaw and Stephan Blaylock have decisions to make about their potential return. Devin Kirkwood, who had a considerable freshman year is the key known returnee right now. So getting Ramsey was significant for Kelly. The Bruins had a chance at a grad transfer defensive back from UC Davis but lost out to Washington on Tuesday night.

He also landed Justyn Martin, the four-star quarterback from Inglewood. Martin made national headlines this Fall for his 13 touchdowns in a 106-0 blowout over a Morningside team that had 20 healthy players on the roster. He has a big-time arm and is a good overall athlete with running ability. Like most freshmen, he still will need to learn to process the mental part of the game at the next level.

Holes Unfilled

The class has some holes in it that will need to be filled through the transfer portal. Sam Yoon was the only offensive lineman signed. On the current roster, Paul Grattan has used his six years in college. Junior Sean Rhyan is widely coveted by NFL scouts we have spoken with. It will be a surprise if he returns to Westwood for another year. Other regulars like Atonio Mafi, Duke Clemens, and Alec Anderson have eligibility options to make in the coming month.

Kelly also signed no defensive linemen. Datona Jackson has no eligibility left, and Otito Ogbonnia has declared for the NFL. There are another four with eligibility options.

One of the biggest holes that went unfulfilled is the running back slot. Brittain Brown has no eligibility left. And Zach Charbonnet is well thought of by NFL scouts. He was held under 100 yards in a few games this season. Conversations we had with scouts credited the high-end Utah defense for one those performances. In other cases, they did not put the onus on Charbonnet, but on UCLA’s offensive scheme for under or mis-utilizing him. It will only be a surprise if he does not go to the NFL. That leaves the task for 2022 to Keegan Jones who was mostly used as a decoy on passing downs, and the untested Deshun Murrell.

Shopping In The Portal

So it is to the transfer portal Kelly goes. And here is where the numbers require an advanced math degree. The NCAA allows for 25 players to be signed in a class. And in a one-off rule, teams can add up to seven more players to account for transfers and super seniors leaving. That makes for a potential class of 32. However, the Covid expansion of rosters is now over. Last year, teams were allowed to carry 100 scholarship players, and 115 total. Now they must return to the normal 85 and 100. So in the conundrum that is the NCAA, you can expand your signing class while reducing your roster size.

To make it more complicated, Kelly has no idea right now how many scholarships he has to give. UCLA had a very veteran team in 2021, full of fourth, fifth, and sixth year seniors. The sixth year players are done. But the others can still claim the 2020 Covid “freebie” for their eligibility. Going forward, they have to file waivers with the NCAA and be granted that extra year. But it is assumed all or most would get the permission if they wanted it. So Kelly is looking at the departure of six super seniors, others who have exhausted their eligibility, and a dozen or more who have a decision to make. And he said he will not push a timeframe on those players.

Waiting Is The Hardest Part

“All those seniors that have an opportunity to come back, we’d love to have them back,” Kelly said Wednesday. “We obviously told them to take their time. There’s obviously a deadline, [the deadline to register for the NFL draft is January 17th],” he added. “ “We have kept up an opportunity that we’d take them all back right now and if we could, we’d feel pretty good about where we are.” Kelly added he does not expect them all to come back.

One of the ore notable decisions the team is waiting for is from four year starting quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson. Speculation outside the coaching rooms is that he will not come back for a fifth year. He likes to play coy with the fan base on social media. Anyone remember his changing the location setting on his phone multiple times while he was out in Covid protocols in 2020? But he and his family have played this decision close to the vest. Quarterback coach Ryan Gunderson had previously said Thompson-Robinson had all the physical gifts he needed to play the game. The work was on the mental aspects of the game.

Quarterback Quandary

Does his family feel like he is where he needs to be on that part of the game? He had three of his best statistical games of the year in the month of November. There is something to be said for striking while the iron is hot. The waiting game plays a role in UCLA’s options. Ethan Garbers would have been the presumed starter but on Thursday Dillon Gabriel announced he will be going to UCLA. Garbers was the back-up for all of 2021 and started the Utah game. Gabriel is coming from UCF where he threw for more than 8,000 yards in 2+ seasons. He has two years of eligibility remaining. Is his committing to UCLA a sign of what is to come with Thompson-Robinson? What does it mean for Garbers? Chase Griffin still has eligibility decisions to make. Parker McQuarrie and Kajiya Hollwayne have left the program.

Through the complexity of the numbers, Kelly said he believes he currently has 17-18 total scholarships available, including the class of 11 just signed. That was also before the Gabriel commitment. But that number will increase once some of the seniors, and draft eligible juniors start making their next move.

Kelly added that the cumulative grade point average of Wednesday signing class was a 3.46.

Embed from Getty Images