30 Jul 2022 | 08:17
LOS ANGELES – UCLA’s decision to move to the Big Ten Conference in 2024 was one of the most anticipated points at Friday’s Pac-12 Media Day, but questions didn’t stop Coach Chip Kelly from focusing into the upcoming season.
Although Kelly doesn’t expect the decision to affect the Bruins’ play on the field during their final two seasons in the Pac-12 Conference, he said news of the move still generates comedic reviews. on the recruiting front.
“So far, that’s been positive,” Kelly said. “The conversations we’ve had with kids who are in high school right now, because those are the people it impacts, we’ve noticed that as a coaching staff and have talk about that.”
Kelly mentioned that the Bruins can only wait and see how things play out over the next two years but that his dealings with Pac-12 administrators (George Kliavkoff and Merton Hanks) have been “as luxurious as possible.” “.
“It was clearly a unique situation,” Kelly said. “I’ve never been in there before. But I think the biggest thing is focusing on what we can control.
“What we can control is right now and the ’22. That’s what we focus on.”
Kelly will have one of the oldest teams of his UCLA tenure this season, after having one of the country’s youngest teams in 2019.
“We have 21 players on our current roster who have graduated. 20 of them are in college,” Kelly said. “Because of COVID, I think we are a very old team. That experience I think will be really helpful. We had great leadership from that group of people. “
While he was able to fill an immediate need by adding experienced players through the transfer portal, the remaining members of his first recruiting class are currently the mainstays of the program. submit.
Fifth-year defender Dorian Thompson-Robinson and senior moderator Zach Charbonnet, a first-team selection for all conventions last season, were the most famous returning players, but did not represent the show. presented at the media day.
Attacking captain Jon Gaines II and defensive back Stephan Blaylock represented the Bruins alongside Kelly. Both were members of the first recruiting class, along with Thompson-Robinson in 2018.
The defense also features fifth-year safe Kenny Churchwell III and sixth-year defensive back Mo Osling III.
“Churchwell played really, really well for us in the safe spring,” Kelly said. “(Blaylock) is a big, tough, downhill, physical player.”
Defensive second-back Devin Kirkwood continued to impress throughout the spring and helped the second team maintain the remarkable sense of energy that Qwuantrezz Knight (San Francisco 49ers) and Quentin Lake (Rams) brought in. previous season.
“The energy is still there because we have so many energetic young cats,” says Blaylock. “I have never seen (Kirkwood) disappointed. Every time you see him come out onto the field, you’ll see him talk and he’ll act. “
Secondary depth could be crucial with UCLA expected to face three of the top Pac-12 defenders this season: USC’s Caleb Williams, Utah’s Cameron Rising and Tanner McKee by Stanford.
“We are now second-rate with Kirkwood and some of the people that we have,” Kelly said. “From what we walked in to where we are now with our high school, our high school looks like what an extra school should look like.”
Kelly replaced six different coaches on her staff and took the opportunity to add a notable alumni to one of those positions.
“We’re very conscious of the people we bring to the team, the same way we bring players in,” Kelly said. “To add a UCLA legend like Ken Norton Jr., give him a chance to bring Ken home, I think everyone in Los Angeles knows Ken, and adding him to the staff is amazing.”
The former Seattle Seahawks defensive lineman has replaced defenders coach Don Pellum, who has spent most of the past three decades as coach for the Pac-10/Pac-12 team. .
Former Chicago Bears quarterback coach Bill McGovern has been hired to replace Jerry Azzinaro, who stepped down as defensive coordinator for the season.
“It’s all on the same page as to what we want to do and what we want to achieve,” says Blaylock. “Every time we walk into the meeting room, everyone is locked in and the energy is always there.”
Kelly also lost Justin Frye, the team’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach, to Ohio State and special team coordinator/coach Derek Sage for Nevada.
Bruins did not label anyone for either of those coordinator roles but has performed coaching roles for them. Former Duke coach Jeff Faris as head coach and offensive analyst Tim Drevno was promoted to offensive team coach.
“We’ve lost a lot of people on the coaching staff but (Drevno) has been here before and the transition was pretty seamless,” Gaines said. “He doesn’t have to come and create a new spell, he carries a lot of the same ideals. … The biggest thing I got from him was that he coached an offensive line that played in the Super Bowl. Who else do you want to learn from? “
UCLA was ranked fourth in the pre-season media poll, behind Utah, Oregon and USC, respectively. The Games abandoned the two-team format, with the result that the champions of the South and North divisions would compete for the championship. This change allows the carnival to have the top two teams compete in the game instead of division winners.
All three Bruins’ non-conference games will air on the Pac-12 Network early in the day. Those games are against Bowling Green (September 3, 11:30 a.m.), Alabama State (September 10, 2 p.m.) and South Alabama (September 17, 11 a.m.), all of at the Rose Bowl.