When Obi Eboh was thinking of places to transfer after finishing his career at Stanford and earning his degree, he thought of his upbringing in Texas, and figured UCLA would be the perfect place to move on as a grad transfer, having one more season of eligibility, and where he could enter UCLA’s School of Law in the Master of Legal Studies program.
The move south made too much sense for the defensive back who went to Carroll High School in Southlake, Texas, before choosing Stanford back in 2016.
“I think geographically, it made sense because it’s not too far away from Stanford, where I can see a few of my buddies and have them come down here,” Eboh said during a zoom call with reporters. “It’s still in the Pac-12, so I’m familiar with most, if not all the teams that we’ve played before. And I think, ultimately you’re not going to be productive, if you’re not in a place where you’re happy, and even coming out of high school, I was considering USC, UCLA and always wanted to kind of check out what Los Angeles was about.”
And so far, he hasn’t been disappointed.
“You know Texas is pretty flat, so even now I’m looking at the mountains and palm trees and I’m like, ‘Man, oh my gosh,’ I think, just the combination of those three things,” Eboh said. “I also got into the UCLA School of Law and that was a big deal for me and so once I got into that graduate program, that’s kind of the icing on the cake.”
Eboh could play a major role at a key position for the Bruins in the secondary, where they ranked last in pass defense in the Pac-12 in 2019. And overall, the Bruins’ defense has been one of the worst in the country over the past two seasons.
Eboh brings experience, and he is coming off his best season in 2019 with Stanford, in which he started six games with 23 tackles.
Eboh has some familiarity with new defensive backs coach Brian Norwood, who helped Navy to an 11-1 season in 2019 before arriving at UCLA with his 4-2-5 defense.
“I actually had a relationship with coach Norwood prior to coming here and prior to Stanford,” Eboh said. “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 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.”
Eboh said having played in the Pac-12 should help him preparing for opponents.
“I’ve been seeing these guys (in the Pac-12) for three or four years so I think every team on the schedule I’ve played,” Eboh said. “So, when it comes to studying them on film and looking at their tendencies and formations and stuff, it’s not something that’s like super brand new to me. Three and four years of notes on them where I’ve studied their releases, formations and other tendencies, so, when it comes to game week and when we’re prepping for them, I’ll have a leg up for sure.”
Eboh said he’s been asked to multi-task during the first week and a half of camp.
“Right now, I play cornerback and I’m learning both boundary and field cornerback, mostly playing towards the boundary but just working there,” Eboh said. “So, even though I’m playing those positions, 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.”
During a conference call on Monday, Bruins coach Chip Kelly said versatility is important, especially not knowing what will happen week-to-week with possible COVID-19 infections.
“Within our positions, we know as a coaching staff there has to be extreme flexibility, so safeties have to be able to play corners and corners have to be able to play safeties,” Kelly said. “Sideline backers and outside linebackers, there are some D-lineman that can play outside backers and some outside backers than can play D-line. If you’re tackle is down, it’s not automatically next left tackle that goes into the game, it could be the right guard because of depth issues.”
For the new players, UCLA coach Chip Kelly said the biggest adjustment is just learning the language.
“Biggest thing for Obi and anybody else is really learning our terminology,” Kelly said. “If you’re a secondary guy you’ve probably played Cover 2, Cover 3 and man and all those other things. You may have called it something at your school and we call it this in our school, so they have to learn our terminology.”
PLAYERS SAY NUTRITION HAS MADE A DIFFERENCE
UCLA is also counting on another grad transfer at defensive back, Qwuantrezz Knight, who transferred from Kent State. Knight, an Ohio native, and Eboh, both talked about the Bruins’ nutrition program as one of the biggest differences from their prior schools.
“I feel like our nutrition coaches do a great job,” Knight said. “I’d say the biggest difference between here and Kent State, as far as nutrition goes, I mean, definitely how they take care of the players.
“I’m not saying Kent State doesn’t do that, we take care of our players at a different level here as far as nutrition. We have three, at least three meals a day. Full course meals, I actually look forward to the meals every day.”
Those meals didn’t go unnoticed with Eboh, either.
“We might be the most well fed team in the country,” Eboh said. “I don’t know, I’ve been to a couple other places, but the nutrition and things that they’re giving us before practice, after practice and lunch and dinner. We’re eating good food and we’re hydrating well and they’re giving us all the tools in that regards to be fueled up.”