UCLA football training camp breakdown: quarterbacks – Press Enterprise
There is no uncertainty when it comes to who has the keys when UCLA visits Colorado on Saturday in the Pac-12 and season opener.
Junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has started 18 of 24 games the past two seasons and all but one game last season due to an injury.
“It’s comforting to know we have a veteran back there pulling the trigger,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said.
By all accounts, Thompson-Robinson has had a good camp, and there is a lot of excitement about the dual-threat quarterback starting his third season under Kelly, and how electric that might be.
Robinson has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in his career with the Bruins, including 2,701 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. He also rushed for 198 yards and four touchdowns.
Although the Bruins have won just five games with Thompson-Robinson as a starter over the past two years and the Bruins are just 7-17 overall during that span, this is the season they expect Thompson-Robinson to grow leaps and bounds.
“I just think in year three, there’s a lot more comfort level in Dorian,” Kelly said during a conference call this week. “His knowledge, understanding and not only route structure and route concepts, but protections that are involved in it and being able to help you at the line with their checks. He’s just a more mature and seasoned player because he is going into year three and he works really, really hard.”
During camp, Kelly could tell everything is slowing down for his quarterback.
“When you have someone that’s been there before and done that, you know how he’ll react when things don’t go well, you know how he’ll react when things do go well,” Kelly said. “You’re familiar with just the day-to-day operation of things with him.”
Where Thompson-Robinson needs to improve is protecting the football. He finished with 19 turnovers last season – 12 interceptions and seven fumbles – an area he knows he has to improve.
“If I eliminate those (turnovers), we will be a lot better off,” Thomas Robinson said during camp. “That’s the biggest progression I need to make this year is keeping the ball on offense and not turning it over to the other team.”
As camp closed this week, Thompson-Robinson said they’re ready to go.
“Now that we’ve had four weeks to get together and getting the chemistry all back together and we’re moving as one team,” Thompson-Robinson said. “It’s been really competitive, the most competitive camp I’ve been in so far, and those guys are really getting after it, especially the secondary.”
Here’s a breakdown of where UCLA stands at quarterback going into Saturday’s game at Colorado:
Key returnees: Dorian Thompson-Robinson (Jr.), Chase Artopoeus (R-Fr.), Chase Griffin (R-Fr.).
Key losses: Austin Burton (transfer, Purdue)
Newcomers: Parker McQuarrie (Fr.)
Biggest unanswered question: Who will back-up Thompson-Robinson should he become injured or unable to play? Kelly joked last week he was confident because he didn’t have any other options, but it appears either Chase Artopoeus or Chase Griffin, both redshirt freshman, will take over if needed, but Kelly hasn’t named one over the other. Griffin came to UCLA more recognized after a dominating career at Hutto High School in Texas, where he threw for more than 11,000 yards and 122 touchdowns in three seasons on varsity.
Why 2020 production could be better: Thompson-Robinson’s 19 turnovers last season tied for the most in the country, a stat that can only improve and should improve dramatically. Thompson-Robinson said he didn’t have a turnover during scrimmages this fall. If he can just cut the turnovers in half, it will be a major step forward.
Why 2020 production could be worse: Because of the schedule. UCLA desperately wants to put the last two years behind, but with a challenging seven-game, Pac-12-only schedule, most figure it will be difficult for UCLA to win half its games. Thompson-Robinson’s record as a starter isn’t good, and the schedule won’t make it any easier for him to improve on it.