Many tight ends are battling for reps at a position UCLA coach Chip Kelly says he will use as aggressively as he has in the past.
When wide receiver Kyle Philips was asked about the tight ends the Bruins will employ this season, the player that the redshirt sophomore receiver singled out and the compliments he paid were striking.
Philips has joined quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson in praising redshirt sophomore Greg Dulcich, who played so well last season he was awarded a scholarship in March.
Dulcich was a three-star recruit out of St. Francis High in La Cañada Flintridge, where he had 1,168 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns during his senior season in 2017.
Upon graduating in 2018, Dulcich bet on himself and walked on at UCLA, and now teammates are raving about him.
“Greg Dulcich, he’s one of the …. I could see him being one of the best tight ends in the country this year with how he’s able to run routes, get separation and catch the ball,” Philips said.
When asked about it, Dulcich just pawned it all off on hard work. Not just himself, but everyone.
“When last season ended, our whole tight end group was pretty adamant about getting into the weight room and getting our weight up,” said the 6-foot-4 Dulcich, who had eight receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown in 11 games last season.
“I went from 220 (pounds) last year, to 238, 240, in that area. So I’m just really embracing the position.”
Thompson-Robinson compared his roommate to a former UCLA running back who parlayed his walk-on status into being drafted by the Chargers in April.
“He’s like a Joshua Kelley,” the junior quarterback said. “He’s a guy from day one had his nose down, a blue-collar guy who comes in and works every day, and his work has obviously shown to the point being able to get in, get in with the starters, get on scholarship, and stuff like that.”
Thompson-Robinson says Dulcich is always on his iPad going over the playbook or watching film, and constantly battering him with questions.
“He works really hard,” Thompson-Robinson said. “He’s my roommate, so I get to see him every day and build a relationship with him every day, and now he’s a starting tight end here so I get to build that relationship on a whole other level.”
Dulcich doesn’t know how to approach football any other way than hard work, so earning a scholarship did little to change his approach, though it did help his wallet.
Dulcich was at home in quarantine like most others when Kelly called him on his birthday March 26 to deliver the news.
“Pretty much the only difference that I had to overcome as a walk-on was just having to pay my way,” Dulcich said. “I was always treated the same way. I was getting the same opportunities, and that’s the way we do things here. If you can play and work hard and put yourself out there, you’ll have good things coming your way.”
The Bruins’ tight end corps includes sophomores Michael Martinez and David Priebe and Miami transfer Evidence Njoku, a redshirt junior who was recently cleared to play by the NCAA.
There has been concern over the group – not because of who is on the depth chart, but because of who has moved on.
Devin Asiasi, whom the Bruins hoped would be back this season, left school early and is now a rookie with the New England Patriots.
Jordan Wilson entered the transfer portal in January and is now at Florida State.
And UCLA is still looking for a playmaker like All-America second-teamer Caleb Wilson, who left early for the NFL after his breakthrough season in 2018 in which he set school records for a tight end with 60 receptions and 965 receiving yards.
“We definitely have some big shoes to fill,” Dulcich said. “Caleb and Devin really paved the way for us the last couple years. They were big leaders in the meeting rooms and on the field for us, to all those younger guys.”
Dulcich expects himself and others to fill those shoes, which is why he was pleased to hear Kelly plans to use his arsenal of tight ends as he has in the past.
“Absolutely,” Dulcich said. “The intent that we have as a group, and being here, our third year, me and David and Mike got a lot of experience last year.
“Michael Churich (redshirt freshman walk-on) knows the offense really well. Evidence has been coming in, really good, so we know exactly what we’re doing and we think we’ve been coming into it really well with just understanding that we’ve got to do whatever we’re asked, be balanced in all aspects of our game. And I think Coach Kelly realizes that, so he’s excited about our group.”
Dulcich also says tight ends and special teams coach Derek Sage has done a good job bringing them along.
“We make sure that we know how to do every aspect of the tight end position, whether that’s in-line blocking or split out wide,” Dulcich said. “And I think Coach Sage has done a really good job coaching us both ways, and making sure that we work our inside hands on blocks and we work our releases at receiver and looking at the ball all the way and that kind of stuff, so I think we’re really well balanced, all of us.”