UCLA will try to open season with a win for first time in Chip Kelly’s tenure – Press Enterprise
Don’t know if UCLA football coach Chip Kelly enjoyed the question as the Bruins football team finally gets ready for its Pac-12 and season opener on Saturday at Colorado at 5 p.m., after an abbreviated training camp and daily testing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Due to the Pac-12’s late summer decision to play football this fall, there are no nonconference games, leaving the Bruins just a six-game conference schedule that includes a bonus seventh game at the end of the season in December.
No nonconference games are great, right? UCLA is 0-6 under Chip Kelly in nonconference games his two previous years as the head coach. Kelly’s two-year record in Westwood is just 7-17.
Was there a reason for the slow starts?
“No,” Kelly said when asked about it during a conference call with reporters on Monday. “Our slow starts had nothing to do with being not-sharp and focused, we played pretty good teams.”
In each of Chip Kelly’s two seasons, the Bruins have lost to a Cincinnati team ranked in the top 25 in the openers. And they’ve also lost nonconference games to top-10 ranked Oklahoma each year.
Anything Kelly would have done differently?
“Nope,” Kelly said, quickly moving on to the next question.
Had there never been COVID or a shutdown, UCLA would have had its easiest nonconference schedule since Kelly arrived with New Mexico State, Hawaii and San Diego State.
But that’s all in the past now, and the Bruins and Kelly will get their first crack at a season-opening win under his tenure this weekend. UCLA opened as a six-point favorite over Colorado on most betting lines.
“You want to win every game,” Kelly said. “So, there’s not like we can’t get off to a slow start this season as opposed to any another season. So, you’re trying to win every play, every game, every rep, every series and every opportunity you have. That is the plan and that always will be the plan.”
UCLA RELEASES ITS DEPTH CHART
The Bruins released their depth chart on Monday, listing the top two players at each position, and there weren’t any big surprises, except they didn’t list a No. 2 quarterback.
Redshirt freshmen Chase Griffin and Chase Artopoeus were listed as “and/or” No. 2 behind third-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
At running back, senior Demetric Felton was listed as RB1 along with Duke transfer Brittain Brown.
The other projected starters on offense include receivers Jaylen Erwin, Chase Cota and Kyle Phillips, with Mike Martinez at tight end.
The offensive line projected starters include Sean Rhyan (LT), Jon Gaines II (LG), Sam Marrazzo (C), Duke Clemens (RG), and Alec Anderson (RT).
On defense, Jay Shaw and Obi Eboh are listed as the starting cornerbacks with Stephan Blaylock and Quentin Lake as safeties. On the defensive line, Datona Jackson (DL) and Osa Odighizuwa (DL) are projected to start along with Leni Toailoa (ILB), Bo Calvert (ILB), freshman Damian Sellers (OLB), Mitchell Agude (OLB) and Tyler Manoa (NG).
Kelly said not to not make too much of it, especially at the running back and receiver positions along with tight ends and the secondary, where they will be rotating several players that go well beyond the two-deep depth chart they released.
“We always play multiple running backs,” Kelly said. “You’ll see both of them (Felton and Brown) and you’ll see Keegan (Jones) and Kazmeir (Allen) and more than just one there.
“Almost every position except for quarterback you’re going to see everybody. You hope you don’t have to put your second quarterback in, but every other position we’re going to rotate our running backs, we’re going to rotate our receivers and we’re going to rotate our tight ends. We’re going to rotate our offensive line and same thing defensively, we plan on playing everybody that’s listed on the two-deep (chart).”
KICKING AND PUNTING DUTIES BELONG TO LUKE AKERS AND NICK BARR-MIRA
The Bruins will be using a new place kicker and punter in Saturday’s game after the graduation of kicker JJ Molson and punter Wade Lees, who came to the Bruins last year as a 31-year-old graduate transfer.
It appears that Luke Akers and Nick Barr-Mira will handle the duties, but who kicks field goals and extra points, and who punts is still not determined.
Kelly said he will determine who does what on Saturday, but noted last week that he likes both.
“We haven’t finalized that, it’s down to those two,” Kelly said. “I think it’s Nick or Luke kicking and it’s Nick or Luke punting. We’ve got a couple more opportunities for them and interestingly enough, Nick holds for Luke and Luke holds for Nick, so they are two peas in a pod and are with each other twenty-four seven.”
Akers is the son of former NFL kicker and six-time All-Pro David Akers, who played in the NFL for 16 seasons, mostly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Barr-Mira is the half-brother of former Bruins linebacker Anthony Barr, who is in the NFL with the Minnesota Vikings.
“I am confident with those guys,” Kelly said. “I think they’ve done a nice job in the situations that we put them in so far. However, kicking in practice, and kicking in a game are two different things. But I know our staff has confidence in both of those guys.”