The depth chart UCLA released Monday contained several notable absences.
The Bruins will open their season against Cincinnati on Saturday at the Rose Bowl without a small chunk of their roster after announcing that six players had been suspended for unspecified violations of athletic department policies.
Running back Soso Jamabo, tight end Devin Asiasi, defensive back Mo Osling, center Boss Tagaloa and defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Moses Robinson-Carr were suspended for the game against the Bearcats.
Jamabo will also be suspended for UCLA’s game against No. 7 Oklahoma on Sept. 8, and Asiasi and Tagaloa must also sit out through the game against Fresno State on Sept. 15.
UCLA coach Chip Kelly would not characterize the nature of the violations but said the punishments were determined on a case-by-case basis. The public announcement marks a change in policy from Kelly’s predecessor, Jim Mora, who rarely divulged player suspensions before games.
“If you made a decision that’s going to hurt your team, you made a decision that’s going to hurt your team,” Kelly said. “So we’ve got to move on and they understand what the punishment is and they’ve got to hopefully learn from it. It’s a teachable point for them to understand how their actions can impact other things. Playing football here at UCLA is a privilege and with that privilege goes responsibility.”
Jamabo had already missed a week’s worth of practices while recovering from an unspecified injury and remained in a noncontact yellow jersey Monday. He was the Bruins’ second-leading rusher last season, when he ran for 446 yards, and helped the team complete the biggest comeback in school history when he caught a swing pass to convert a fourth down on the game-winning drive against Texas A&M.
But Jamabo appeared to have fallen in the running back rotation even before his recent injury. Joshua Kelley, a redshirt junior transfer from UC Davis, and senior Bolu Olorunfunmi were listed as the top tailbacks on the depth chart. Kelly said he anticipated playing “four or five” running backs from a group that also includes junior Brandon Stephens and freshmen Kazmeir Allen and Martell Irby.
Tagaloa was in the running to become the team’s starting center after moving over from defensive line during spring practices. Kelly said Zach Sweeney and Christaphany Murray were contending for the starting job in Tagaloa’s absence.
Odighizuwa, who played in every game last season as a reserve, was vying to start along the defensive line as part of the Bruins’ switch to a 3-4 alignment. Robinson-Carr was likely going to be a backup after switching positions from tight end in the spring. On the depth chart it released, UCLA listed Martin Andrus, Chigozie Nnoruka and Rick Wade as starters along the defensive line.
The Bruins might be able to most easily absorb the loss of Osling because of a veteran secondary that returns three starters in safety Adarius Pickett and cornerbacks Nate Meadors and Darnay Holmes. Osling was exclusively a reserve last season in the secondary and on special teams.
There had been high expectations for Asiasi, a transfer from Michigan who was expected to push returning tight ends Caleb Wilson and Jordan Wilson before the suspension that will delay his Bruins debut until Sept. 28 against Colorado.
Asiasi was among several suspended players who were working almost exclusively with the second and third strings in recent weeks during the portion of practice open to reporters.
“It doesn’t make sense to rep people who aren’t going to play in the opening game,” Kelly said.
When it came to the most heavily contested starting job on the team, UCLA’s depth chart included some color commentary — the word “OR” in red between quarterbacks Devon Modster, Dorian Thompson-Robinson and Wilton Speight. Kelly said those were the finalists at the position after they opened training camp in a five-way battle that also included Matt Lynch and Austin Burton.
Kelly reiterated that there was no deadline to announce a starting quarterback before the opener, saying that he wanted to make sure coaches were thorough in their evaluation of each candidate.
Asked about each quarterback’s strengths, left tackle Andre James mentioned Modster’s experience in the program, Speight’s arm strength and Thompson-Robinson’s upside as a true freshman.
“The dude’s going to be the future, I think, of this program,” James said of Thompson-Robinson. “What I’ve seen out of him is very impressive.”