UCLA has commenced game preparations for its season opener against Cincinnati while wondering what surprises the Bearcats might unveil.
There’s also a few lingering mysteries in-house.
The Bruins have not formally named a starting quarterback nine days before their opener at the Rose Bowl. Coach Chip Kelly recently said the winner of the job should be apparent to players as well as coaches, but receiver Christian Pabico said there remained no clear front-runner with only two days left in training camp.
“I wouldn’t go as far as to say that someone has separated [himself],” Pabico said Thursday. “I think all the quarterbacks are doing a really good job.”
Graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight has worked with what appears to be the first-team offense during formation drills in recent practices, but reporters have not been able to observe any team periods.
Kelly has not provided any meaningful insight into the quarterback race that also involves redshirt sophomore Devon Modster and true freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson besides there being no formal deadline to name a starter. The coach is next scheduled to speak with reporters Friday morning.
Pabico said the Bruins are basing their early preparations for Cincinnati on what they should do rather than who will be doing it.
“We’re really just game-planning what we should be doing from a play-call standpoint and not really based off our personnel,” he said.
UCLA is also seeking a starting center after struggling with snaps throughout training camp. Pabico said that was another position that didn’t appear settled, though the team didn’t have “any issues” with snapping Thursday. Zach Sweeney was snapping to Speight during a drill that reporters watched early in practice.
Pabico said players have eliminated the mental mistakes they were making earlier in camp while learning the new offense.
“Now that we’ve got a grasp of all the concepts,” Pabico said, “we’re playing at a really fast tempo.”
Sprint to the finish?
Several players were dragging a bit early in practice, sparking a reprieve from Jerry Azzinaro. The fiery defensive coordinator made the players run a series of sprints and loudly informed them they needed to do things only one way — his.
Low energy has not been an issue for most of camp.
Linebacker Krys Barnes said the recovery aspect of Kelly’s sports science program, which includes daily monitoring of players’ bodies with tracking devices, has helped the Bruins withstand the demands of warp-speed practices.
“I talk to everybody on the team, and we all feel like our bodies feel the best they’ve ever felt — especially being this late in camp,” Barnes said. “So that’s good to hear. And going into the season, a week-and-a-half away, it’s good to know that our bodies are feeling” good.
Pabico said he’s been eating more frequently as part of the team’s revamped nutrition plan, which has allowed him to more easily maintain his ideal weight.