Two games and one breakthrough performance have done nothing to clarify UCLA’s quarterback situation.
Coach Chip Kelly said Monday that graduate transfer Wilton Speight wasn’t guaranteed to be the starter once he returned from the back injury that has sidelined him since the season opener.
But Dorian Thompson-Robinson doesn’t have any assurances of making a second consecutive start even after his strong showing in Speight’s absence against Oklahoma on Saturday.
Asked if there was a temptation to grow with the true freshman going forward, Kelly said, “Nope. Our temptation is to beat Fresno.”
That would be Fresno State (1-1), the Bruins’ next opponent as they try to avoid their first 0-3 start since the 1971 team dropped its first four games on the way to a 2-7-1 season. (The 1977 team also technically started 0-3 after UCLA had to vacate a victory over Kansas at the Coliseum.)
Speight was more actively involved in practice Monday than he was last week. He threw several 25-yard passes and took snaps out of the shotgun formation before handing off to running backs.
But Speight did not participate in a drill in which the quarterbacks rolled out and fired passes, indicating that his mobility remained limited.
With the team off next week, UCLA has the option of letting Speight sit out the game against the Bulldogs on Saturday at the Rose Bowl to have essentially three weeks of rest before the Bruins open Pac-12 Conference play against Colorado on Sept. 28.
Kelly said Speight’s status was largely contingent on his recovery but implied there were also other factors.
“There’s no promises to anybody,” Kelly said. “We want to make sure he’s healthy before we do anything.”
Thompson-Robinson appeared to have won the confidence of his teammates after continually eluding pressure against Oklahoma and playing with the same resoluteness after each of the Sooners’ six sacks. He completed 16 of 26 passes for 254 yards and one touchdown with no interceptions.
“It’s like he’s the leader,” said true freshman receiver Chase Cota, who caught four passes for 45 yards. “He realizes he has to take us in like we’re his team, and I’ve bought into it. I’m like, ‘Shoot, DTR is our leader right now,’ so it’s pretty special, and I think he’s doing a great job in that role.”
Run, Soso, run?
Tailback Soso Jamabo, who’s eligible to return from a two-game suspension for an unspecified violation of athletic department rules, did not appear to be at practice Monday.
Kelly said playing time for the six players suspended for varying lengths was contingent on their performance before game day.
“If they practice and train well,” Kelly said, “then they’ll get a chance to compete and play for a job.”
Defensive back Mo Osling and defensive linemen Osa Odighizuwa and Moses Robinson-Carr made their season debuts Saturday after having been suspended for the opener. Tight end Devin Asiasi and center Boss Tagaloa remain suspended through the game against Fresno State.
Not so special
UCLA gave up an 86-yard kickoff return and a 66-yard punt return against the Sooners. Kelly said the special teams breakdowns came as a result of simply being outhustled.
“I think [it’s] effort, to be honest with you,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to get better effort. If not, we’re going to find other guys.”
Linebacker Jaelan Phillips returned to practice after leaving the Oklahoma game in the second quarter because of an unspecified injury.… Kelly said linebacker Mique Juarez, who did not make the trip to Oklahoma, was “out” from practice Monday but did not elaborate. … Offensive linemen Zach Sweeney and Stephen DeFranco and linebackers Leni Toailoa, Elijah Wade and Je’Vari Anderson wore yellow jerseys in practice to denote they were recovering from injuries and off limits from contact.