Dorian Thompson-Robinson started bonding with his offense before he stepped onto UCLA’s campus.
The incoming freshman quarterback reached out to the offensive linemen, receivers and running backs to build chemistry with hopes of a payoff on the field.
Offensive lineman Justin Murphy noticed a difference because of that bond. He and Thompson-Robinson are both fresh faces at UCLA. Murphy, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech, was close with his previous quarterback, and said Thompson-Robinson is making an extra effort to connect with teammates.
For an offense with freshmen starting at multiple positions, extra bonding can make a difference.
Murphy has noticed improvements in the young players between practices. He noted that Thompson-Robinson has developed more patience in the pocket, even under pressure in the hostile environment he faced in UCLA’s 49-21 loss to Oklahoma.
Thompson-Robinson has impressed tailback Bolu Olorunfunmi with his leadership. Olorunfunmi said the quarterback is not afraid to tell his teammates, “Let’s get it going, let’s do this.”
“Now that he’s got a start under his belt, he’s kind of basically taking the team as his …” Olorunfunmi said. “And I think he’s doing a great job of that. And as the season goes on, he will get better and better.”
Return of Jamabo
Olorunfunmi and Soso Jamabo had worked out a system for steering the running back corps.
“Kind of like good cop, bad cop, you know,” Olorunfunmi said. “He will yell at them, get on the young guys like, ‘Come on, get better.’ And I’ll be the guy going over there trying to maybe be a little sweeter, like, ‘Hey, you got to do this, you got to do this.’ ”
With Jamabo suspended for the first two games for violating unspecified athletic department rules, Olorunfunmi had to handle the running backs alone.
Jamabo’s suspension is scheduled to end when the Bruins face Fresno State on Saturday, and Olorunfunmi welcomes the return of a fellow senior.
“That sense of competition and everything, it kind of brings it back …” Olorunfunmi said. “It’s different when you’re out there without a missing brother, and now that we have him, it’s better.”
Speight’s status uncertain
As for whether Wilton Speight will play Saturday, coach Chip Kelly said he was unsure of the status of the quarterback who has been sidelined by a back injury since midway through the season opener.
“We’ve still got three more days of training before we have to make any decisions on who’s playing and who’s not playing at any position,” Kelly said Wednesday. “It’s not just him, it’s anybody. So we’ve got three more days. We’ll continue to take a look and evaluate and we'll go from there.”
Speight participated in practice Wednesday but skipped the run-heavy rollout drills, handing a ball to each quarterback before the others completed the drill. Thompson-Robinson would presumably make a second consecutive start if Speight is unable to play against the Bulldogs.