Josh Rosen was so intrigued by the possibility of playing for Chip Kelly that he contemplated staying at UCLA for another year rather than becoming the Arizona Cardinals’ first-round draft pick.
The Bruins’ stumbles during Kelly’s first season haven’t changed the quarterback’s admiration for the coach.
“I’m a big believer in Chip Kelly, I’ve got a lot of buddies on the team and I think they’ll keep pushing on,” Rosen said this week during a telephone interview. “They’ve won two [in a row], so hopefully they’ll start stacking them.
“A lot of my best friends are still on that team, so I’m always rooting for them the best I can.”
Rosen knows about persevering through a difficult situation. The Cardinals fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy last week after the team fell to 1-6 following a 45-10 home loss to the Denver Broncos. Rosen has also had to play behind an offensive line that has struggled to protect him at times, giving up 2.7 sacks per game.
The rookie has completed 55% of his passes for 820 yards with three touchdowns and five interceptions.
His successors at UCLA have also had uneven starts with the Bruins. True freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson was beginning to show full command of the offense, completing 73.4% of his passes over the last three games before suffering an unspecified upper-body injury against Arizona last weekend.
Graduate transfer Wilton Speight replaced Thompson-Robinson against the Wildcats, shook off a slow start and guided the Bruins to a 31-30 victory with two touchdown passes, then started Friday and struggled.
“It’s a new system, they’re all adjusting,” Rosen said when asked about the quarterbacks. “I think they’ve both had their ups and downs but I think long-term the Bruins will be just fine.”
Thompson-Robinson emerged from the locker room alongside Speight before UCLA’s game against Utah on Friday night at the Rose Bowl, trotting onto the field to toss warmup passes.
They would be the only ones he threw.
Thompson-Robinson took pregame snaps from backup center Christaphany Murray, a tipoff that Speight was on track to make the start. Thompson-Robinson wore a wrapping over his upper right arm and presumably his shoulder area, which was covered by his jersey.
Thompson-Robinson had made significant progress in his recovery earlier this week. He went from not throwing Monday during the portion of practice that was open to media to putting some zip on his passes Tuesday while appearing to be a full participant in practice.
But Speight continued to work with the first team, a pairing that would continue a few days later against Utah.
They’re out, too
UCLA played without receiver Kyle Philips and linebacker Bo Calvert.
Philips has missed four consecutive games because of an unspecified injury, last playing against Colorado on Sept. 28. Calvert, who had played in every game since making his college debut against Fresno State last month, had missed practice this week for unspecified reasons.
The Bruins were also without linebacker Marcus Moore, who missed a second consecutive game after being suspended for an unspecified violation of team rules.
The century mark
UCLA receiver Theo Howard’s 24-yard catch late in the second quarter among a bevy of defenders was the 100th of his college career. The junior became the 25th receiver to hit that threshold in school history.
Howard has also caught at least one pass in 24 consecutive games.