Bruins’ ever-changing offense getting the Chip Kelly treatment


Learning a new offense has become a spring ritual at UCLA.

From Noel Mazzone’s spread to Kennedy Polamalu’s pro style to Jedd Fisch’s multiple to Chip Kelly’s blur, the Bruins have studied the nuances of four offenses in as many years.

The lessons have been staggered over the last three weeks of practices.

“We’re adding something on a daily basis, kind of a real layering approach,” Kelly said before practice Saturday. “Normally, when you’ve been in a program for at least a year, you can kind of pick up in spring ball and they have a ton of retention from what you did — whether it was in bowl practice or during the season — so their first day for us … was the first time we’ve ever been on the field with them.


“So where we even line up for stretches is even brand new to them. So every day, I’m just hoping they get a little bit better.”

Progress has been hard to gauge at the midpoint of spring practices. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, a contender for starting quarterback, is among a handful of potential contributors who are finishing their senior year of high school. Tight end Caleb Wilson is among players who have been slowed or sidelined because of injuries.

What the Bruins look like now may have little resemblance to the team that takes the field for its season opener against Cincinnati on Sept. 1 at the Rose Bowl.

Practices have featured scads of short, quick passes, many thrown horizontally along the line of scrimmage. The team mixed in some triple-option plays Saturday, several of which went awry on botched pitches from the quarterback.

“It’s a lot of read option, dish-and-dunk kind of stuff,” receiver Theo Howard said, “but we’re all embracing it and we like it.”

Howard is a junior, meaning he’s had to learn only three offenses; the seniors and redshirt juniors have had to study a new playbook four times.

“It just teaches us just to have some diversity,” Howard said of continually switching offenses. “It’s a challenge but we’re embracing it and taking it on. We’re getting a lot of help from different coaches and we’re all helping each other, which is the most important thing.”

A coach at one point told Howard to stop what he was doing. Literally. The receiver’s GPS monitoring device told coaches that his workload had reached a point where he should rest for the balance of practice.

“That was interesting,” Howard said. “I never really had that before.”

Howard said said he felt “normal” but didn’t fight the additional rest.

“It’s what they say goes,” he said.

Static youth?

Kelly has some advice for Thompson-Robinson before he joins the quarterback competition. It has nothing to do with studying the playbook or staying in shape.

“My message to any of those kids is go enjoy being a kid in high school,” Kelly said. “You only get to be a high school senior once, so enjoy your last couple of months there, make sure you finish up strong academically and then we’ll see him and the rest of the guys that will enroll, they’ll be here for class on [June] 25.

“Everybody in today’s society seems to be in a rush to — I don’t know where they’re going, maybe they’re in a rush to go nowhere. So let’s let him finish up at [Bishop] Gorman [High] and when he gets here on the 25th, we’ll have plenty of time.”


Kelly said he did not know whether defensive end Jaelan Phillips, who will be sidelined for the duration of spring practice after undergoing surgery for a wrist injury, would be able to return by the season opener. … Receiver Audie Omotosho joined the group of players wearing yellow jerseys after sustaining an unspecified injury in practice earlier this week. … Kelly, when asked about Arizona State counterpart Herm Edwards cutting players but keeping them on scholarship: “I’ve never done anything like that, no.”

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