UCLA’s Chip Kelly hopes to have enough healthy players to hold a real spring game on Saturday
Some semblance of football will be played Saturday morning at UCLA’s Drake Stadium. The Bruins could hold a spring game or a glorified practice, depending on the roster depth available to coach Chip Kelly.
That is, unless things take a drastic turn for the worse over the next few days.
“Worst-case scenario is influenza and the game is canceled,” Kelly cracked Tuesday before contemplating other infectious diseases that could wipe out his team. “Bubonic plague? What else could knock them [out]? No, Ebola would be worse because then they would be really sick, so we don’t want that.
“We’ll just wait until we figure out how many [players] we’ve got and then we’ll go through what we want to get accomplished.”
Kelly noted that some positions on the team were thinner than others but added that things could change quickly. Safety Adarius Pickett, linebacker Josh Woods, defensive back Keyon Riley and tight end Caleb Wilson were among the players wearing yellow jerseys Tuesday, designating them as recovering from injuries. Linebacker Mique Juarez and defensive end Jaelan Phillips also continued to be absent because of injuries.
The team will hold one final spring practice Thursday before assessing its options for Saturday.
“I’ve always wanted to play a game,” Kelly said, “but we won’t be able to determine that until after Thursday.”
Count outside linebacker Rahyme Johnson among those who want the Bruins to maintain the ferociousness they’ve unleashed during Saturday practices that have featured live tackling.
“I hope we get to have the game so we can have real football plays, see guys actually play football instead of scripts,” Johnson said.
Closed for business
Security guards manned the ledge of a parking lot overlooking the Bruins’ practice fields Tuesday morning, shooing away observers who lingered for more than a few seconds.
It was the first closed practice of the Kelly era at UCLA.
Reporters were allowed to watch the first 20 minutes of practice before being shepherded outside of Spaulding Field with the exception of Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel, who was given special access.
Asked about his thinking in closing the final two practices of the spring after having provided open access over the previous four weeks, Kelly said: “I just wanted to see what that meant, to be honest with you. They said they can close them or open them, so what does it look like closed, what does it look like opened? But it’s just a normal practice for us.”
Kelly gave reporters nearly unfettered access during his first two seasons at Oregon before closing practices in the run-up to the 2011 Bowl Championship Series title game against Auburn.
“At that point, it went from wide open to almost completely shut down — and remained shut down thereafter,” said George Schroeder, national colleges writer for USA Today who covered Kelly at Oregon as a columnist for the Eugene Register-Guard. “Shutting it down included practicing almost all the time in the [Ducks’] indoor facility.”
Schroeder noted that Kelly remained accessible to the media until his departure after the 2012 season, speaking with reporters after practices and making his assistant coaches and players available with few restrictions.
Since his arrival at UCLA, Kelly has spoken with reporters once or twice a week and always before practices. He has not made his assistant coaches available for interviews with the exception of graduate assistant Jerry Neuheisel. Kelly said he had not decided whether training camp practices would be open.
Kelly said defensive lineman Greg Rogers has been granted a release from his scholarship and is no longer with the team. Rogers made 11 tackles, including two for losses, last season as a freshman. … Kelly said defensive back Octavius Spencer was not with the team at the start of spring practice because he wasn’t enrolled in school at the time and defensive back Will Lockett was also initially absent because of a suspension. Both players are back with the team in good standing. … Kelly said walk-on quarterback Nick Juels has quit football and offensive lineman Paco Perez left the team before spring practice.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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