UCLA spring showcase might provide glimpses of new coach Chip Kelly’s plans
It could be more of a jam session than a full-on rehearsal.
Significant band members will be missing. The lyrics are still being mastered. The date and location won’t be printed on the back of any T-shirts.
“UCLA spring football showcase 2018, Drake Stadium” probably won’t closely approximate what the Bruins unveil Sept. 1 in their season opener against Cincinnati at the Rose Bowl. But some of the chords could resonate throughout coach Chip Kelly’s first season.
“It’s a new UCLA, a new mind-set and we’re coming,” tailback Soso Jamabo said when asked about the impression the Bruins want to leave with fans Saturday during their annual spring showcase.
The format was still being debated late into the week. Kelly said he wanted to hold a game but cautioned that depth shortages could curtail those hopes in favor of something less viewer friendly.
Tight end Caleb Wilson, linebacker Josh Woods, safety Adarius Pickett, receiver Kyle Philips and defensive backs Keyon Riley and Colin Samuel were among the players wearing yellow jerseys in practice Thursday, meaning they were either sidelined by injuries or being eased back in their recovery. Defensive end Jaelan Phillips, tight end Jimmy Jaggers and linebackers Mique Juarez and Je’Vari Anderson were absent, further thinning depth.
Twenty-four freshmen and transfers who are expected to report for training camp in August also won’t be available. That group includes quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is contending with Devon Modster for the starting job, as well as receiver Bryan Addison and a host of other highly touted recruits.
Splitting what’s left of their roster could preclude the Bruins from having enough depth to stage a game. But fans shouldn’t worry. The famously detail-oriented Kelly said he has hatched a bevvy of alternatives.
“We’ve got every scenario ready,” Kelly said. “We’ve got 27 formats and we’re going to pick format 13 based upon we have 81 guys. If we have 79 guys, we’re going to go to format No. 12. So we’re going to go right down the list.”
Fans should be able to catch glimpses of Kelly’s plans regardless of the format. Whatever the Bruins do, they figure to do it fast and hard, two central tenets of Kelly’s philosophy.
If the spring practices open to the public were any indication, UCLA will run lots of plays with only a handful of seconds between snaps. Many plays will develop quickly near the line of scrimmage, a staple as Kelly slowly layered in aspects of his blur offense over the last few weeks.
Receiver Christian Pabico described what the players have been exposed to as “the raw meat” of the offense, with the marinades and seasonings to come.
“We can add in little things here and there as we progress forward,” Pabico said. “Once we’re able to fully grasp the offense, that’s when we’ll be able to really be fluid.”
The spring showcase will be followed by what should be an active dead period leading into training camp. Even with no formal practices allowed, Pabico said the Bruins would reconvene for player-run practices to continue learning Kelly’s schemes while honing their timing and conditioning.
A group of newcomers will arrive in June, finding their way amid more seasoned teammates before the learning commences anew once Kelly holds formal practices again later in the summer.
But first comes a spring game … or a scrimmage … or a glorified practice.
“Ideally, I think you want a real game,” Pabico said, “but whatever coach has set up for us, that’s what we’re going to do.”
What: UCLA spring football showcase
Where: Drake Stadium
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
TV: Pac-12 Network
Cost: $10 ($15 on day of game) or $5 for UCLA students and kids ages 3-12; info at uclabruins.com/springgame.
Parking: $12 in lots 4, 7, 8 and 9.
Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch
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