Things could get a bit testy the next time UCLA plays Washington.
Bruins coach Chip Kelly said Thursday that the Huskies had blocked transfer quarterback Colson Yankoff’s bid to gain immediate eligibility, forcing the redshirt freshman to sit out a second consecutive season.
Yankoff, a highly touted prospect from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, did not play in 2018 while buried on the depth chart with the Huskies. Now he’ll have to sit out 2019 before gaining eligibility when UCLA opens the 2020 season against New Mexico State.
“It’s unfortunate for Colson,” Kelly said. “ … Our hands are tied as far as that situation.”
Kelly intimated that an appeal with the NCAA would be useless because the governing body “always sides with the school” from which the player transferred. Kelly said he was in favor of providing transfers with immediate eligibility.
“I think everybody should be available,” Kelly said. “We don’t block anybody, that’s just our school and our [team] policy. So that’s a question for Washington, not us.”
Washington coach Chris Petersen was largely critical of transfers during the Pac-12 Conference’s media day last month, comparing their movement to professional free agency.
“I’ve seen too many guys, including myself, have to work through hard things where maybe you tap out, or it’s easier, I’m going to go somewhere else [where] I think it’s better,” said Petersen, alluding to his having played for Sacramento City College for two years before transferring to UC Davis. “It’s usually not.”
Petersen later told a group of reporters that he was in favor of allowing transfers “when a kid truly can’t play at this level.” Jacob Eason, the Huskies’ likely starting quarterback this season, transferred from Georgia.
Yankoff and fellow Washington freshman quarterback Jacob Sirmon both put their names in the transfer portal after last season, with Sirmon ultimately returning to the Huskies.
“I think when you’ve got young guys, you’d like them to hang in there and battle, grind things out,” Petersen said last month. “That’s one of the principles we always talk about. Good things in your life are going to be things that you really have to fight for, go through hard things.
“It takes time to build true, elite skill. I think you want guys to hang in there and make sure they give themselves an opportunity to do that before they think their time is up.”
Petersen later added that the eligibility decision shouldn’t be left in the hands of coaches.
“I don’t think it should be on the coaches, ‘Yeah, let’s let this guy go and not let this guy go,’” Petersen said. “I think we should have rules and organization to make it run effectively.”
The NCAA reportedly recently stiffened its standards for immediate transfer eligibility, granting such requests only in cases in which players could demonstrate they had been pressured to leave by a team or a coach; had been the victim of egregious behavior by their original school; had an injured or sick immediate family member; or had suffered an injury or illness themselves.
Yankoff will have to wait a while for any payback; UCLA is not scheduled to play Washington again until 2021 as part of the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule.
Kelly said senior inside linebacker Tyree Thompson would miss the start of the season while recovering from foot surgery but did not provide a timetable for his return.
The loss of Thompson means that the Bruins will open the season against Cincinnati on Aug. 29 without two projected starting linebackers. Senior outside linebacker Keisean Lucier-South is expected to miss at least the season’s first three games because of academic issues.
Linebacker Lokeni Toailoa slotted into the void created by Thompson’s absence next to inside linebacker Krys Barnes during walkthroughs Thursday. Toailoa’s brother, Leni, has played outside linebacker opposite Josh Woods to fill the spot vacated by Lucier-South.
“Just go with the guys you got,” Kelly said. “We feel like we got good depth there and continue to develop those guys.”
Backup center Sam Marrazzo was moving on crutches in the weight room. … Tight end Matt Lynch and receiver Jaylen Erwin swapped jersey numbers, with Lynch taking No. 81 and Erwin No. 15. Lynch said that Kelly wanted all the tight ends to wear numbers in the 80s.