UCLA’s roster won’t make Chip Kelly plead for speed.
The running backs group alone includes enough zip to hold its own in an Olympic relay. Kazmeir Allen was a California high school sprint champion. Christian Grubb once ran the 100-meter dash in 10.4 seconds. Keegan Jones won the Tennessee high school track title in the 200.
Some claim to be even faster. Receiver Jaylen Erwin on Sunday didn’t list Allen among the fleetest players on the team.
“I put myself top three, easy,” said Erwin, the junior transfer from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College.
Who else made Erwin’s cut? Jones and cornerback Darnay Holmes.
Erwin respects Allen’s credentials, though there are limitations.
“Track speed and football speed,” Erwin said, “are a little different.”
The Bruins lined up and raced in the spring, before some of the freshmen arrived. Erwin won and running back Joshua Kelley, the team’s top returning playmaker on offense, felt like a slouch.
“It didn’t end up well for me,” Kelley said before he suffered a knee injury early in training camp that has sidelined him for the last 10 days.
Erwin flashed his speed in the spring game, when he outran the secondary on the way to a 53-yard reception. It was just the start, he said.
“That’s just a glimpse,” Erwin said. “I have so much more in my tank that I can do. I just can’t wait ‘til Aug. 29 [the date of the season opener against Cincinnati] to show everybody what I can do.”
A couple of players also listed quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson among the team’s fastest players. Thompson-Robinson recently said he anticipated using his legs more this season to run the ball.
Speed is apparently something that’s not lacking at any position.
“From perimeter to backfield, running backs and even to the defense, pass rushers, linebackers and secondary,” Erwin said, “everybody’s fast.”
The team’s stockpile of speedy players gives Kelly additional options when it comes to his offense in Year 2.
UCLA didn’t exactly run the Oregon blur last season in Kelly’s debut season, but the Bruins were among the faster teams in the country when it came to tempo.
UCLA ranked No. 27 nationally in adjusted pace in 2018, according to Football Outsiders. Adjusted pace compares a team’s number of plays run per game to the number of plays expected based on its run-pass ratio.
Kelly said his team could opt to play faster this season based on his players’ increased familiarity with his schemes.
“Our kids have a better understanding of what we’re trying to get accomplished on both sides of the ball,” Kelly said, “so defense gets lined up faster, offense gets lined up faster, so it can [go faster]. That can be a weapon for you if that’s what you choose to do.”
Receiver Chase Cota said the Bruins simplified their signal calls in the spring in a bid to accelerate the tempo.
“Now we can just give one thing to everybody rather than everyone having to get different ones,” Cota said. “We have quick tempo calls and can just get out fast and keep going.”
Kelly said last week that Washington blocked transfer quarterback Colson Yankoff’s bid for immediate eligibility at UCLA, but a Huskies athletic department spokesperson said the school implemented its usual procedure.
“The University of Washington football program followed its standard protocol for intra-conference transfer waivers, adhering to Pac-12 Conference regulations and NCAA transfer rules specific to football,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “UW’s decision remains consistent with past situations.”
Kelly said backup center Sam Marrazzo suffered a leg injury but that it was “nothing long-term.” … Kelly said the Bruins would start formal game preparations for Cincinnati about eight to 10 days before the game.