“As far as I’m concerned,” Dorian Thompson-Robinson said Monday, “it’s still an open competition.”
Thompson-Robinson said coach Chip Kelly had not informed him that he would start over Austin Burton or Chase Griffin against Cincinnati on Thursday during the Bruins’ season opener.
But the surest sign that Thompson-Robinson will take the first snap at Nippert Stadium came in his presence before reporters Monday. No UCLA quarterback spoke with the media in the days before a game last season because of continued uncertainty at the position. Wilton Speight started the opener, went down in the second quarter with a back injury and the starting job vacillated between Thompson-Robinson and Speight the rest of the season.
Thompson-Robinson, a sophomore, was listed as the starter on the depth chart that UCLA released Sunday, and it seemed like such a foregone conclusion that no reporters asked Kelly about the decision a day later.
Thompson-Robinson described himself as “extremely ready compared to last year,” when he trotted onto the field for his college debut against Cincinnati before halftime after Speight’s injury.
Thompson-Robinson completed 15 of 25 passes for 117 yards without a touchdown or an interception during the Bruins’ 26-17 loss, but he had the ball stripped for a safety and misfired on a fourth-down pass to Dymond Lee that fell incomplete early in the fourth quarter. Another pass that would have gone for a long gain to Christian Pabico was dropped.
“I was a little nervous, a little excited, a little bit of everything,” Thompson-Robinson recalled, “but this year, I’m going to be more cool, calm and collected and know what I gotta do to get the job done.”
Thompson-Robinson said the Bruins were seeking more explosive plays this season. It helps that nine starters return on offense, giving the team experience and continuity it was lacking against the Bearcats in 2018.
“It’s really comforting for a quarterback to know that the guy to the left of you and the guy to the right of you and the guys up front are knowing what they’re doing and they’re confident in what they’re doing,” Thompson Robinson said. “ … I’m ready to rock.”
Calvert to miss eight games
Kelly said his understanding was that sophomore linebacker Bo Calvert would miss eight games because of his suspension for an unspecified violation of NCAA rules.
“I think it’s eight games,” Kelly said. I don’t know the exact date” of his return.
Kelly said he could not comment on the nature of the violation but acknowledged it was difficult to lose a player for such a lengthy period.
“He’s an integral member of this team and he made a mistake and he understands it and he’ll become better from it,” Kelly said of Calvert, who has spent the last few days of practice working as a member of the scout team.
Cornerback Darnay Holmes did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media for a second consecutive day, but Kelly said he was fine and would play against the Bearcats. … Kelly said receiver Theo Howard and left tackle Alec Anderson were listed as backups because they were limited in practice recently while recovering from injuries. Howard was behind Jaylen Erwin and Anderson was behind Sean Rhyan on the depth chart released Sunday. Kelly said Anderson, who recently underwent surgery on his leg, would be able to play in the opener. … Kelly said freshman running back Sitiveni Kaufusi would sit out the season as a redshirt after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. ... Cincinnati is expected to be without sophomore running back Tavion Thomas against the Bruins after Bearcats coach Luke Fickell told reporters Monday that he didn’t expect Thomas to be available “for a couple of weeks” after missing part of training camp for unspecified reasons. Thomas ran for 499 yards and six touchdowns last season, though he did not play against UCLA.