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It’s game on for UCLA’s Alec Anderson after Jake Burton departs

UCLA lineman Alec Anderson protects quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson from Washington State's Will Rodgers III in 2019.
UCLA lineman Alec Anderson (70) protects quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson from the pass rush of Washington State’s Will Rodgers III on Sept. 21, 2019, in Pullman, Wash.
(William Mancebo / Getty Images)

Alec Anderson learned about fellow UCLA offensive lineman Jake Burton’s departure the same way many casual fans did. He heard about it on ESPN.

“I mean, at the time it kind of sucked,” Anderson said Tuesday via Zoom, “but you’ve just got to roll with what happens.”

Burton transferred to Baylor in late August, giving himself a chance to play a fall season at a time when it looked like the Bruins would be sidelined until at least early 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In something of a role reversal, Burton has barely played amid continued postponements related to the coronavirus and the Bruins have all but eliminated viral transmission since returning to campus in late June, putting them on track to open the season against Colorado on Nov. 7.

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In an effort to mitigate the effect of players potentially testing positive for the coronavirus, UCLA players are practicing at different positions.

Burton’s exit also has provided an opportunity that Anderson has seized with both of his massive hands. Anderson has taken over at right tackle in training camp as part of a first string that also includes left tackle Sean Rhyan, center Sam Marrazzo and guards Duke Clemens and Jon Gaines II, with graduate transfer Paul Grattan Jr. mixing in on some plays.

“We’re doing great things, that’s all I can really say,” said Anderson, a redshirt sophomore. “The chemistry is unbelievable out here.”

Anderson alternated at guard and tackle during his first two college seasons but said he’s equally happy at either position and will play wherever coaches need him. He figures to get plenty of repetitions after Burton bolted.

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Burton was touted as a potential starting right tackle at Baylor but was unavailable for unspecified reasons for the Bears’ delayed season opener Sept. 26 against Kansas. He started at right guard during Baylor’s 27-21 loss to West Virginia in double overtime a week later and is expected to start against Texas on Saturday, according to a school spokesman.

Baylor (1-1) has had three games postponed because of coronavirus issues and ceased football activities for 10 days earlier this month. Athletic director Mack Rhoades told a radio reporter on Oct. 12 that there were 28 active cases of the virus among players and 14 cases among football staff members.

UCLA coach Chip Kelly has used other teams’ struggles with the virus as a lesson of what not to do.

Fans aren’t being allowed to attend USC and UCLA football games because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but families of players want to be able to be inside the stadium.

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“Coach always talks about taking care of our ecosystem, and that means wearing a mask everywhere you go outside of your apartment or dorm,” Clemens said. “The daily testing is a good thing we have, keeps people safe and healthy. And we just know this is bigger than just football, it’s a global thing, so we’re just trying to take care of our little part and hopefully that can help out everyone else.”

Two pressing Q’s

UCLA’s secondary faced a quirky communication problem.

The Bruins had two players who went by the nickname “Q” in safety Quentin Lake and nickelback Qwuantrezz Knight.

Defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro devised a solution, calling Knight “Q-Money.” The graduate transfer from Kent State liked it.

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“Q-Money to me means someone you can count on, someone who’s going to be in the right place at the right time, just getting money,” Knight said.

UCLA has plenty of new faces on offense this season, but the receiving corps offers an oasis of veteran talent for Chip Kelly and the Bruins.

Knight’s first name came from his mother, who wanted him to stand out. He’s done plenty of that in his three college seasons, making six tackles in a game as a Maryland freshman against second-ranked Michigan. After transferring to Kent State following his sophomore season, he led the team with 10½ tackles for loss in 2019 and was selected defensive most valuable player of the Frisco Bowl after making six tackles, including 2½ for loss.

Former Maryland teammate Wade Lees, who spent last season as UCLA’s graduate transfer punter, pitched Knight on the benefits of spending his final college season in Westwood. Knight described his role in UCLA’s defense as one of “controlled chaos,” but there will be order when it comes to the nicknames.

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Game times announced

UCLA’s home opener against Utah on Nov. 13 will start at 7:30 p.m. PST on FS1. The Bruins’ game at Oregon on Nov. 20 will start at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.


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