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UCLA’s Colson Yankoff calls an audible, goes from quarterback to receiver

Quarterback Colson Yankoff when he was at Washington in 2018, watching from the sidelines.
Former Washington quarterback Colson Yankoff, who transferred to UCLA last year, is looking to switch positions for more playing time.
(Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)

Colson Yankoff entered UCLA’s training camp as a backup to the Pac-12 Conference’s most experienced quarterback.

Now, after moving to wide receiver, he’s jockeying for playing time as part of the Bruins’ most experienced position.

A logjam of veteran receivers couldn’t dissuade Yankoff from requesting the switch after assessing his role behind Dorian Thompson-Robinson, the team’s third-year quarterback.

“He wants to play and he wants to contribute,” Bruins coach Chip Kelly said Friday during a conference call with reporters. “He’s totally selfless; he wants to know how he can contribute and help this football team, and obviously I think he sees how No. 1 plays and with a limited amount of time to prepare it would probably be tough to unseat Dorian.”

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Instead of toning down the offense during the shortened season, UCLA is adding plays that quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said makes the Bruins “more dynamic.”

Yankoff was Thompson-Robinson’s top backup in spring practices after sitting out last season upon his transfer from Washington. The 6-foot-3, 211-pound redshirt sophomore was a four-star prospect out of high school and is considered one of the top athletes on the team, enhancing his bid to play as a receiver.

He’s made a favorable impression in his new role.

“He’s going out there and snagging things,” running back Brittain Brown said. “You know, that man’s an athlete, so I feel like any position we put him at he’s going to be doing good.”

Yankoff must contend with a deep receiving corps that includes returning starters Kyle Philips, Jaylen Erwin and Chase Cota in addition to backups Ethan Fernea, Michael Ezeike and Delon Hurt and highly touted newcomer Logan Loya.

Kelly intimated that Yankoff might be able to find his way onto the field amid that lineup.

Alec Anderson has taken over at right tackle in UCLA training camp after Jake Burton transferred to Baylor in late August.

“Let me tell you something: There’s never too much depth,” Kelly said. “When you have somebody that has athletic ability and can contribute, then they’re going to play.”

Kelly said he discussed with Yankoff the possibility of a return to quarterback after Thompson-Robinson’s departure. Thompson-Robinson bided his time in similar fashion at Bishop Gorman High in Las Vegas, playing mostly receiver until Ohio State-bound quarterback Tate Martell left for college before Thompson-Robinson’s senior season.

Yankoff also could go back to quarterback if Thompson-Robinson were injured or his backups faltered. The Bruins do not have anyone on the roster besides Thompson-Robinson who has thrown a pass at the college level.

Walk-on Chase Artopoeus was the No. 3 quarterback in spring practices, followed by redshirt freshman Chase Griffin. Freshman Parker McQuarrie arrived this summer but is probably a long shot to contribute during his first year in the program.

No withholding Evidence

Kelly said the NCAA approved tight end Evidence Njoku’s transfer waiver, providing immediate eligibility for the redshirt junior from Miami.

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

Njoku, the older brother of UCLA redshirt freshman receiver Charles Njoku and younger brother of Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku, caught one pass in his three seasons with the Hurricanes but has impressed UCLA coaches in training camp.

“He’s doing a really nice job, he’s an extremely hard worker, he’s tall, he’s long, he’s got a physicality to him, he’s got a good catch radius,” Kelly said.

Etc.

Kelly said one unnamed player was held out of practice Friday because of a symptom that could be related to COVID-19. The player must test negative for the virus and his symptoms must resolve before he is allowed to return to practice. … The Bruins have held discussions about addressing social injustice once the season starts but have not unveiled a formal plan. “It’s a subject that I think everyone understands that we could use our platform to help and to help make this country better,” Kelly said, “so it’s something we totally support.”


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