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UCLA lands its likely QB of the future in transfer Dillon Gabriel

Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel throws a pass against Stanford.
Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel throws a pass against Stanford in September 2019. Gabriel has committed to UCLA as a transfer.
(John Raoux / Associated Press)

You want options at quarterback? UCLA coach Chip Kelly is going to have them next season.

Option 1 became available Thursday when Dillon Gabriel, one of the nation’s most prolific quarterbacks at Central Florida, announced on Twitter that he had committed to the Bruins as a transfer.

Option 2 is no slouch, redshirt freshman Ethan Garbers having shown in a spot start against Utah that he possesses a strong, accurate arm and immense promise.

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Former Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel remains UCLA’s top target, but coach Chip Kelly is enthusiastic about the players the Bruins signed.

Option 3 can’t be discounted either — and would probably supersede the others — if senior Dorian Thompson-Robinson decided to return for the extra season granted by COVID-19 eligibility extensions.

Gabriel made his announcement alongside images of himself in a UCLA jersey amid palm trees and in front of the Hollywood sign while also looking to throw a pass at the Rose Bowl.

One fan tweeted another image of the Rose Bowl with the caption “1/2/23 book it!!!” in reference to the date of the Rose Bowl game after next season.

Gabriel’s arrival has sparked considerable excitement after he posted some of the best numbers in the nation over two-plus seasons before a broken collarbone ended his 2021 season after only three games. A 6-foot left-hander who is extremely mobile, Gabriel completed 60.7% of his passes for 8,037 yards with 70 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in only 26 games.

As a sophomore, Gabriel led the nation by averaging 357 yards passing per game. He also rushed for 372 yards and eight touchdowns during his three seasons with the Knights and will have three seasons of eligibility with the Bruins.

If Gabriel can edge Garbers for the starting job, it would mean that he can successfully transition from Central Florida’s pass-happy offense to the more balanced attack favored by Kelly, whose offenses are usually known more for their standout running games.

Many of the top high school football players in the Southland officially signed letters of intent Wednesday on early national signing day.

Gabriel becomes the fourth transfer quarterback Kelly has landed since his arrival, following Wilton Speight, Colson Yankoff and Garbers. Yankoff moved to wide receiver before the 2020 season. Gabriel is also the second transfer to announce he was joining the Bruins for next season, joining Duke wide receiver Jake Bobo.

UCLA also will bring in highly rated quarterback Justyn Martin from Inglewood High after he signed with the Bruins this week, and redshirt sophomore Chase Griffin will presumably return to add depth.

In his start against Utah in October as an injury replacement for Thompson-Robinson, Garbers completed 27 of 44 passes for 265 yards with two touchdowns and one interception.

Thompson-Robinson said this week he was still discussing his decision whether to return to UCLA with his family and intimated he would not reveal his choice until after the team’s Holiday Bowl game against No. 18 North Carolina State on Dec. 28 at Petco Park in San Diego.

“Still trying to figure out when’s the right time and all that stuff; I obviously don’t wanna be a distraction and bring any extra attention that’s unneeded,” Thompson-Robinson said. “So right now, I’m just focused on N.C. State and all that stuff will come later.”


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