Zach Charbonnet determined to be bigger, faster, stronger for UCLA in 2022

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet stands outside.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet speaks to reporters after Saturday’s spring practice. He’s up to 220 pounds as he looks to improve on his promising 2021 season.
(Eric Sondheimer / Los Angeles Times)

When your position coach is UCLA running back great DeShaun Foster and he calls you “a pro fine-tuning his skills,” it tells you all you need to know about what the Bruins think of running back Zach Charbonnet, who checks in at a muscular 220 pounds and looks the part of a future NFL player.

Saturday was the first day of UCLA spring football practice in pads, and each time Charbonnet got the ball, he did nothing half speed and nothing without all-out effort. That has been his standard since the former Westlake Village Oaks Christian standout transferred from Michigan last season and rushed for 1,137 yards and 13 touchdowns.

“My motto is practice how you play,” he said. “In the game, I’m going full speed every play, so in practice, I’m going to do the same.”

UCLA coach Chip Kelly understands the need to build on last season’s 8-4 mark. He hopes Dorian Thompson-Robinson will help him achieve that goal.

March 31, 2022


Charbonnet said he considered entering his name in the NFL draft, but after consulting with his family, the decision was made to pursue other goals, such as finishing up his college degree this year, honing his pass-catching skills and winning a Pac-12 championship.

The Bruins are thrilled to have him back, so it was no surprise the first two plays of Saturday’s full contact 11-on-11 (no tackling) session involved Dorian Thompson-Robinson handing the ball to Charbonnet. Get used to a lot of that in the fall, along with passes to him.

Foster makes it clear that Charbonnet isn’t just a runner. “He can catch,” he said.

That kind of versatility reminds Foster of former UCLA running back Joshua Kelley. Charbonnet said his second season at UCLA has left him comfortable in his surroundings and gives him an opportunity to serve as an example for younger players. All they need to do is watch how he approaches every opportunity on the field. He doesn’t yell or shout — it’s a quiet, professional manner of taking care of business and knowing he has big plans to fulfill.

“I think he had a plan when he went to college and wanted to execute it,” Foster said.

Charbonnet was 205 pounds at Oaks Christian and hopes to play and maintain his weight this fall at 223 pounds. It’s obvious he has spent hours in the weight room based on the bulging biceps he revealed after removing his pads and jersey. He’s already bigger, stronger and faster than last season, which offers UCLA a valuable offensive weapon.


  • Duke transfer Jake Bobo continues to impress at receiver. Apart from his dependable hands, his size and instincts make him a likely candidate to become Thompson-Robinson’s favorite receiver.
  • There was only one noticeable injury during Saturday’s contact sessions. Walk-on offensive lineman Yutaka Mahe limped off while aided by a trainer.
  • While the focus was on the field, one important development off the field could be critical for the fall. According to 247Sports, offensive tackle Tyler Steen from Vanderbilt was making an official recruiting visit this weekend to UCLA. He’s 6 feet 5, 315 pounds and considered a top UCLA recruiting priority for a position in need of immediate help. He also has an offer from Alabama.
  • Several former UCLA players were invited to Saturday’s practice. Among those making an appearance were Kermit Johnson, Norm Andersen and Mike Sherrard.