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Zach Charbonnet limited at practice as UCLA’s running back depth remains thin

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet breaks away for a big gain against Stanford at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet breaks away for a big gain in a win over Stanford at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 29. Charbonnet didn’t play in the Bruins’ win over Arizona State on Saturday.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
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Zach Charbonnet emerged from the Wasserman Football Center on a wet Monday morning with a camera strapped to his helmet.

For the first 20 minutes of practice, it recorded little action.

Two days after sitting out No. 12 UCLA’s 50-36 victory over Arizona State, the star running back mostly stood and watched teammates in pass-catching and handoff drills during the portion of practice open to the media.

Bruins coach Chip Kelly said Charbonnet had reported feeling better prior to practice after he was sidelined with an unspecified injury. Parts of his left leg and left arm were heavily wrapped in white bandages Monday.

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UCLA’s ground game churned out 402 yards, even with Zach Charbonnet unavailable, and the No. 12 Bruins held on for a 50-36 victory at Arizona State.

Nov. 5, 2022

Further depleting the team’s practice depth, backup Keegan Jones was not seen on the field after having returned from an in-game injury against the Sun Devils. Kazmeir Allen, who shifted from receiver to running back with Charbonnet out last weekend, worked with both groups in practice.

There’s always folly in reading too much into who is practicing, especially early in the week. Players who are out often return for games and those who are present sometimes don’t play. Charbonnet, for instance, practiced all three days reporters were allowed to watch last week before standing on the sideline during the game.

The big takeaway from UCLA rolling up 402 yards rushing against the Sun Devils — its most in a game since 2010 — was that the Bruins can run the ball no matter who is in the backfield. Allen (137 yards), quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (120), Jones (98) and Colson Yankoff (48) each logged career-best rushing totals.

Tennessee, Clemson and Alabama losses all helped establish a clear path for the Pac-12 champion to reach the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Nov. 6, 2022

“Guys on the offensive side of the ball really responded when they knew that Zach wasn’t gonna play after warmups and what are we gonna do?” Kelly said. “I think Kaz stepped up, Keegan stepped up, Dorian stepped up, I think our whole offensive line and the tight end room stepped up.”

The Bruins rank seventh in the nation with 242.3 rushing yards per game and lead the country by averaging 6.27 yards per carry, the latter statistic tweeted Monday by running backs coach DeShaun Foster alongside the caption “Men lie, Women lie, Numbers don’t!!!”

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Those numbers could go up soon. Arizona, which faces UCLA on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl, has a run defense that ranks 125th in the nation, giving up 218.7 yards per game on the ground.

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Thompson-Robinson’s hurdles aren’t arbitrary.

The quarterback said he watched footage the night before every game to study defenders’ tackling tendencies, allowing him to identify ones who aim for the lower body in the open field and might be susceptible to one of his leaps.

“If you watch on my hurdles,” Thompson-Robinson said, “I always do a move before to set it up, so I’ll square them up right away or I’ll do something to make them drop their hips and as soon as I see the hip drop, it’s over with.”

Etc.

Kelly said cornerback Devin Kirkwood was unavailable in practice after having suffered an apparent injury against Arizona State. … Defensive coordinator Bill McGovern, who has missed the last two games with an undisclosed illness, was inside the team’s practice facility Monday but not on the field, Kelly said. … UCLA’s game against USC on Nov. 19 at the Rose Bowl will be either at 5 p.m. PST on Fox or 7:30 p.m. on ESPN.

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