Friday, March 22

As spring practice picks up, football sees potential on both sides of the ball


Rising sophomore defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia racked up 21 tackles in his first season with UCLA football in 2018. Coach Chip Kelly praised Ogbonnia's intelligence and said he is excited by the underclassman's potential to be a dominant pass rusher for the Bruins. (Lauren Man/Daily Bruin)

Rising sophomore defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia racked up 21 tackles in his first season with UCLA football in 2018. Coach Chip Kelly praised Ogbonnia's intelligence and said he is excited by the underclassman's potential to be a dominant pass rusher for the Bruins. (Lauren Man/Daily Bruin)


The Bruins are a quarter of the way through their spring practice schedule, and coach Chip Kelly’s main focus remains on individual player development.

Kelly said that while he still holds his team to certain standards and expectations during drills and workouts, he is more interested in seeing his players improve every time they step out onto the practice field.

“We’re not a goal operation when it comes to spring ball,” Kelly said.

“It’s just: How does each individual become a better football player when they’re out here?”

One of UCLA’s youngest position groups is the defensive line. The Bruins have five players at the position heading into their second season with the program, including rising sophomore Otito Ogbonnia, who has caught the attention of Kelly and his staff this spring.

“(Ogbonnia’s) a sky’s the limit guy,” Kelly said. “He’s very explosive. You can look at what he does in track and field. Sizewise, he’s over 330 pounds right now and carries it really well. He can be a be a really disruptive force on the defensive line for us, but he’s smart, he’s an intelligent football player and we’re really, really excited about how he’s progressing in year two with us.”

Ogbonnia appeared in all 12 games for UCLA last season, and while he recorded just 21 total tackles, he said his familiarity with the defense in year two has him feeling good about the upcoming season.

“I was doing a lot of thinking last year, not coming off the ball as much just because of me trying to memorize the defense,” Ogbonnia said. “But now, I have a solid idea on how the defense works and I get to move a little bit faster.”

On the other side of the ball, rising redshirt junior quarterback Matt Lynch is getting acclimated to life at a different position – tight end.

The former signal caller, who has thrown just three passes in his three-year career with the Bruins, said the decision to switch came from an eagerness to contribute more to the team.

“I wanted to get on the field,” Lynch said. “Going into my fourth year, I wanted to do anything I could to get on the field so I approached coach Kelly after talking with my family and just kind of asked what the options were.”

While Kelly said he’s been impressed by Lynch’s ability to grasp all the information that has been thrown at him, Lynch said that his experience at the quarterback position has helped speed up the transition process.

“At quarterback you’ve got to know everything, and every install you’re having to know what every single person is doing,” Lynch said. “So already having that advantage and then switching to a receiver/tight end room, I kind of already know what to do. So now, it’s just working on little techniques to improve upon.”

If Lynch sticks at the tight end spot, he wouldn’t be the first UCLA player to successfully make the switch from quarterback. Former Bruin tight end Caleb Wilson played quarterback in high school before fully committing to being a tight end at the start of his collegiate career.

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Ryan Smith is the 2018-2019 Sports editor. He was previously an assistant Sports editor in 2017-2018, and has covered women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf during his time with the Bruin.


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