Wednesday, October 17

UCLA football focuses on younger players, sacrifices consistency


Freshman running back Martell Irby led the Bruins with nine carries in UCLA's 38-14 loss to Fresno State on Sept. 15. Irby made his collegiate debut in the second half of the Oklahoma game the week prior. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)

Freshman running back Martell Irby led the Bruins with nine carries in UCLA's 38-14 loss to Fresno State on Sept. 15. Irby made his collegiate debut in the second half of the Oklahoma game the week prior. (Amy Dixon/Photo editor)


The Bruins are in the midst of their bye week, but questions about the current state of the program and its direction are still flowing in.

UCLA football (0-3) is off to its worst start in nearly 50 years, and it is apparent that coach Chip Kelly has already implemented a youth movement. Kelly said he is not worried about past weeks’ results and remains focused on putting out the lineup that gives his team the best chance to win.

“We’re on Colorado and our whole focus is Colorado, so we’ve never talked about, ‘We’re building something for the future,’” Kelly said. “We’re trying to win right now, and if you win right now, then you are building for the future.”

Despite Kelly’s comments, it is undeniable that the Bruins have shifted their focus toward the most recent recruiting class.

Freshmen center Christaphany Murray, defensive tackle Atonio Mafi, running back Kazmeir Allen and wide receiver Chase Cota have all played integral roles this season at positions with more veteran options left to wait on the sidelines.

When graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight went down with an injury in the season opener, Kelly turned to true freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson over the more experienced redshirt sophomore Devon Modster.

The youth movement has come at a price, too.

UCLA’s offense was expected to play fast and run up the score with Kelly at the helm, but it has done the opposite. The Bruins’ offense ranks dead last in the Pac-12 in yards and points per game, but Kelly said he does not think he needs to turn up the tempo in order to win.

“I don’t care how fast we play or how slow we play,” Kelly said. “We’re just trying to win football games.”

This also marks the first time since 2010 in which UCLA failed to score more than 21 points in three straight games.

Freshman wide receiver Kyle Philips said it is up to the players on the field to execute and it would be wrong to blame the coaches for the lackluster offensive numbers.

“We just need to be more consistent,” Philips said. “Coaches come with a great game plan for us and we just need to stick to it and be more consistent and play harder.”

Martell Irby’s emergence

Freshman running back Martell Irby began the season at the bottom of the Bruins’ depth chart, but he managed to see his first collegiate action against Oklahoma in the second half of a blowout.

Irby proved to Kelly in that limited sample size that he was worthy of a heavier workload, and the freshman led UCLA with nine carries in its next game against Fresno State. Kelly said Irby’s intelligence and versatility played a significant part in his increased role.

“He’s really, really sharp, so he’s been able to handle a lot of things that maybe some true freshmen aren’t able to handle just in general,” Kelly said. “But I think that’s the kind of kid he is. He’s really smart, so he actually can play multiple positions for us. He’s coming along, so we’ll see how he continues to develop.”

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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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