UCLA football weighs Thompson-Robinson, Speight as starting quarterbacks
Graduate transfer quarterback Wilton Speight has played in four games for UCLA football, starting in two of them. Speight is 0-2 as a starter, but 1-1 when he has come in to relieve an injured Dorian Thompson-Robinson. (Axel Lopez/Assistant Photo editor)
By Sam Connon
Nov. 7, 2018 5:23 pm
The Bruins ended the quarterback competition in August and graduate transfer Wilton Speight came out on top.
But over two months later, the position battle still hasn’t been fully resolved.
Speight and true freshman quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson have split time for UCLA football (2-7, 2-4 Pac-12) this season, due to multiple injuries to each player. Speight left the opener against Cincinnati with a back injury, while Thompson-Robinson left the Arizona and Oregon games.
Junior center Boss Tagaloa has snapped the ball to both quarterbacks, and he said there hasn’t been too much of a difference between how the offense is run with either one.
“I’ve got to get the snaps up just a little bit higher for (Speight) than I have to with (Thompson-Robinson),” Tagaloa said. “I’ve got to tilt up more, because (Speight) is taller than (Thompson-Robinson). So yeah it’s kind of different, but it’s still the same.”
Coach Chip Kelly said Wednesday Thompson-Robinson was medically cleared to play with no restrictions, but would not say who his starting quarterback against Arizona State would be.
Thompson-Robinson finished 9-of-23 through the air against Oregon last week, good for his worst completion percentage of the season. His interception in the Ducks’ end zone cost the Bruins a chance to pull even in the first quarter, and UCLA was outscored 28-7 when he was in the game.
He was able to break out of the pocket for a long first-down rush, but he fumbled on a blind-side sack that took him out of the game.
When asked about Thompson-Robinson’s season so far, Kelly said he and his coaching staff aren’t looking at the season as a whole right now.
“I get reflective questions, but we don’t have time to sit there – it’s third down and we’re looking at all the blitzes that Arizona State brings and we say, ‘Hey, let’s go bring up Game 1 and look at what we did to kind of reflect so I can answer a question in a press conference,’” Kelly said. “Right now we’re not looking back at anything; our focus and concentration is on Arizona State.”
Speight came into the game, when UCLA was down by three touchdowns, and although he led the Bruins on two scoring drives, he couldn’t cut into the deficit.
Speight threw for 147 yards and a touchdown on 13-of-25 passing, continuing his streak of four consecutive appearances with a completion percentage of 50 or above. Thompson-Robinson has only done so in five of his eight games.
Speight has started twice for the Bruins, and is 0-2 with 209 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions on 28-of-52 passing in those games. When he has subbed in for Thompson-Robinson, Speight has led the Bruins to a 1-1 record with 351 yards, three touchdowns and zero picks on 30-of-52 passing.
While the two signal-callers have combined to lead the Bruins to the second-fewest passing yards and fewest passing touchdowns in the Pac-12, redshirt senior receiver Christian Pabico said the receiving corps has been partially to blame as well.
“You’re going to have drops. You’re going to have mistakes,” Pabico said. “And as you guys can see, we’re still kind of figuring ourselves out as an entire team.”
The UCLA quarterback battle spilled over from summer camps into the regular season, and another weekly winner will be under center on Saturday against Arizona State.