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Football fosters versatility of players in preparation for new season

Rising sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Manoa – who logged 25 tackles in 12 games last season – said the Bruins are looking to improve on the team’s 15 total sacks last season. (Daanish Bhatti/Daily Bruin)

By Sam Connon

April 12, 2019 1:06 a.m.

A year ago, Jaylen Erwin was enrolled in Hutchinson Community College.

But after two seasons with the Blue Dragons, the wideout decided it was time for a change.

The three-star junior transfer enrolled at UCLA this past quarter, joining the football team for this year’s spring practices. Erwin’s cousin Roman Phifer – a 15-year NFL veteran and three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots – was a second-round pick out of UCLA in 1991.

Erwin said Phifer – who is now a director of player development for the Bruins – helped him feel comfortable on his official visit last year. But while he may have a new home in Westwood, Erwin said coach Chip Kelly has been putting him all over the field in practice so far.

“I’d say just me being moved around a lot more,” Erwin said. “I’m not only an outside receiver – I can be moved inside. Coach Kelly has a real good way of just moving all his playmakers around and finding a way to get them the ball.”

Erwin reeled in 45 catches for 865 yards and 14 touchdowns in his two seasons at Hutchinson Community College.

The receiver went to Ardrey Kell High School in Charlotte, North Carolina, and said he was happy to be a moving piece in Kelly’s offense.

“I think I bring versatility,” Erwin said. “I can play inside in the slot and I can move outside and I can take the top off a defense, or I can do short and intermediate routes just to run versus the zone.”

Kelly’s philosophy of on-the-field player movement applies to the other side as well.

Rising redshirt senior linebacker Josh Woods – who missed the entire 2018 season because of a knee injury – is still not fully recovered. While he has not gotten any game action in Kelly’s system, Woods’ coach praised his adaptability.

“We’re always gonna try to get our best 11 (players) on the field,” Kelly said. “We haven’t really talked about what we’re doing with (Woods) until he fully gets cleared. He’s learned everything. He’s a really sharp kid. (Woods) can handle any position we throw at him.”

Kelly said Woods – who had been almost exclusively an inside linebacker under former coach Jim Mora – could potentially play outside linebacker when he reaches full strength.

Rising sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Manoa primarily played defensive end last season but said he was happy he has been getting snaps at other positions this spring.

“Coach Vince (Oghobaase) wants us to know every position just so if one guy goes down, the next man’s in just to fill in that position,” Manoa said. “I like it a lot – just to know different schemes and stuff – so it’s been really great.”

“Chip, meet Mick”

UCLA men’s basketball coach Mick Cronin said he got over 700 texts after he took the job Tuesday.

One of those messages came from Kelly.

“(Cronin) will do a really good job,” Kelly said. “His teams at Cincinnati were really fun to watch so it’s an exciting time.”

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Sam Connon | Sports senior staff
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
Connon is currently a Sports senior staff writer for the football and men's basketball beats. He was the Sports editor for the 2019-2020 academic year, an assistant Sports editor on the baseball, men's soccer, cross country, men's golf and women's golf beats from 2018-2019 and a reporter on the baseball and women's basketball beats from 2017-2018. Connon also contributes movie reviews for Arts & Entertainment and co-hosts Daily Bruin Sports' weekly podcast, "Out of Bounds." Connon is a rising fourth-year Communication student from Winchester, Massachusetts.
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