The Bruins have just one practice remaining before their preparation for Cincinnati begins on Saturday, but Chip Kelly said he is pleased with where his team stands heading into its first game week of the season.
“(I’m) really impressed with their effort and attitudes and what they’ve brought here since the start of camp,” said the UCLA football coach following Wednesday’s practice. “And (I’m) really impressed with the health of the team, I’ve never had this many, probably in my career, this many kids healthy all through camp.”
The Bruins’ only major loss suffered during camp that is expected to carry over into the season was redshirt senior linebacker Tyree Thompson. While there is no exact timetable on his return from foot surgery, a midseason return debut still appears possible.
Redshirt freshman left tackle Alec Anderson is also still recovering from a leg surgery of his own, but there has not yet been any indication that he won’t be ready for week one – despite limited work in practice.
Redshirt senior running back Joshua Kelley was not in a yellow jersey on Wednesday for the first time since he sustained a knee injury at the beginning of camp a few weeks ago.
Kelley participated in a number of drills, but was not a full participant, spending some time conditioning on the sidelines instead.
A special honor
Almost six years since the death of former UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale – who was struck and killed by a vehicle in Sept. 2013 – the Bruins and Pasquale’s family have decided to unretire Nick’s number 36.
Kelly said the number will be given out each year to a player that best embodies who Pasquale was as a teammate and a friend.
“We just want to honor (Pasquale),” Kelly said. “So we’re going to honor him every year with one player (wearing) No. 36 and be a little bit of a special number.”
This season, that player will be senior wide receiver Ethan Fernea. The former walk-on appeared in all 12 games for UCLA last season and even recorded his first career reception against Arizona on Oct. 20.
Although Fernea never got the chance to meet Pasquale, he said he is aware of how important the receiver was to the program based on everything he has heard from those who knew him.
“Everyone I’ve talked to about him just speaks so highly about him,” Fernea said. “So based on that, I think he kind of embodied a lot of the characteristics that make an ultimate team player — hard work, discipline, just being a great teammate.”
Fernea said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure attached to the number, but added that he wants to honor Pasquale’s legacy by being the best teammate he can be.
“I don’t think this jersey really represents what you do on the field,” Fernea said. “I think it’s just about how you approach every day, your work ethic and just being a good, team player, a positive guy in the locker room. So it’s mainly just motivation to embody those qualities.”