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New quarterbacks prepare to step up after Thompson-Robinson’s injury

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Shea Pitts has appeared in all five of UCLA football’s games so far in 2019. Pitts posted a season-high four tackles against Arizona on Saturday. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)

By Ryan Smith

October 2, 2019 5:46 pm

There is a chance that redshirt sophomore quarterback Austin Burton will get the start for the Bruins on Saturday following a brief relief appearance last week.

“We’re very confident in (Burton) and what he did,” said UCLA football coach Chip Kelly following Wednesday’s practice. “You know, he came in and I thought he did a nice job, so we’ll see where it goes from there. “

UCLA football (1-4, 1-1 Pac-12) is preparing for life without Dorian Thompson-Robinson this weekend after the sophomore quarterback left last week’s matchup against Arizona with a leg injury.

Thompson-Robinson still has three days to recover before Saturday’s game against Oregon State, but he has not been an active participant in practice this week – a sign that Burton’s first career start could be on the horizon.

Kelly doesn’t expect to see the offense take a step back with Burton, either. He said Burton’s skillset is similar to Thompson-Robinson’s in more ways than people might expect.

“They both throw a nice, catchable football, so there’s similar traits between those two guys,” Kelly said. “It’s not a one guy’s got the ability to run and the other guy doesn’t, that’s the one thing with (Burton). (Burton’s) athletic, he’s an over 20 miles per hour guy with his GPS tracking, kind of similar to where (Thompson-Robinson) is.”

While Burton is slated to start in the event that Thompson-Robinson can’t play, Saturday could also be an opportunity for third-string quarterback Chase Griffin to see his first game action.

Kelly confirmed that Griffin would be Burton’s backup if the team is without Thompson-Robinson on Saturday and said he has been impressed with the true freshman in his short time with the program, despite having no in-game experience.

“(Griffin is) just a young kid who came in in the spring, really smart, really intelligent, he just, you haven’t seen him in game action,” Kelly said. “You’ve seen him in practice and the quarterback, more than any other position, that’s the one spot that you don’t really know what you’re getting until you get them in the game.”

Redshirt sophomore linebacker Shea Pitts – who shares a room with Burton – said he is confident in his roommate’s ability to lead the team this weekend and added he would be happy just to see Burton get an opportunity.

“I think he is going to do really great things for us,” Pitts said. “Just everything he is doing and he is looking great in practice and I’m excited to see him play.”

Pitts – who has been trying to work his way up the team’s depth chart himself – also said he understands what it’s like to have to wait for a chance at proving yourself.

“He has been waiting,” Pitts said. “It’s kind of frustrating being the second-string sometimes, but he has just been waiting then. Now we just kept telling him to be ready when your opportunity comes and now the opportunity is here and you never know what can happen.”

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Ryan Smith | Alumnus
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
Smith joined the Bruin as a freshman in 2016 and contributed until he graduated in 2020. He was the Sports editor for the 2018-2019 academic year, an assistant Sports editor for the 2017-2018 academic year and spent time on the football, men's basketball, women's basketball, men's water polo, baseball, men's golf and women's golf beats.
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