Out of Bounds: Kicker Affirmative Action
UCLA men’s basketball has eked its way into Bracketology for the first time all season after another string of victories at Pauley Pavilion, this time over conference rivals Arizona State and Arizona. But with the Bruins preparing for the postseason on the hardwood, several former UCLA football players made showings at the NFL Scouting Combine, so the crew is joined by NFL.com’s Matt Joye to discuss their results.
Sam Connon: Hi, my name is Sam Connon, and this is “Out of Bounds.”
SC: My name is Sam Connon. I’m the Sports editor at the Daily Bruin. Today I’m joined again by co-host Ryan Smith, Daily Bruin senior staffer, former sports editor. Ryan, how you doing today?
Ryan Smith: I’m doing good but not as good as LiAngelo Ball, who got himself a contract offer today.
SC: Yes he did, former UCLA men’s basketball dropout LiAngelo Ball, that is correct. So, yeah, I mean, speaking of UCLA men’s basketball. We’ll be talking a lot about them today. But we’ll also be touching on UCLA football’s representatives at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this weekend and we’ll be visited by Matthew Joye. He’s a former Daily Bruin assistant Sports editor and now he is a digital media programming assistant at NFL.com, so he’ll be joining us in a bit to talk about that. But starting off, UCLA men’s basketball, now alone in first place, top of the Pac-12 standings, clinched a bye in the conference tournament, we’ve been talking about this team for weeks, just seems to keep trending up. Ryan, I know that the Arizona game was great too, but we’ll just start off in chronological order, go with that Arizona game first, but wow, what a finish.
RS: What a finish – two great finishes this weekend – but obviously the first one against Arizona State, Jaquez got the handoff, the good screen from Campbell. They got their revenge, and they needed it to have that good positioning in the Pac-12 standings. And Arizona State, they came out, they played a good game, but UCLA, like they’ve been doing the last few weeks, they’re coming through when they need to. And that was a big win for them.
SC: Yeah, and I know UCLA is 6-0 against Pac 12 teams in the second end of the season series this year. So I mean, we’ll see how that goes against USC on Saturday, but generally, the second time that Mick Cronin gets a look at your team, it’s not great news for you, it’s better news for the Bruins. So Ryan, do you just want to walk me through that last play? I know Cronin didn’t call a timeout, but what were your thoughts on that play, how you saw it develop?
RS: Um, you know, it was kind of slow, but I’ve always been a big fan of the dribble handoff and then just set the screen. I think it’s a great way to get some space when there’s really nothing developing with a play. Tyger did a great job of positioning himself in a way that got Jaquez some space. It was a little bit of a deep 3, but Jaquez is a good shooter and he had just no space between him and Campbell’s man and he was able to knock it down over the top. And then he also got the steal at the end to clinch it. But that dribble handoff play’s always a great backup option when the plays not really developing in the half court.
SC: Yeah, and it’s crazy because Tyger Campbell – I mean, I noticed this at first but I didn’t really notice it until I watched the replay a few times, but he really set that screen hard. It wasn’t just a handoff and kind of roll, like, just kind of bump into a guy. Like, he said his feet, set that screen hard. He’s 5-11, most of that has to do with his hair, he’s not a big guy. And I mean, props to him for setting that screen and running the play to perfection really.
RS: Just speaks more to his basketball IQ that we’ve been seeing all season. You know, he’s not that that eye-popping athlete but he just so smart out on the court, whether it be his passing, getting to the basket and, in this case, just setting up a really, really solid screen.
SC: Yeah. And Jaime Jaquez, just the amount of clutch that you have to have to take that. I mean, he’s a 32% 3-point shooter on the season, and they ran a play for him with no time left on the clock to shoot a deep 3. I mean, it’s just crazy how that panned out.
RS: And he’s a freshman.
SC: It’s a freshman. He really was not playing like it. He doesn’t physically look like a freshman, mentally it really doesn’t seem like he’s a freshman. I know, Kris Wilkes is probably the superior offensive player if you try to compare the two of them, but just thinking Kris Wilkes, his freshman year, was just such a very pure scorer but kind of passive, would defer to the older players like Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh, but Jaime doesn’t really have that. He has Chris Smith, but Smith’s not really a pure scorer. So it’s good to see Jaquez kind of take over that role as a freshman, which is, it’s just crazy to see.
RS: Yeah, and the other thing I love about Jaquez as well is if you watch him away from the play, I mean, he’s battling underneath a lot of times with big men on switches. He’s in there getting rebounds half the time, half the time I see him he’s going up in the trees and trying to make a play, he’s batting the ball out to his teammates. I mean, he’s an all energy guy, he can shoot the ball, he’s a good defender, we’ve seen him on the break plenty of times this season. I mean, he’s just out there getting it done, and he’s a perfect type of player for what Mick Cronin has been trying to do here.
SC: Yeah, and this part I don’t really want to gloss over because the first half of that game, it really seemed like it was going to be the Jake Kyman game. He had three possessions in a row where he hit 3s and the crowd just absolutely erupted, he was celebrating, chest bump with Chris Smith, going nuts, the bench was going crazy, that was really fun to see. And I know Cronin kept running this play and Arizona State could not do anything about it, where they’d start with Kyman in the corner, and then have Jaquez and either Hill or Riley – whoever was in – down on the two blocks, and then they’d just do a double screen and he’d run by both of them come around to the other wing and shoot a wide-open 3.
RS: I mean, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it. You know, I mean, if if Kyman’s gonna get that kind of space, you like your odds of the ball going in the way he’s been shooting, especially lately. The Bruins need the shooters to step up and Kyman’s been that guy for them. David Singleton’s also been pretty hot from outside recently, but Kyman’s the guy right now to take those shots. And if you got to play that gets him open, I mean, by all means run it.
SC: Yeah, I mean, they’re shooting almost 34% from 3 during conference play, which is about middle of the pack in the conference. But a lot of the reason that they aren’t lower is because of Kyman, he’s shooting 40% on the season. I mean, we all know David Singleton’s a really skilled shooter, but he’s shooting 36.7, and Kyman is really the one who’s kind of bearing most of the load on the 3-point shooting, and I think Cronin’s taking advantage of that and calling plays for it really well. And then kind of moving on to Saturday’s game against Arizona, another must-win game for UCLA to get an at-large bid or fight for seeding and everything. I know Arizona, I’m sure, was looking for revenge after the Bruins beat them a few weeks ago. But once again, UCLA came out on top. Last minute, Tyger Campbell banks it in on a floater after missing his first 10 shots of the game. I don’t really know, once again, how a freshman or redshirt freshman had that confidence, but he did, it was crazy. Ryan, what did what were your big takeaways from that moment and that game as a whole?
RS: I mean, in terms of just down the stretch, I mean, I think the biggest thing we learned – if we didn’t already know it – is no one on this team is afraid. They don’t care who takes the big shot and they have confidence in everybody. It was Chris Smith, twice, to cut it to two and then tie it. He had the little baby hook in the lane and then the really nice turnaround J to tie it. And then obviously Tyger put it away with the floater. But I mean, it was Jaquez on Thursday, then it’s Chris Smith and Tiger Campbell. I mean, anyone can hit the big shot for this team, and that’s very important, especially when you’re getting into these games where they’re close at the end. If you’re able to give it to anybody, it’s great in terms of confusing a defense, you never know where the big shot’s going to come from. And obviously, I guess the grand takeaway this weekend is this team can win any game. I mean, they’re never out, especially the way they’ve been playing defense lately. That Arizona game especially, they were matching the Bruins’ offense, you know, shot-for-shot and it was kind of starting to feel like Arizona was just going to keep responding and they would be able to hold the Bruins off, but the defense stepped up at the end the Bruins hit the big shots and came away with the win.
SC: I know UCLA finished the game with six or seven straight defensive stops. So, I mean, that’s Mick Cronin’s identity, that’s huge. But then also going back to what you said about Chris Smith, kind of going in the in the final minutes there. That turnaround jumper, I remember Kris Wilkes would take that his freshman, sophomore year and everyone would roll their eyes, say, “Come on, why are you taking that? I know you’re a good shooter, good scorer, but what are you doing?” Who would have thought two years ago, when Chris Smith and Kris Wilkes came in at the same time, that Chris Smith would be here and you would have confidence in him taking a turnaround mid-range jumper in the final minutes of a tightly contested conference game. It’s crazy, the narratives that have changed with him. He didn’t even, I mean, he had 17 points, but shooting 33% from the field and missed a few free throws. He didn’t have his best game but you can still trust him down when you’re, when it matters most, which is what’s craziest to me. I mean, so the defense was crazy, Chris Smith down towards the end of the game. Tyger Campbell, eight assists again, I mean, he had a double-double on Thursday night. He just – everything is clicking for this team, like you were saying.
RS: And I mean, it was also crazy because Tyger and Chris Smith, I tweeted it out during the game, they were 3-for-20 at one point combined near the end of the game, and they’re just the guys still taking the big shots at the end, and they’re hitting them. I mean, there’s just never-ending confidence with this team right now. And no matter who has the ball, you just feel like it’s going to work. It’s just going to work out.
SC: Yeah, I mean, it’s going to be really interesting to see what they do at the Galen Center on Saturday against USC. But I don’t know, we’ll take a little bit of a look ahead of that at the Pac-12 tournament next week. I’ll be there in Las Vegas covering that. Really looking forward to that because, I mean, the more I get to watch this team person, the better. They’re just really entertaining to watch, play a good brand of basketball, honestly. I know everyone was scared when Cronin was coming in saying, “I don’t know, is defensive basketball really going to draw eyes, drive viewership?” But I mean, from my point of view, winning basketball is good basketball, so I’ll be entertained.
RS: And it is definitely a weird dynamic, I mean, the way that this team has started to gain attention from the national media. They almost feel like – I don’t want to say like a Cinderella-type, because it’s UCLA basketball, like, why would this team be considered, you know, a Cinderella, it’s supposed to be good – but it’s just they seem like the darling team right now. And everyone wants to watch them and people are excited that this team is back and having success.
SC: Yeah, I mean, they’re right now in Bracketology, Joe Lunardi’s Bracketology, they’re actually in the bracket. I mean, they’re in there because they’re projected to win the Pac-12 tournament and get the automatic bid because they’re in first place right now. But I mean, if Oregon wins both of its games this weekend, then it’ll move to the second seed. But either way, I think if UCLA beats USC and then wins one game in the Pac-12 tournament, that could be enough for an at-large bid because that will be what, nine wins in a row? And then lose to a pretty good team in the Pac-12 semis? I think if they, if UCLA beats USC, wins its Pac-12 quarterfinal matchup, wins its semifinal matchup, I think that’s it – there’ll be a lock to be an at-large bid, they don’t even have to win the Pac-12 tournament at that point. If they make it to the Pac-12 championship game, that’s that. I mean, this would be one of the best end-of-season runs by a UCLA team ever, by any Power Five team ever, really. It’s just kind of crazy how it’s all panned out.
RS: Yeah, I mean, this isn’t like it’s some gradual, you know, improvement. I mean, this was a team that was struggling in game 15 of the season. And all of a sudden out of nowhere, the switch flips and they can’t make a mistake. And the way they’re playing, if I’m someone that’s looking at who to put in the tournament, there’s no way in my mind UCLA is not a team that absolutely deserves to be there. There’s no way it’s not one of the top, you know, 30 teams in the country, at worst. I mean, it’s a team that that definitely deserves to be there, and they’ve shown that over the past few weeks.
SC: Yeah, I mean, the loss to Fullerton, that’s brutal. The loss to Hofstra, that’s tough, but I mean, Hofstra is a tournament team, we shouldn’t take them is a total crap team like Fullerton is. But I mean, when you’re the hottest team in the country – and UCLA probably is – you can kind of overlook those bad losses when you’re trying to decide who makes that tournament. So, yeah, that’s about all we have on UCLA men’s basketball. Game on Saturday, coming up at 12:15, Ryan and I, we’ll be in the Galen Center covering that, so looking forward to that. And then Pac-12 tournament coming up after that. Alright, and now we are joined by Matt Joye, used to be part of the Daily Bruin, now you’re working for NFL.com. How you doing today Matt?
Matt Joye: I’m good, it’s good to be back on the show. It’s been about three or four-year hiatus so you know back when Aubrey Yeo and I were on the airwaves, and now you guys are holding the ship down.
SC: Yeah, bringing back the the legacy of “Out of Bounds.” It’s definitely fun to bring it back, have you on the show. But uh, I know we definitely want to talk to you about the NFL Combine, you were doing a lot of coverage for it this weekend. Four UCLA guys were there. I don’t know, what were your big takeaways from the four of them, who kind of stood out the most?
MJ: The one that I heard the most about when I was like watching the NFL Network coverage – which that’s like my job, I have to watch the NFL Network around the clock – and the guy who really stood out a lot was Darnay Holmes, in terms of not necessarily his testing, but his on field drills, which, I think, us as fans and reporters, like, we rely on, you know, the Deion Sanders of the world, the people who have played and the scouts to like, inform us on, “OK, this drill doesn’t have a time attached to it, it doesn’t have like a weight or whatever, or a distance.” So you have to like rely on the analysts a little bit to talk about the footwork and the technique and everyone was kind of, not in awe of Darnay’s technique, but they were saying like, he was one of the most technically sound corners there. And like, you know, for them to make a select segment on an NFL Network show for a guy who, going into this competition wasn’t really one of the main guys, he wasn’t a Jeff Okudah, he wasn’t C.J. Henderson from Florida, you know, he was probably a middle of the pack corner guy who, you know, didn’t really warrant that kind of attention. So I think like Darnay is the one that you know, even though he didn’t run the way I thought he would he got a lot of, you know, analysis over him, you know. Whereas, you know, Asiasi didn’t really, Joshua Kelley had a little bit, but there was like a lot of attention on Darnay.
SC: Yeah, and the 40-yard dash is always interesting, because you never know how that applies directly to an NFL game because how often are you running 40 yards unimpeded, no one else in your way? So even though Darnay’s 40 time was kind of in the middle of the pack for corners. You just look at that play against Arizona last year, where he had that chase-down forced fumble to prevent the touchdown. So, I mean, you look at the 40 time, maybe it’s not the best, but when you’re looking at in-game straight speed, like what the 40 time’s supposed to mean, you know he can catch up with the guys.
MJ: Yeah, and I mean, we’ve seen that so many times over the years of the 40 time not being indicative of in-game speed. In this combine alone, you had certain guys, that were not expected to run as well as they did, run really well. You know, Jefferson from LSU, the receiver, ran around 4.43, people were expecting maybe he go 4.5. Chase Claypool, a 6-4 receiver out of Notre Dame, ran a 4.42. And then on the other hand, you have people in the NFL who are really fast, like, you know, Antonio Brown – back when he had his head on straight – he ran a 4.56. And then in the in the game, he’s like burning people on punt returns and going deep. So, you know, I think you’ve got a great point that like, in-game speed is more about kind of combining lateral footwork and speed because you’re never really running in a direct straight line. And that’s something that’s kind of hard to quantify.
SC: Yeah, I know, you were saying Deion Sanders was talking about Darnay pretty highly, I know he was at his camp a few years ago. So Darnay definitely has a lot of pedigree behind him. I don’t know, Ryan, just from this season, what did you see out of Darnay that makes you think he could or couldn’t be a good NFL prospect.
RS: I mean, Darnay this year, obviously battled some injuries and stuff that it was obvious that there were some games he wasn’t on the level that we were used to seeing him. But I mean, he’s still the same DarnTay, he’s got that speed, he’s got good technique and like you were saying, I mean, we’ve seen his talent in-game before, we saw that play against Arizona, and so we know what he’s all about. I don’t think this year was very indicative of what he can be just because I don’t think he was really ever 100%.
MJ: And Darnay, if you look back, there were there a couple plays in the Oklahoma-UCLA game that was in Norman where Nate Meadors was getting burned in that game quite a bit by CeeDee Lamb who’s, you know, some people consider him the best wide receiver prospect in this class. But, you know, Darnay stood up and had some good, you know, snaps in that game that probably are to his benefit, the fact that the guys who’s going against and the quarterback he was going against, Kyler Murray at the time. You know, like he has good game film that he can, you know, rest his laurels on.
RS: I mean, Darnay is just one of those guys where if you’re watching a game casually, he stands out. Yeah, I mean, he might have had a rough season in terms of some dumb penalties and stuff like that, but he’s definitely one of those guys who you’re watching and he just he looks faster, it looks like he knows what he’s doing.
MJ: Yeah, yeah, he passes the eye test.
RS: He does, yeah.
SC: It’s gonna be interesting though, because at UCLA, Darnay was the No. 1 corner, he was kind of like, the shutdown guy. But when he goes to the NFL, he doesn’t really have the size or physicality to line up with guys outside the numbers. So I mean, he has some some good speed and Matt, like you were saying he has the, like, the technicality, so I think he can develop to be a pretty decent like nickel slot kind of guy. Like that’s how guys are kind of talking about him at this point. He’s not the shutdown guy like everyone thought he would be. But he’s still a pretty good prospect in a certain role.
MJ: But yeah, and nickel guys are becoming more and more important in today’s NFL like Justin Coleman, the former Seahawk got picked up with a huge contract by the Lions in free agency last offseason, and he’s like exclusively a nickel guy. And it’s because you’re going against a lot of not only 11-personnel groupings with three wide receivers, one tight end, one running back, but you have also even when it technically might be one running back, two tight ends, the tight end is like a Travis Kelce or a Gerald Everett and they’re in the slot. So it’s like you need somebody, and sometimes they’ll put a linebacker out there, hybrid guy, but you really do need some kind of nickel guy in this day and age in the NFL.
RS: You think Darnay can make a good special teams gunner?
MJ: Yeah, that too. Yeah, I think so. As long as he doesn’t target, you know, because he’s he was notorious for that UCLA.
SC: The Jim Mora era, full of targeting.
MJ: Yeah, exactly.
SC: Yeah so I mean, we’ll move over to the offensive side of the ball. You got Joshua Kelley, Devin Asiasi, both put up pretty impressive numbers, probably better than we were expecting just in terms of the pure tests. But I don’t know, Matt, what did you see out of the two of them? Who kind of had the more buzz this weekend?
MJ: Well, I think the the best positive of the weekend from a UCLA perspective on the offensive guys was Joshua Kelley’s three-cone time, running the 6.95, best of all running backs who participated in it. And so that was a definite plus. I’d say the minus was Devin Asiasi’s, I think he had 16 bench press reps, which was I think tied for second worst amongst tight ends? And you know when you’re 6-3, 257, you’re expecting more from a tight end in that department. And you know, unlike Caleb Wilson last year, Asiasi, even though he played in the slot a lot and he can catch, he became a really prolific pass-catcher in UCLA’s offense this past year. You want to see, you see him and you’re like, he actually has the potential to be an in-line tight end, kind of if he wanted to be. You know, whereas Caleb Wilson, like no matter how much he bulked up, there’s kind of like a cap there for him to be kind of an in-line guy. You see a guy like Asiasi, his body type, his build and you’re like, I want to see those bench press reps get up to like 23, 25. I want to see him, you know, be a more well-rounded 257 pounds and be like that more physical, multifaceted tight end as opposed to a one-trick pony. Which, right now, he’s kind of a one-trick pony in the pass-catching realm, which doesn’t make sense considering his physical traits, he should be able to do both.
SC: Yeah, and I know a lot of the scouts were talking about in the NFL, their player breakdown of him, say it was, saying that one of the issues was that weight fluctuation midseason for UCLA and just over the offseason, no one really knew what he would measure in that. Yeah, it was definitely a lot in the air. Like, you got pretty broad numbers that he could be and when he comes in at 257, that’s when you’re like, “OK, so he’ll be that blocking guy,” but once again, he hasn’t really showed the strength and like the consistency to do that between these tests and like with UCLA last season. So it’s going to be interesting with him because, comparing him to Caleb Wilson, Caleb Wilson was that one-trick pony as a receiver without the potential, but just physically speaking, Asiasi, you would think has that potential. So that’s why he could be a mid-to-late round pick, maybe picked higher than Mr. Irrelevant Caleb Wilson was last year.
MJ: Yeah, yeah, no I agree on Asiasi. Ryan, what do you think of Asiasi?
RS: I mean, same type of stuff. I mean, last year, we know Kelly was trying to get him into more sets where he was blocking, but that’s really just not his style as of right now. And he was more of a red-zone target in the pass game. So, you know, it really just comes down to that that physical stuff with Asiasi.
SC: Yeah, and those those red-zone targets are important. And I mean, going over to Joshua Kelley, a lot of his touchdowns this season were like the short yardage, goal line stuff scenarios, unlike last year where he broke out big plays. So I know he had a 4.49 40-yard dash, which is, I mean, I think 4.5 was about where he was expected to go, so I mean, it was it was definitely impressive, but the 23 bench press reps were also really impressive.
MJ: Seven more than Asiasi.
SC: Yeah, which is crazy.
MJ: He weighed in, I think Joshua Kelley weighed in at like, what, 212? Yeah, 212. So at 5-11, 212 versus 6-3, 257 and nevertheless, he has seven more benchpress reps. So I don’t know if that’s an indictment on Asiasi or, you know, a compliment to Josh Kelley. You know, we never question Kelley’s work ethic and his positivity, he exudes that. So you almost wonder if Kelley’s mentality toward the game went into Asiasi’s body, what it would, if that would be like UCLA’s perfect combine prospect for this year.
SC: Yeah, I mean, you saw Kelley in those press conferences over the past week. He just continues to be Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky, it’s great.
MJ: Exhibiting confidence, and not just confidence but like positivity, yeah?
SC: Yeah, I mean, he’s still finishing up this quarter at UCLA, he’s gonna get his degree. And I know I’ve seen his agent on Twitter is obviously talking him up a lot, that’s her job, but at the same time, like, I I feel like that’s getting a lot of buzz, just his personality traits. I don’t have any inside information on who he did interviews with, if he had any, but I would feel pretty comfortable saying that he knocked any interview out of the park. It’s really just fit and system at this point for him. I mean, it’s not like he’s going to be a top-three, maybe even fourth-round pick. He’ll definitely fall in the back end of the draft, but I mean, I feel like he kind of set himself up pretty well last week.
MJ: Yeah, I think he might need to show a little bit more in the pass-catching realm in pro day.
SC: Yeah, yep.
MJ: He did really well in the pass-catching reps at combine that I saw him take, but you know, that’s a limited sample size when you’re trying to go through like 30 running back prospects. You’re not going to get as many, you know, routes to run, passes to catch, so on and so forth.
SC: Yeah, it was interesting because last offseason for UCLA football, I know Chip Kelly was talking a lot about – and Joshua Kelly too – about how they wanted to get Kelley more involved in the passing game, and everyone was kind of looking forward to that. And I mean, it kind of took a hit when he was out at the beginning of the year and Demetric Felton moved to running back, so there’s your pass-catching back. But at the same time, it was definitely kind of interesting to see all the confidence they were saying about Joshua Kelley in the offseason and then to come back and he only has 11 receptions for 71 yards as a receiver, which is just like not really what you’re looking for in an NFL running back today.
MJ: What Daniel Jeremiah said during the combine coverage was that, you know, Chip Kelly had told him that the reason Kelley wasn’t – Joshua Kelley – wasn’t as involved in the passing game was because he was that, you know, first three down or first two down back where he was primarily a runner. And then on those downs when there were primarily passing situations, Kelley, personnel-wise, would be out of the game, and they’d bring Felton and they’d bring Martell Irby and whatever it may be. And that’s kind of why the snaps were they were intending to throw to running backs, Kelley wasn’t in. It wasn’t like he was running routes and not getting open or dropping the passes. It was just a personnel, you know, issue I guess.
SC: Yeah, definitely.
RS: I mean, it was also hard to believe, like, a lot of the things that were being said about especially the running back group at the beginning of the season. I mean, whatever was said really wasn’t translating onto the field. I mean, there were games where Josh Kelley is sitting there on the sideline without his helmet on and Felton’s getting all the snaps and you don’t know why. And turns out there’s nothing wrong with Josh Kelley, he’s just not getting the snaps. So I mean, if the plan was supposed to be him catching balls, I mean, everything was kind of out of sorts, especially at the beginning of the year.
MJ: Yeah, even in the year that Kelley broke out in 2018, you saw his playing time was sporadic until he really hit his stride in like about the fifth game. That Fresno State game, he didn’t get one carry, he didn’t get one snap, much less one carry, he didn’t get one snap. So it’s like, it was strange that, you know, you see this ball carrier more than anybody else out here. You know, granted it’s not always in-game actions, it’s practice action, but like, it was weird how, you know, Kelley had to like, it seemed like play himself into that role with his in-game numbers. And then you would think he’s the perfect practice back, but, you know, up until that point he didn’t really get many reps. Like the Cincinnati game, 2018’s regular-season opener, they got him going a little bit, then Bolu, but it was just like all over the place, where usually his running back rotation just didn’t seem to have any consistency to it until Kelley broke out. And then when the 2019 season started, it went back to that again a little bit.
SC: Yeah, it’s definitely going to be interesting to see how these guys translate to the NFL, because whether or not Chip Kelly’s able to turn this program around this season or if he even gets another season, I feel like everyone’s pretty comfortable in saying he didn’t really, like, utilize these players to their maximum talent. Like, Darnay was a five-star guy and then, I mean, it just kind of goes up in the air.
MJ: Asiasi too, I think he was like four- or five-star, Asiasi.
SC: Yeah, so I mean, you get these guys who are talented, have their ups and downs with production. So I mean, the combine is definitely an interesting way to see how they are isolated, no coaching involved, really. But it’ll be interesting to see down the line, in the draft, rookie minicamps in the spring, so yeah, that’ll definitely be interesting. And then one last question on the NFL Combine stuff. Matt and Ryan, quick thumbs up, thumbs down, yes or no. JJ Molson as an NFL kicker?
SC: No. After that Arizona game, you can only –
MJ: I feel like there was a networking thing that got him into the combine, like some kind of agreement with Molson brewery or something. Like when I saw him –
SC: Were they an NFL sponsor?
MJ: No, they weren’t. But like I just, like, when I saw it, that was the first thing I thought of, was like, there had to have been some kind of networking thing going on here that got him on the list.
SC: Was this like kicker affirmative action? Did they have to hit like a quota of how many kickers they had to invite?
MJ: If they had kicker affirmative action, there are many other kickers they could have chosen than JJ Molson, with all due respect.
SC: A guy who hits all his extra points and does basically nothing else.
MJ: And he’s really never shown much outside of like, what 45 yards?
SC: I mean, it really hits nothing outside of 45.
MJ: Yeah. So you know, and that was consistent in the practices that I saw him too, every time that they pushed Molson out, and, you know, it just was very inconsistent. I know, for every kicker it is, but like for Molson, he would struggle to make like, pretty much 20-30% of them. So yeah, you know, I didn’t see his film when he was there, they don’t show the kicker film. Hopefully he did well and, you know, made his case. But yeah, it was a little bit strange seeing him as one of UCLA’s four invites to this event.
RS: And this Molson season was like one of the more like, low-key fascinating things about this season because his year in 2018, he had a really good season kicking the ball and despite not really having that range, the distance.
MJ: Yeah, he was consistent inside 40, 45.
RS: Yeah, and you know through the spring, the spring practices a year ago, it was sounding like Molson was maybe adding that aspect to his kicking game. There was a lot of hope that he was going to become one of the nation’s better kickers but it really just never translated into the games for whatever reason and, you know, here we are.
SC: Yeah, so that’s about all we have on the NFL Combine. I mean, UCLA football, definitely a big topic going on right now, spring practices just started, so we’ll be covering those on Daily Bruin Sports. A lot coming up for UCLA men’s basketball. I don’t know, Matt, you want to give quick thoughts on UCLA men’s basketball?
MJ: I mean, they’re just like defending like crazy. Even when Howland came in and took over for Lavin, it took a full season of like, raw failure, like just utter failure. They did have a nice win in Washington that year. But there was a whole season of you know, “Let’s scrap this and then start from scratch,” and then the second year they made it to the NCAA tournament. The speed of this turnaround has been something to behold. It’s just like, how people are, you know, buying into Cronin so quickly, it almost makes me think that they were just so ready to buy into anything else but Alford and what was going on before, that like they soaked it up like a sponge once they said, “Oh, this stuff, these new tactics actually work, what Cronin’s teaching us works.” So yeah, I’m really excited to see what happens at USC over the weekend. And, you know, it’s just really cool to see a defensive team, like, seemingly overnight. And I think the window’s there for them now too because college basketball just seems more open than ever. The best teams talentwise are teams with like no experience and they’re more susceptible to upsets. And like, you’ll get Arizona on paper, Arizona, you know, has the talent. But you know, Mannion is not, he’s still a freshman. And so UCLA, the fact that – it just shows their coaching. Like, Cronin’s excellence as a coach is manifesting itself, I think, and more quickly now.
SC: Yeah, I mean, ‘SC game on Saturday will be a big one. I mean, we got that this weekend. Women’s basketball Pac-12 tournament this weekend, baseball and softball still going, gymnastics, there’s a lot going on. But I know that a lot of people are just talking about men’s basketball and for good reason. But yeah, that should be just about it for this week’s episode of “Out of Bounds.” Matt, thanks so much for coming in.
MJ: It’s good to be back, thanks for having me.
SC: Yeah, I mean, I know you guys did the show a little bit differently in your day, but I mean, it’s fun to keep it going.
MJ: No, it wasn’t, you know, we didn’t reinvent the wheel or anything. It was pretty much like this.
SC: Yeah. Ryan, thanks for hosting again.
RS: Of course.
SC: Yeah, so I mean, we’ll have one more show in the quarter, next week, before finals for us, spring break. Thanks to Ryan and Matt for joining me today. Thanks again to Omar Said for helping produce this episode, yet again. And yeah, thanks for listening and see you next week.
SC: This week’s episode of “Out of Bounds” has been hosted by me, Sam Connon, and Ryan Smith. Special thanks to our guest Matt Joye. We are produced and edited this week by Omar Said and fact-checked by Zoe Willoughby. “Out of Bounds” is a Daily Bruin Sports podcasting production.