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UCLA football returns to practice field, pulls motivation from last season

Graduate transfer running back Brittain Brown started his sixth year of collegiate eligibility Friday as UCLA football returned to the practice field. (Liz Ketcham/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Jon Christon

April 24, 2021 5:57 p.m.

Fifteen points.

With 48-42, 38-35, 43-38 and 48-47 losses, the Bruins were just 15 points away from being undefeated despite finishing last year’s campaign with a losing record.

According to graduate transfer defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight, that two-possession deficit was plastered on a sign and was waiting for the Bruins as they returned to the gridiron.

“We have this thing across the locker room, ‘15,’” Knight said. “Fifteen is a huge number to us because we were 15 points from being undefeated. And when we look at that sign every day, that’s our drive, that’s our push, our motivation to be great. Just looking at that sign.”

UCLA football was back on the practice field for the first day of spring ball Friday. Aside from team weightlifting and conditioning, it marked the first time Bruins have been on the field together since the team’s 48-47 double-overtime loss to Stanford on Dec. 19, 2020.

In the past, the Bruins have typically started in early March, but the team opted to push back the start this year to late April.

Despite being the latest start to any spring ball in his six-year career, graduate transfer running back Brittain Brown said the new format has helped everyone get acquainted with the new normal.

“I think it’s been pretty chill, actually – they let us kind of get into spring break, and then come back and get situated here,” Brown said. “The team’s really been itching to get back on the field. We’ve been getting our schoolwork, getting settled in with academics and everything. The late start (is) definitely different – first time I’ve started this late for spring ball – but this format is going to be a little bit better for all the guys.”

Brown and Knight are among the multiple graduate transfers from a year ago who opted to come back to Westwood for an extra year of eligibility. Along with the multiple sixth-years, the Bruins also return starters at every position, and those returners are coming off of a 3-4 season in which every loss was a one-possession game, and all but one win was a double-digit victory.

UCLA also welcomes the Pac-12’s fourth-ranked recruiting class and six transfers who will compete for starting spots on the roster.

Brown said the returning and incoming talent coupled with last year’s results made his decision to take the extra year of eligibility an easy one.

“We’ve got a lot of experienced guys here, Coach (Chip) Kelly really knows what he’s doing,” Knight said. “Just getting back into the system and having a full season, playing with no regrets and everything, only made our team stronger. So I think we have a really good chance to go far this season.”

As the inaugural practice wound down, the Bruin defense made a stand as rising senior linebacker Bo Calvert picked off the offense, sparking a celebration from his teammates.

A play later, the offense responded with a touchdown of their own, and, yet again, it was received with much admiration, but this time from the other side of the ball.

Knight said the back-to-back plays were the start to what will be a competitive season.

“Oh, man, that was crazy,” Knight said. “That’s always a good feeling when we’re going the other way with the ball. You saw everyone running around – we were pretty pumped about that.”

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Jon Christon | Sports editor
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
Christon is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the men's basketball and football beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor on the women's basketball, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis beats and a reporter on the women's basketball and softball beats.
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