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UCLA football expects experienced fall lineup, returns most players from 2020

UCLA football coach Chip Kelly returns the third-most offensive production and the eighth-most defensive production as he starts his fourth season in Westwood. (Andy Bao/Daily Bruin staff)

By Jack Perez

May 4, 2021 1:50 p.m.

Experience, experience, experience.

Coach Chip Kelly of UCLA football will have the second-most returning production in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision next season as he has the opportunity to claim his first winning season in Westwood in four tries. The returning Bruins came back to the spring practice field a little more than a week ago.

The offense is expected to return the third-most production in the land, with the only major departure being running back Demetric Felton to the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Spearheading the group will be rising senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson – who will be entering his third straight season as the No. 1 option under center.

“He’s got his undergrad degree at being a quarterback,” Kelly said. “He’s now going to get a master’s degree in being a quarterback. He’s really working hard on the little things, carrying out play fake, looking off defenders, some of the high-end stuff that you need your quarterbacks to do to be successful.”

Another group that is expected to remain intact is the offensive line. The whole starting line is expected to be coming back for another round, highlighted by rising junior Sean Rhyan and rising redshirt junior Alec Anderson – each of whom started every game in 2020 at the tackles.

Kelly said this was not the first time in his career his whole line has been back but still stressed the importance of having the same group.

“Continuity is huge, especially up front,” Kelly said. “There’s the communication part of what goes on on the offensive line. It’s critical when you have guys that have been with each other for such a long time. That’s always a benefit. So to not only have the group that’s played a ton for us but then all the backups back also, your depth is a really big deal.”

The defense is not far behind the offense, returning the eighth-most production in the nation. However, the unit also lost a man to the NFL, as defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite the loss of Odighizuwa, rising senior defensive back Stephan Blaylock said the continuity on his side of the ball is helping the Bruins start fast in spring camp.

“A lot of dudes have been in the program for two-years-plus and even a year-plus, coming with the guys we had as transfers last year,” Blaylock said. “So quick pace with things and then (we’re) just all on the same page.”

Rising redshirt senior defensive back Quentin Lake agreed with his teammate, saying the defense is a lot more synced up this time around as there are fewer new pieces to integrate.

“In terms of the little faults you saw last year, it was more communication and just technical stuff,” Lake said. “A lot of that we’re working on in spring ball, so those mistakes will be eliminated. I can guarantee that. We’re just trying to sharpen our tools so we don’t have those mishaps like we did last year.”

While the added year allows Kelly a better return from last year’s production, it has also led to confusion about in what years players currently reside.

“(I think it’s) still the same,” Blaylock said. “Just because the years I’ve been up here and my playing time, but with a year back, I still take that in knowing I could come back and still be known as a senior – even this year going through it as a junior, but I look at as a senior (season).”

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Jack Perez | Sports editor
Perez is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's water polo and track and field beats and a staff writer on the gymnastics, beach volleyball, women's water polo and men's water polo beats.
Perez is currently the Sports editor and a reporter on the football and men's basketball beats. He was previously an assistant Sports editor for the men's volleyball, women's water polo and track and field beats and a staff writer on the gymnastics, beach volleyball, women's water polo and men's water polo beats.
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