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Football finishes spring training with Spring Showcase, looks to new season

Coach Chip Kelly concluded his fourth spring camp with UCLA football Thursday with the team’s Spring Showcase. The late May finish to spring ball is the latest for a Kelly-coached team in Westwood. (David Rimer/Daily Bruin staff)

By Jon Christon

May 28, 2021 11:32 a.m.

It took them longer than any other FBS program, but the Bruins have finally finished spring camp.

UCLA football wrapped up its set of 15 spring practices with its Spring Showcase on Thursday morning at Spaulding Field, a televised practice that included interviews with coaches and players and featured special guest appearances from men’s and women’s basketball coaches Mick Cronin and Cori Close.

Coach Chip Kelly, finishing up his fourth spring camp in Westwood, said the 15th and final practice was a good conclusion to a productive offseason.

“I thought both sides had a great energy, great attitude for the 15th training session,” Kelly said. “Our big deal is the consistency part. Let’s not go crazy on the 15th day, but we weren’t doing anything on day 13 (or) 14. They’ve been really consistent throughout and we were pleased with that.”

The May 27 end date to camp is the latest in the country, and also the latest UCLA has had in recent memory. In past years, spring practices have typically ended in April with a traditional spring game.

Kelly – who has four years of NFL head coaching experience – said the decision to have a late camp was meant to model a professional schedule, in which teams have minicamps and organized team activities in late spring and early summer before having regular training camp later in summer.

Graduate student defensive back Qwuantrezz Knight, entering his sixth season with his third different team, said this camp felt different for him, not because of the unusual timing, but in the focus and the buy-in of the players.

“Fifteen practices in, and I’m just really amazed at how much growth we’ve had as a whole defense,” Knight said. “Last year was just guys running to the ball, not really knowing where they fit within the scheme. This year with the experience we have coming back, you got a lot of guys that know exactly where they need to be.”

The Bruins return some of the most production in the entire country, and the depth of players at Kelly’s disposal represents another difference from past offseasons.

Four years ago, Kelly had just 60 returning players in spring camp as he inherited a roster full of turnover following the coaching change.

But as a product of an extra year of eligibility for all players because of COVID-19, UCLA returns most of its roster from a year ago. The team also had early-enrollee freshmen as well as six transfers added to the mix to bring the total to 112 players Thursday, nearly twice as many as Kelly started out with in 2018.

Kelly said the increased numbers have led to the most productive spring camp he’s had in Westwood and added that he thinks it will translate to better production on the field come fall.

“The good part for them is you learn by doing – we spend a lot of time saying, ‘I hear and I forget. I see it and I understand,’” Kelly said. “This is the most reps we’ve ever got into the spring, and they’re all teachable moments for us.”

One player who has already had plenty of reps across his three years as a Bruin is rising senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is entering his fourth season as the team’s starting signal-caller.

In potentially his final collegiate offseason camp, the quarterback said he just tried to enjoy every second of the spring grind.

“I’ve been here for this going on my fourth year – time is passing by, so I figured I’d enjoy it,” Thompson-Robinson said. “Today was my last day of spring ball here, possibly. Just taking it every day, day by day, and making sure I enjoy every part of it and every moment of it and being able to celebrate with my teammates.”

Early schedule release

About an hour after the showcase concluded, the Pac-12 released its early TV schedule details, revealing the start times and channels for the first three weeks of the season.

The Bruins will start their season Aug. 28 – the earliest start for any Pac-12 team – at 12:30 p.m. against Hawai’i on ESPN. UCLA will follow that up with its biggest nonconference matchup of the season in week one, taking on LSU at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 4 on Fox. The Tigers are just one year removed from winning a national championship in 2020.

The team gets week two off before hosting a 7:45 p.m. nightcap against Fresno State on Sept. 18 on Pac-12 Networks to conclude its nonconference schedule.

The remainder of the game times will be announced at a later date.

“It’s going to be a year without – everybody’s going to be excited,” Thompson-Robinson said. “I’m just as excited as everybody else is.”

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