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‘Nobody so far’: UCLA football anticipates maintaining roster as portal opens

UCLA football coach DeShaun Foster watches practice at Spaulding Field. (Aidan Sun/Daily Bruin)

By Ira Gorawara

April 17, 2024 1:32 p.m.

Student-athletes are also, well, students. Distinctive identities dwell in jerseys and helmets.

But for two weeks in the spring, they become hot commodities in an athletic bazaar.

The transfer portal reopened for its spring window Tuesday morning – one final chance for coaches to address lingering gaps and athletes to sculpt new narratives on unwritten scrolls ahead of the fall.

Seventeen UCLA football players have thrown their hats into the transfer portal ring since last season’s close – eight of whom have already finalized their destination, alongside two withdrawals. But with a nearly complete roster present at Tuesday morning’s spring practice session, DeShaun Foster assured that he is yet to hear of an 18th intent after the portal’s opening.

“No, no, nobody so far,” Foster said.

Foster is a simple man – he wears the same Jordan-sponsored black hoodie laced with blue “UCLA” letters each practice, paired with black track pants, a black cap with a blue UCLA “B” and Nike Air Jordan Black Low Golf shoes.

Simplicity adorns not only his attire, but also his philosophies.

Discipline, respect, enthusiasm – individually simple principles that junior linebacker Oluwafemi Oladejo said have coalesced to help Foster inculcate an electric team ethos.

“It’s been awesome. It’s been incredible,” Oladejo said. “It’s been a great dynamic from offense to defense, to staff – everybody is on board and ready for the season.”

So as the transfer portal remains untouched by UCLA, Foster said his open-door policy has facilitated a supportive ambiance among his players.

“It was just more of just being upfront with guys, having a relationship with all of them and being able to talk to them,” Foster said. “A couple guys have come up there just to talk to me like, ‘Coach, what do I need to work on? What do I need to do?’ So they’re constantly in contact with me, but I just like that we have a relationship (where) we can talk.”

Since commencing his tenure as UCLA’s head coach, Foster has hired five coaches and reassigned two other assistants.

But one mission stood at the forefront of Foster’s recruiting endeavors: retrieving senior wide receiver Keegan Jones from the marketplace, who flipped his gaze from Westwood to Connecticut on Jan. 6.

Foster – who himself was the Las Vegas Raiders’ running backs coach for just 10 days before returning to helm the Bruins – wouldn’t comply with the verdict.

“It was almost like me going to the Raiders. You knew I was coming back,” Foster joked. “Seriously, but that was one of my number one priorities when I came back, to make sure I can get Keegan Jones. Being as dynamic as he is with the ball in his hand, you need players like that. I’m just fortunate that he was able to come back.”

The team’s evolving culture – initiated by Foster and the coaching staff but executed by the Bruins – will be further showcased in this week’s Friday Night Lights practice.

Foster painted a scene of Spaulding Field during the showcase, adding that he expects about 200 recruits will turn up to watch as well.

“Just picture a carnival out here on the field,” he said. “You should have stands in the parking lot. Parents will be up here, donors, alumni, recruits. So, just trying to make it a fun atmosphere around a game. You know, some of the best football that they played to this point, some of the kids, are Friday night.”

Oladejo – who hasn’t participated in a night practice through his stint at UCLA thus far – said Friday Night Lights will be both nostalgic and thrilling.

“Yeah, that brings me back (to high school),” Oladejo said. “It’s been a while. I didn’t have a senior year so definitely, I didn’t even think of that. Friday Night Lights, it’s special.”

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Ira Gorawara | Sports editor
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
Gorawara is the 2024-2025 Sports editor on the football, men’s basketball and NIL beats and a Copy contributor. She was previously an assistant Sports editor on the men’s volleyball, men’s tennis, women’s volleyball and rowing beats and a contributor on the men’s volleyball and rowing beats. She is a rising third-year economics and communication student minoring in professional writing from Hong Kong.
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