Culver City Observer -

UCLA football needs to score more points

 


The UCLA Bruin’s football team is about two months away from opening the season and they still have a lot of unanswered questions on their roster. The cancellation of spring practice and the spring football game due to the coronavirus outbreak probably did not help, either. Chip Kelly is entering into his third season as UCLA head football coach and he needs to win.

The Bruins are 7-17 under Kelly in two seasons. The Bruins have not been good on the defensive side of the ball over the past two seasons and probably will not be much better this season. But there is hope on the offensive side. The Bruins win when they score points. Over the past two seasons, the Bruins are 7-3 in games where they score at least 31 points. They are 0-14 in games in which they score less than 31 points.

Kelly was 46-7 at Oregon and his 2010 team played in the national championship game against Auburn, losing 22-19. That team led the nation in scoring at 47.0 points per game. His 2009 team went to the Rose Bowl, his 2011 team also went to the Rose Bowl and his 2012 team went to the Fiesta Bowl. Kelly won three Pac-12 conference championships in four seasons at Oregon.

Kelly’s success at Oregon has not translated to UCLA. To get to a winning record and a bowl game, which at a minimum Kelly will need to achieve to hold on to his job, the Bruins need to improve in several areas. The Bruins averaged 26.7 points per game last season, which ranked 80th out of 130 teams at the FBS football level. They had a turnover ratio of -10 last season. Scoring more points on offense and eliminating turnovers will be huge for UCLA in 2020. This is how the Bruins line up on offense for 2020.

Quarterbacks - The Bruins return junior Dorian Thompson-Robinson (DTR) at quarterback. Thompson-Robinson came to UCLA as a quarterback with a lot of potential and after two seasons, is still a quarterback with a lot of potential, which is another way of saying that he has not made much progress in two seasons. In 2019, Thompson-Robinson ranked 10th among 12 Pac-12 quarterbacks in passer rating and was second in interceptions with 12. The Bruins need for Thompson-Robinson to reach his potential.

Behind DTR at the quarterback position are two four-star quarterbacks with no playing experience. Colson Yankoff spent his first season at Washington before transferring to UCLA. He is a dual threat quarterback from Coeur D Alene, Idaho. Parker McQuarrie is a 6-foot 7 pro-style quarterback from Weare, New Hampshire and he will compete with Yankoff for the back-up quarterback position.

Running backs – Joshua Kelly is now a member of the Los Angeles Chargers after being picked in the 4th round of the NFL Draft, but Demetric Felton returns for his senior season with the Bruins. The 5-foot 9 185-pound running back was more of a receiver last season, with 55 pass receptions for 594 yards and 331 yards rushing. Felton scored five touchdowns last season. Felton also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

The Bruins also added graduate transfer Brittain Brown from Duke. Brown battled injuries the past two seasons, but in his freshman season at Duke he rushed for 701 yards, with 7 rushing touchdowns and caught 14 passes for 161 yards. Speedy Kazmeir Allen returns at running back for his junior season. The 2018 California state sprint champion in the 100 meters at 10.44 brings additional speed to the backfield. The Bruins need to find a way to get the ball in his hands in space.

Wide receivers – While this group could use a little more speed, it does have plenty of talent. Four of the top five receivers from last season return, with leading receiver Kyle Phillips returning for his junior season at UCLA. Phillips led the Bruins in receiving with 60 receptions for 681 yards and had five touchdown receptions. Phillips also had a punt return for a touchdown, averaging 22.5 yards per return.

The Bruins also return junior Jaylen Erwin and sophomore Chase Cota at wide receiver. Erwin caught 32 passes and Cota caught 25 passes in 2019. The most intriguing player at wide receiver may be freshman Logan Loya from St. John’s Bosco, the high school national champions from Bellflower. Loya, a four-star recruit, led the team in receiving with 72 catches for 1,109 yards and nine touchdowns. Loya had eight catches for 177 yards and a touchdown in the state title game against powerhouse Concord De La Salle.

Tight Ends – The Bruins loss Devin Asiasi to the NFL, who was selected in the 3rd round by the New England Patriots. The tight ends on the roster consist of Michael Martinez, David Priebe, Michael Ezeike and Miami-transfer Evidence Njoku. There is talent at the position, but not a lot of production. Martinez probably starts at tight end, but the 6-foot 5 Ezeike was a four-star recruit out of Ontario in 2018 with the talent to be a receiving star at tight end. In limited action in 2018, Ezeike caught 12 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns.

Offensive line – The Bruins need to find five capable offensive linemen to be able to establish consistency from their offense. They return three starters in sophomore left tackle Sean Rhyan, sophomore left guard Duke Clemens and senior right tackle Jake Burton. Sophomore Sam Marrazzo, a backup last season, will start at center in 2020, with redshirt freshman Siale Liku a possibility at right guard. This is a unit that struggled at times last season but is young with upside potential.

The Bruins have a favorable schedule and that should help, with non-conference games at home against New Mexico State and on the road at Hawaii and San Diego State. Plus, five of their nine conference games are at home. They also avoid playing Oregon and Washington this season. This team has potential if they can eliminate mistakes and get improved play from the quarterback position. Otherwise, this will likely be Chip Kelly’s final season in Westwood.

 

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