UCLA football coach Chip Kelly spoke to reporters ahead of Friday morning’s fall camp session. Kelly gave an update on how the Bruins will hand out scholarships to walk-ons, what went into DJ Justice moving to defensive back, the potential running back rotations and what his first impressions of the freshman wide receivers are.
DJ Justice position switch?
Yep, DJ’s playing in the secondary now.
He asked if he could play in the secondary, so we accommodated him.
More corner or safety?
He’s going to play both and then we’ll figure out what’s the best position for him. He was a really good defensive back in high school, I think when he was a sophomore he had five picks in three games, so he came and said he thought he’d like to play defense so we moved him over, so we’ll figure out is it safety, is it corner as he gets his feet acclimated over there—a really good athlete, smart kid, so I expect him to contribute. Again, we want kids to play the position they want to play.
Jacob Sykes thoughts?
Yeah. And I don’t mean this just because he’s from Harvard but a really, really intelligent kid, he’s applied mathematics major coming out of Harvard. I talked to Tim Murphy—I’ve known coach Murphy for a long time and he really thought that Jake was a NFL kid, all the Ivy League players have an extra year because they didn’t play one season because of COVID, so you’ll see a lot of Ivy League kids sprinkled throughout college football this year just because they weren’t allowed to play that one year, so he graduated, is in grad school, is a really, really good athlete—6-3, 285 pounds, solid, can move and we’re really excited to get him. He fits in with our players, really serious about school, really about serious football, I think he’s got a really great future and we were excited to get him.
Any walk-ons who have earned scholarships in fall camp?
No, we’ll do it at the end of fall camp.
No. 36 going to get handed out?
We’ll vote on that at some point and time, we’ve got a lot of football ahead of us. We’ve only had six and this is day seven for us, in pads, so we’ve got a lot of football left.
Walk-ons who have been here a while like Alex Johnson, Josiah Norwood on scholarship?
Uh, not right now.
Deshun get banged up?
DeShaun Foster? He’s good.
No, Deshun Murrell
Oh, Deshun. I don’t know what his status is yet today.
Any other guys who have wanted to change positions?
Nope, nope, DJ was the only one. And we had talked a little bit in the spring about it. Again, I want kids to be comfortable in what they want to do. He's a really good athlete and we'll find a way to get him involved, whether it be special teams or defense or whether it be on offense. We really love his work ethic, love his mindset, so everybody's just trying to get a spot and where can they contribute the most.
Guys incorporating the NFL schemes into the pass defense?
They've done a nice job. We've got a veteran group with the older kids back there, with Mo and Blaylock and Churchwell at the safety spots and then obviously Humph and Azizi coming in as a transfer who's played a lot of football and Devin Kirkwood who's played a lot of ball. So those guys are doing a good job and they're also doing a really good job mentoring the younger players that have come in. Two kids, Kamari Ramsey and Croix Stewart, have done a really nice job, really intelligent, were coached really, really well at the high school level so they're transitioning pretty good. I really like the way our older players are helping our younger players out.
Carl Jones' journey and transition from safety to ILB to edge?
Yeah, Carl just kept getting bigger. Trying to find the ideal spot for him, he's really played outside linebacker for us now, he came in as a safety, got moved early in that first camp to inside linebacker and then has found a home kinda as an outside edge rusher for us who can create some mismatch problems. He's been a tremendous special teams player for us and one of our leaders in the locker room. I think every player on this team, every coach on this team really has got great respect for Carl because of his work ethic and his mindset. He's been great and I think another year of kind of getting the ins and outs and the nuances of playing inside linebacker, I think he's gonna really help us.
Jadyn Marshall and Braden Pegan?
Good, solid young players. They're still learning, there's times where they're not playing as fast as they can – both of them can really run – because they're still processing. But I think they've got a real big upside, both those guys. Big skillset, big catch radius, they're taller targets and they're long but they've got an understanding, both of them. Again, both those kids came from really good high school programs that know how to develop players, so we were excited to get both those guys. But I think they're both doing a really good job out there.
The one thing with Zach is, and it’s a great quality to have and I think all great ones have it is he’s never satisfied. He’s accomplished a lot in his first year for us but I think his ability to look at himself and say ‘hey I can improve here, I can improve there’ and I think his work ethic on our team is probably second to none. A lot of the kids joke around and call him a cyborg but he, he just goes every day, he practices every day, he doesn't miss a rep, he doesn’t miss – anything that we ask our guys to do, he’s there full speed and more. I just think as he continues to grow, he’s getting stronger, he’s stronger this year than he was last year, he’s faster this year than he was last year. We’re excited to see him when we get a chance to get him into competition as we get in September. But I’ve just seen him grow in all facets of his game. I think there’s nothing for Zach where he’s like, ‘oh I’ve got that down’ and I think all the great ones are like that. They always just want to get a little bit better on a daily basis and Zach really kind of epitomizes that for us.
Going to have a second No. 1 back this year like last year?
I think it depends on the game and it depends on how the season’s going. I think we got a lot of confidence in Keegan. Keegan has really played a lot of football for us and been a really good player for us. He’s had a great offseason. He’s one of the guys here in the first seven days that I think has really stood out and I think people in our program can recognize that right now. I think he’s a legitimate home run threat. I think he’s a little bit different from Britain, he’s not the physical, downhill runner that Britain is but I think he can accelerate and run away, he’s got legitimate track times where he can go. He’s a real big threat out of the backfield as a receiver so we’re really happy where he is. And then we’re just trying to see out of that other group of TJ, Deshun, and that group that who can kind of emerge out of that group. And then Kaz is playing a kind of duo role so we’ll see how he fits into things.
Guardian caps at the college level soon?
You could see it. There’s studies out, they’re not complete now but until we get the final studies and find out what they can do, if it will help you it’s good. There’s some concerns, does that material catch and can you get some neck injuries, we’re just working ourselves through that so we’re always going to look to see whatever we can do to help the safety of our players.
Follow Connon on Twitter at @SamConnon
Follow All Bruins on Twitter at @SI_AllBruins
Like All Bruins on Facebook at @SI.AllBruins
Subscribe to All Bruins on YouTube
Read more UCLA stories: UCLA Bruins on Sports Illustrated
Read more UCLA football stories: UCLA Football on Sports Illustrated
Sam Connon is the Publisher and Managing Editor at All Bruins, in association with the FanNation and Sports Illustrated networks.