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UCLA Offensive Players to Watch vs. No. 10 Oregon

UCLA's offense has been a machine this season, and these players have been running the show and promise to do so against Oregon.

Chip Kelly is one of the brightest offensive minds in modern college football history. He inspired a generation of coaches trying to be the next Oregon Ducks of the early 2010s with unique spread offenses, zone-read options and quickness at every skill position, as well as speed in the no-huddle offense so fast that defensive coordinators were left scrambling.

The UCLA Bruins are not quite the Oregon teams of old, but they certainly have a handful of weapons that Kelly's former team will have to do its homework on in order to prevent a shootout, something that the Bruins have proven they can win this season.

1. #1 Dorian Thompson-Robinson - Quarterback

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) carries the ball against LSU.

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) carries the ball against LSU.

As per usual, we start with the quarterback. But this is an interesting feat as fourth-year starter Dorian Thompson-Robinson is playing against the Oregon Ducks for the first time since his freshman season in 2018, when he posted a pitiful 9-of-23 for 135 yards in a 42-21 loss at Autzen Stadium. He missed out on redemption last year when he missed the game against the Ducks, but this is a much different DTR than the last time Oregon saw him.

He has a wicked arm and is an elite athlete that can extend plays with his legs. He's thrown for 1,419 yards and 13 touchdowns to just two interceptions so far this year while also running for 328 yards and five touchdowns.  

Thompson-Robinson has improved each year as the starter, but he is still due for a monster performance against a team on the level of the Ducks that proves to critics that he can show out against the best of the best. 

The Ducks have been the pinnacle of the Pac-12 throughout Thompson-Robinson's playing days in Westwood. It's the perfect time for DTR to show his best against one of the most talented teams in the country, and he has plenty of playmakers around him that can help.

2. #24 Zach Charbonnet - Running Back

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) rushes against Washington.

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet (24) rushes against Washington.

Few expected Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet to take over the running game out of the gate as a Bruin, but he's done just that so far. After an injury-plagued 2020 season, he's looking like the player that ran for 726 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in 2019 as a freshman.

Charbonnet is already close to passing his yardage total from that year with 697 yards through seven games in 2021. The Ducks will have to prepare to see him get more carries than anyone, as he has received at least 21 carries in each of the past four games.

Charbonnet is as physical a running back as the Ducks will face all season long. Tackling him is like trying to tackle a semitruck — he can boulder through would-be tacklers by putting his shoulder down and using his strong legs to trudge through defenders. 

The Ducks let Demetric Felton run all over them in 2020 in their chaotic 38-35 win over the Bruins, and Charbonnet is a player that could put on an encore if they don't improve their run defense from that game. 

3. #74 Sean Rhyan - Left Tackle

UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan (74) blocks against Arizona State defensive end Michael Matus (91).

UCLA offensive lineman Sean Rhyan (74) blocks against Arizona State defensive end Michael Matus (91).

Anyone that has to go up against Kayvon Thibodeaux is automatically under the spotlight, but Sean Rhyan is probably the best left tackle that the future first-round draft pick will face this year. Rhyan may actually join Thibodeaux in the first round himself.

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Rhyan is as good of a run blocker as you'll see in the Pac-12. He can create big holes for running backs and DTR to bulldoze through, and he makes light work of defensive ends in run blocking. Thibodeaux is a different beast, but Rhyan played well against him both in pass protection and run blocking at Autzen last year. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman seemed to be able to limit Thibodeaux's strikes and power rushes as well as anyone had before.

Thibodeaux will switch sides and go up against Alec Anderson on the right side as well, but if one of Thibodeaux or Rhyan dominates the other, you're going to see it plastered all over Mel Kiper's film breakdowns in the spring as praise for the victor and criticism for the victim.

Bonus: #85 Greg Dulcich - Tight End

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich (85) runs for yards after the catch against Washington.

UCLA tight end Greg Dulcich (85) runs for yards after the catch against Washington.

I couldn't leave off someone who has an argument to be the best tight end in the Pac-12. Greg Dulcich led all Pac-12 tight ends in receiving yards last year and is on pace to do it again in 2021.

When he gets the ball in his hands, he takes defenses aboard the big play express because he's averages 17.9 yards per catch in his career, including 19.0 yards per catch over his two most recent seasons, including 2021.

If he had more targets, Dulcich could easily surpass 1,000 yards this year, but he only has 21 catches. He runs like a gazelle but has the strength that you want from a tight end. He's a phenomenal route runner and gets the job done as a blocker as well. 

UCLA has so many weapons that Dulcich is often left running free in the middle of the field, as he did against LSU on his 75-yard touchdown. 

Any combination of guys could do damage in the passing game for UCLA, from Philips to South Medford grad Chase Cota to Kam Brown, but Dulcich must be accounted for at all times.

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