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WATCH: Chip Kelly on Future of College Football, UCLA’s Offense

The Bruins will be without Mike Martinez, but Kelly said adding Jake Bobo to the equation could shake things up a bit.
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UCLA football coach Chip Kelly spoke to reporters ahead of Friday morning’s fall camp session. Kelly talked about the future of conference expansion and paying college football players, how impressed he is with Atonio Mafi’s journey, where the Bruins are going to turn at tight end without Mike Martinez and the changes in store for the offense thanks to receiver Jake Bobo.

20 teams in Big Ten and players could get paid?

Did not hear that. I think the expansion part of college football is something I think everybody’s talking about because there’s been a lot of realignment in the last couple of years, but I’m not privy to any of that—that’s the first I’ve heard of it. You know, the paying the players thing is something that’s probably going to happen in the future as long as they can figure out a way for it to comply with all the rules, so.

In favor of that?

Yeah, I think the players should get paid if it can be worked out the right way, but sometimes you’re going to have to blow up the model, though, because the revenue-producing sports pay for the other sports, so if you take the revenue and you’re paying the players, then where does that other money come from? So I think that’s what all of the administrators are trying to figure that part of it now, so.

Harder to live in the moment with so much talk about the future?

It doesn’t because our North Star for this group—and we talked about it in our first team meeting—is two things—this team and this season. You know, we have a bunch of players that have given everything to this program—Mo, Blay, Martin Andrus, Dorian, Zach, all those guys—they’re not going to be here in two years, so I think if our focus and attention is on something in two years then we’re not doing what our job is and that’s to create an environment for those guys to be successful, so we’re aware of it, but I don’t have anything to do—and our coaching staff—has nothing to do with any of the planning of what’s going into that part of it, so our North Star is this team and this season.

Mafi weight loss?

That’s a great segue, by the way [laughter] we went from Kevin Warren and paying [players] to ‘Nio. I think we should pay ‘Nio. He has done a great job.

Lost 70 pounds?

He has. Yeah, really, really proud of ‘Nio in everything he’s done and I think just a special kid, graduated, he's in grad school, has always been a stellar kid in the classroom and just keeps getting better and better on a daily basis and if you watch what had gone into—you know, when he came here I think he was 411 when he got here—411 pounds, not 4 feet 11—and he’s just worked so hard. A lot of our coaches, we come in and work out in the morning before workouts and you ‘Nio up on the elliptical on his own and see him on the stationary bike on his own and just putting in the extra time and it’s paying off for him as a player. You watch what he’s doing on the field right now and you kind of get excited. The one thing for ‘Nio is, I think he has a future too in football and if he continues to keep making the strides that he’s making and he’s made—and they’re incremental like anything, but he’s doing a heck of a job and I’m really proud of him, again, in the classroom, on the field, everything—‘Nio is what you want to coach, he’s a lot of fun, he’s got a great personality. I’m just happy for him because what he’s reaping right now is what he’s sown and that’s the cool part about this sport—this sport is a development sport and I think the key component to it is making sure you have kids that want to be developed and ‘Nio has always had that kind of growth mindset, so really, really excited to see how ‘Nio plays this season.

How impressive is it that Nio is one of two players on the roster who has played every game since you've been here, despite the weight loss and position change?

Yeah, I never thought of that now that you brought it up and yeah, he did because he was playing on the D-line when he first got here but it’s just fun to be around like that, that’s the cool part of being around this place is that you have kids like that that are driven to be successful in everything—driven in the classroom, driven on the football field, and it’s fun when you get to see it, you think back and you’re like, wow, it seems like a long time ago but it goes like that [snaps fingers] and I think taking advantage of the opportunities that were presented to him, he’s taken advantage of every opportunity both athletically and academically, so the credit goes to him. The one thing about this game—we talk about it all the time—is pretenders get exposed once you cross the lines; there’s a lot of people that talk about it, but it’s not talking about it, it’s doing it, and that’s what ‘Nio’s really done it so I couldn’t be happier for him.

Adding big outside receiver in Jake Bobo change the emphasis of the offense on TEs and slot WRs?

Yeah, really good question. I think he gives us – we've had some tremendous inside receivers, obviously Greg playing for Denver right now as a tight end inside, and Devin and Caleb Wilson before that, they had been our leading receivers. And then obviously what Kyle did in the four years he was here and he's really playing really well for Tennessee, from what we understand, right now. So our dominant part of our passing game had been our inside receivers, but when you have someone like Jake, who's a 70-plus catch guy out of Duke when everybody knew that the ball was being thrown to him. I watched a game on a Thursday night when they were playing Louisville, and even the announcers said, 'Well they're going to Bobo.' And I knew they were going to Bobo, I know Louisville had scouted and they were going to Bobo and he was still making plays. So to have that guy out there, it really just depends on how defenses choose to defend you. Are they gonna play more Cover 2 and put people over the top? And if that happens, then that opens up things for other people. But if those people are making plays, then it comes back to him getting singles. But the one thing Jake has really proven since we've seen him through the spring and in camp so far this year is that he can make the contested 1-on-1 catches when the ball's up. It's not a 50/50 ball with Jake, it's more like an 80/20 ball for him, which is a real positive. So to have a guy out there – and I think you watch our quarterbacks – Dorian, Garbs and those guys – really comfort where, 'Hey, it looks like someone's running with him, but if I throw it to his back shoulder, I know Jake's gonna come up with it. So I think it's gonna help us cause I think it's gonna spread out the defenses in terms of how they try to defend us.

Change how you use the tight end position with Martinez gone?

I mean, obviously losing Mike is difficult just because of what a great person he was and what a great teammate he was and what a great guy he was in the locker room and also the impact that he had. And specifically because of his physicality at the point of contact at the line of scrimmage. But if we just go back to last year, Mike went down in the Fresno game, so we didn't really have him for all of last season, either, from a playing standpoint, so you have to morph. And it's no different than if someone were to sprain an ankle and then they're out, then your game plan has to change and you gotta continue to develop the guys you have behind them and then see what's available for you. So we're – part of our game planning is going through all those things, like who's available this week and what do we do. So the fact that we went through most of last season without Mike, because of the injuries that he had, I think we understand kinda what we can do. But we feel confident – I know when a lot of pro scouts come here and they look at our tight end group as a whole, it's a pretty talented group. We added two really good young players in Carsen and Jack, and they're doing a great job of fitting in. But when you look at Hudson and Mike and Priebe and guys that have played in games for us, we feel confident that you're not gonna replace Mike with one person, but I think we've got maybe four, maybe five guys that can play at that position.

Joquarri Price?

He's here, he's still making his way back. So he's in full rehab mode but won't be in camp. Won't be – I don't know when he'll be cleared to get to the field, but he's working extremely hard in rehab and that's kinda what the mode he's in right now.

Overall health of the team a couple weeks away from the opener?

Yeah, 15, to be specific, we talked about it this morning. We really – we look at it as one more week of camp, and then we gotta get into game week. But our overall health has been good, I think. There's been a guy or two that's missed a training session, but for overall, so far, it's been good. I think our guys know how to practice, practices have been great. I think the effort, the attention to detail, things like that we're getting. But they also know there's times when our safety could take a shot at a kid going down the seam, but they don't because it's a teammate, they know they can pull out of that. They're practicing like you do when you're in the NFL. I think our players really truly understand that. So right now, 15 days out, we're good. But as we know, something could go down at the beginning of next week and you gotta be conscious of everything nowadays. But I think so far, we've been really pleased with what we've been getting out of our guys.

Assessment of the defensive line?

They've done a really nice job. I think we've got some – it's a unique combination – we've got some size. When you look at Jay, you look at Gary Smith and Martin, we've got three 300-pounders there, three 300-plus pounders. And then I think on the interior defense, the tackles, you've got some movement. Jacob Sykes was added a lot because there's some quick twitch there even though he's 285 pounds. He's an active move guy. Sitiventi Kaufusi's done a really nice job, Dovid Magna has done a really good job up front. And then on the edges, I think, with Bo, who's played a lot of football for us, and Carl, who's played a lot of football for us. And then you add the Murphy twins and Latu out there. I think we've got what we need, and I think at any position besides quarterback, we're gonna rotate people cause you're trying to keep people fresh. So I think we're developing some depth there and it's been encouraging. They've done a really nice job through the spring and so far in camp.

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