UCLA football coach Chip Kelly was made available to the media prior to Wednesday’s practice, and he gave some final thoughts on Fresno State, as well as impressions of his team’s physical nature and unique pass production.
Yeah, Ryan’s an outstanding football coach. We were really fortunate when coach Bible retired, who arguably was one of the best quarterback coaches in the country through a long tenured history, 40-plus years of coaching from Boomer Esiason to Russell Wilson to Matt Ryan to Dorian to a bunch of guys that he’s had great success with and then Gundy, the great thing about Gundy is, he seamlessly transitioned in here, so two days in it was like he had been here two years. He had great command, he was very technical, had a great rapport with all the kids at his position, has done a really good job. You always wonder when you lose a little continuity, what’s that like, but he’s picked up the ground right where coach Bible left and we haven’t missed a beat at that position in terms of being coached well.
Dorian leading Pac-12 in passer rating but last in completion percentage? Not a lot of attempts?
It’s a byproduct of the first two games—our first game against Hawaii, we were up so quick early that he barely played in the second half. I don’t think you can look at—there’s just such a small data point that you can’t look at two games and say, ‘Hey, this is this.’ I think you have to look at it over the course of the season, so I like the last two things you talked about—he’s leading the conference in wins and that’s the most important thing, so.
Defensive coordinator at Fresno State talked about how physical you are, most physical UCLA team you've had?
Yeah, I mean, everything’s the most we’ve had here. We’ve had the most players here, so our depth has changed and everything is different than when we first started, so yeah, I agree with that.
Most physically aggressive team you've had here?
Yeah. Everything is the most since we’ve been here, so nothing’s changed on both sides of the ball. But I think that’s what happens when you have the depth that we have and our numbers are back up where they should be.
Kaz first commit after you signed, also first player you saw in high school?
No but he was one of them.
What's special about him? Speed?
Yeah, you’d turn his tape on and he was one of the most productive high school players I’ve ever seen. I mean, I think the first game we saw, he had 450 yards and eight touchdowns. He set the national record for touchdowns in a regular season, so he’s got unique speed, obviously was the state of California 100-meter champ and you can’t coach that. You always hear people say that you can’t coach speed. You have someone who’s dynamic like Kaz, it’s a good weapon to have and we’re trying to play him at multiple positions and he’s handled that really well, but he’s been bit by an injury bug during his career here. He’s 100% healthy now and doing a really nice job and we hope we can continue to expand his role.
Want to get him as many touches as you can?
No, that’s not the case. It’s what can he handle, what is too much for a guy that size—you can’t take a guy like that and line him up at tailback and give him 40 carries a game, then you may not have him for the rest of the season. There’s a fine line between how you use those guys and making sure they’re available for the next game too, but I think he’s really handled his role well. He transitioned to being an outside receiver [but] he can be a slot receiver, he can play running back, he’s done all of those this year and we’ll continue as we get through our game plans and the teams that we play, what are the different ways we can deploy him to help us win our games.
Agude forced fumble leader in nine games?
I did not know that. We love Mitch since he got here he’s really stepped in right away, there’s a maturity to him. You know, he never acted like a newcomer, he acted like he had been here for a long time and is very dedicated to everything he does, he does everything really seriously, he took school very seriously, he takes the classroom really seriously, he takes the practice field really seriously, he kind of sets the tone for a lot of the success we’re having on the defensive side of the ball because of how hard he plays, so the first time we saw him and got involved with him when he was over at Riverside, I know Jay and coach Azz really loved him and they were as high on him as anybody we were recruiting and it’s paid off for us when he got here.
How is he able to force those fumbles?
I think he has a knack for the ball and has a good understanding of where the football is. Some guys—Peanut Tillman was a guy in the NFL that led the NFL in forced fumbles. Those guys just have a unique knack for punching the ball out and sometimes it’s punching the ball out, sometimes it’s stripping the ball—you know, there’s a lot of ways to get the football out and we work on it in our turnover circuit drills and continue to drill that all the time but some guys seem to excel at that a little better, maybe they see the ball a little bit better when it’s in the ballcarrier’s hands or when it’s in the quarterback’s hands or when it’s in the receiver’s hands, but he does have a knack for that and obviously to set the record for forced fumbles, that’s pretty impressive, because we only played seven games last year and we’ve played two games now, so he’s nine games into his college career. To set the record for forced fumbles is really impressive.
Offense and defense both contributing to doing well in time of possession?
We’ve had two games, so I don’t think you have a full sample size to say what is necessary to happen. We were fortunate to win both of those games, but our game plan in the Hawaii game was drastically changed when we jumped out to such a big lead, so we ran the ball more. So if you run the ball more, you’re holding onto the ball longer, so the metrics we talk about all the time is the turnover margin and creating explosive plays and preventing explosive plays. Those are the three things we talk about all the time. There’s a ton of data that you can have in a college football game, but I don’t think you can try to win every category because you can’t, so the turnover thing has been huge for us and we just look at last year’s success rate—when we didn’t turn the ball over, we were really successful and when we turned the ball over, we weren’t successful, so we’ve always been trying to limit the big plays on the defensive side of the ball and create them on the offensive side of the ball, so that part of it, I think we’ve done well so far in two games.
Didn't have a game that wasn't affected by COVID last year, zero positives through two weeks this year, turned corner as program?
No. I don’t think this country’s turned the corner on it. I think we still have to be hypervigilant on social distancing, we do the same thing in our meeting rooms—our offensive line meets in the lobby because we can spread them out. We’ve moved our meeting rooms around just to accommodate that but I don’t think anybody can drop their guard in relation to this, especially with the Delta variant and you have so many breakthrough cases of people that are vaccinated that have gotten in, so when you have been clean, part of it is the social distancing that our student-athletes are practicing. I think next week and the weeks to come will be tests for us because students are coming back to campus. We’ve been in a little bit of a bubble here because students haven’t been on campus since Friday, March 13 of 2020 so there’s going to be a different dynamic for that, but I think I’ll give our players credit, they really understand that and they’ve done a good job with being one of only two teams [in the Pac-12] to play every game last year, but it takes a lot of sacrifice from the players’ standpoint, but we can’t in any stretch of the imagination let down our guard right now and say, ‘Hey, we haven’t had a positive test in a while, so let’s say, hey, we’ve got this beat’ because until the CDC comes out and says that this variant is gone, we’re still going to be hypervigilant in terms of how we’re taking care of ourselves and what we’re doing, so.
Need to get Dulcich more involved?
It depends on how the defense defends you, so if their answer is they’re going to triple Greg Dulcich, then we’re probably not going to throw the ball to Greg Dulcich. We’re going to take what the defense gives us, it’s always been predicated upon that. There have been some games where the outside receivers are a little more explosive than the slot receivers and the tight ends and the running backs, it just really what happens during the course of a football game. Do we do a good job of protecting the football, if we jump out to a lead are you going to run the ball more, if you’re behind early are you going to throw the ball more, so we have a plan going in and then we’ll see how that plan will express itself as the game goes on.