UCLA football running backs coach DeShaun Foster spoke to reporters after Friday morning’s fall camp session. Foster talked about his expectations for Zach Charbonnet, how he continues to mentor alumni who have gone to the NFL, the biggest standouts who could fill in for Brittain Brown and the overall nature of the Bruins’ two-back system.
Terminator 2-type season for Charbonnet this year?
He had a great off-season, he cut his body fat down—it was already under 5[%] but he got it down lower than that. He’s way more vocal than he was last season, so that’s a positive, just to see him out here with the guys, but he’s just comfortable—you can tell he’s comfortable in the system, comfortable being around the players and just being in that leadership role, he’s comfortable.
How does he develop that vocal nature?
I think it was just something, us continually asking him to step out of his comfort zone a little bit and for us to be a player-led team it has to come from the leaders and everybody respects him and he understood that and just ran with it so far, so I’m just excited that he’s actually taking it and running with it.
Where has Charbonnet improved? Older guys usually work on pass protection and blocking?
I think you can tell stuff is slowing down for him. With him, it’s like, he has all the tools, it’s just fine-tuning it. There’s not much like he has to come out here and I’ve got to work on holding onto the ball or catching, so it’s just little things outside of running, like catching off the Jugs, pass pro, it’s all stuff he can do but just improving, so it’s just the overall game.
No Brittain, expect Charbonnet to get more carries or will those get split up elsewhere?
Yeah, this is a two-back system so we should still find a way for other guys to get carries—I can’t just put all that load on Zach, so I’m just excited to see the rest of the guys get going and finish camp strong.
Deshun and Keegan battling for No. 2?
Yeah, Deshun Murrell, he’s in the mix, Keegan Jones, Tomarion Harden, Kaz Allen, just those four guys, just trying to figure out who can fill that void and help out because you can’t put all that on Zach. It’s a two-back system, two-back league, everybody has two backs, you’ve just got to be able to stay healthy and you don’t know what’s going to happen at the end of the year, so I want to get everybody developed as much as I can.
Splitting Kaz between receiver and running back?
Just whenever he can get reps, you know, so he does his first one with the receivers and I’ll take him later on, just make sure he’s staying with the ball in his hand.
So like Demetric Felton?
Christian Grubb back and healthy?
Yeah, just speed. He possesses that type of speed, so he’s a very fast kid, so it’s just getting him healthy because he’s coming off his Achilles so it’s making sure he’s healthy and getting back out there, so just excited he’s back.
What does Keegan Jones need to work on?
Keegan’s thing is always getting more reps—he’s always had guys in front of him, so it’s just good that he was able to get a lot of reps this spring and now mentally coming in here and getting reps at running back and being able to pick up other things in the offense, so I’m excited for him.
Who has the highest compete level in the RB room besides Charbonnet?
Next it’s probably Keegan and then Deshun, yeah.
What does that competitive drive look like for Keegan?
He’s quiet like Zach, they don’t see much, so when they speak, you’re like, ‘Oh, OK. Something’s going on.’ But Keegan’s out here just trying to go, he’s a very fast kid, talented, from the South, so he has a more different work ethic from other guys, but I’m just excited for him. He knows that his role is going to increase, that he’s going to get an opportunity and he’s just really trying to make sure he makes it to that.
Number of touches for Charbonnet, like 20-22?
Maybe that, I’m not sure where he finished the season at because Brittain was banged up toward the end of the year and I don’t think Brittain played against SC or Cal, so probably whatever those were, like 22—but his touches, I’m not even counting carries. So 25 touches, 18 rushes and seven catches, somewhere around there just to keep him fresh, but it’s not going to be 42 or 30 or stuff like that. I’m not going to do to them what they were doing to me, you know what I mean.
How much do you want to get back to the Rose Bowl?
Most definitely because I just saw the other day that the last time we went was ’99 and the last time we won was ’86, so yeah, that’s always our ultimate dream, just to make sure we make it to the Rose Bowl. I know us playing in it, this is different, but we actually want to be in the Rose Bowl game and I think with this team we actually have a real opportunity just with the veterans that are coming back and the position that we have veterans in—Dorian coming back, Zach, adding Bobo, the tight end room looks good, the line, so I’m just excited to see that.
Feel optimism in the city with this being the best team Kelly and had and USC stuff going on down the road?
Yeah. I mean, I’ve always felt like we’ve been competitive—we might not have come out on top of the game but we still were fighting. I’m just glad that the players are seeing how close that they are, it’s not just lip service, you can hear them talking to themselves and really trying to get the team together, you can see how the approached summer without us out here with them, but I think that comes from having veterans that have played a lot. It’s different when you have guys that haven’t played—we have a lot of guys that have played since freshmen, so I’m just excited to see how this slows down for them, what we do.
Growth as a coach since coming back in 2017?
I mean, every year you’re learning, it’s just more of, never assume that they know something, that’s my deal. Just because I knew it at that age, don’t assume that they do. So I just try to do that.
Yeah, I’m in a group chat with Felton, I just added Brittain, so all the NFL guys, just excited to see. Brittain missed that first game, so I was really disappointed but he should be back and Felton, I’m excited to see how his role picks up this year and with Josh, the coaches in there seeing what he can do, but I’m excited.
Still mentor those guys?
Yeah, I talk to them as much as possible. I have group chats with all my backs, so if I send something to these guys, I’m sending it to the older guys too, so I try to stay just so they have somebody to talk to, because your position coach might not necessarily be giving you everything you need, so I just try to stay in [inaudible].
Do they ask about special teams?
It’s huge because I tell them that I played seven years, I probably could have stolen three years if I did special teams but I was only a returner, so I always tell them, make sure you have the tools—that’s why you see Zach always doing drills, you might not see him doing the reps but he knows the drills so that he has those tools because you never know what’s going to happen, somebody might go down and they need a guy to get in there, you want to be a guy who can do multiple things. Like you guys don’t need cameramen, you see how you cut the cameramen out and you’re done. I can write and take the video.
Feel responsible for introducing new coaches to UCLA culture, being a former players and coaching here so long?
Um, I think we have a good mix of that—coach Norton, he already knew what was going on, him being a Bruin, Billy, I’m pretty Daniel Fields let him know exactly what’s going on, so we have a lot of Bruins around that can help guys out, but much of these coaches wanted to be on the staff, so I think they probably did their research before they came over here, right?
Norton finally wore white today, how long until you do?
I don’t know. I used to wear white out here too, I used to and I just changed.
Something to watch?
We’ll see. If I wear white and they have a great practice, I’ll be in white the rest of the year, so I might give that a shot.