UCLA football receiver Kyle Philips and striker Martell Irby talked to the media at the conclusion of Tuesday's practice.
Philips gave his insight on the quarterback situation with Dorian Thompson-Robinson hurt and Ethan Garbers stepping in, as well as his own return from missing the Washington game in Week 7. Irby, who just blocked a punt against Oregon that led to an eventual UCLA touchdown, talked about the 2019 Utah game, potential bowl eligibility and playing jazz on his saxophone in high school and throughout college.
What have you seen from Garbers in practice?
In practice we’ve just seen a lot of confidence with how he carries himself, how he runs the offense when he’s in and just absolutely strips the ball. He’s a super talented quarterback and he’s got a lot of chemistry with the guys. He’s one of my roommates and stuff, and he’s always on the guys, so people like him, he carries himself well and has been doing really good.
How did he handle himself coming into that game?
I think he handled himself tremendously. You know, he was cold the whole game, then his number was called, he came in and made some huge throws, converted a fourth down and that last play happened, it was a great play by the Oregon DB and no one on the team faults him for it. We think he did what he could when he was in and played well.
Preparation change not knowing who the quarterback is between Ethan and Dorian?
Nothing changes with the way we practice. Dorian’s been out here doing more stuff each and every day, just getting more done and nothing changes with our offense, whatever happens we’re a next-man-up operation no matter who it is and we have confidence in all of our guys and so whatever happens, happens and we’ll be confident going into it.
Felton and Kelley on the field after the game?
Man, it was amazing seeing those guys. I didn’t even know that Demetric was going to be there at the game, he kind of surprised all of us—that was a really thing and it’s just always so good seeing those guys because they’re the ones that really did what we want to do and make it out, you know, they didn’t have all the hype going into it and they’re the guys that really did it the right way, they had their head down and worked for everything they have and everything that happened, they’re deserving, it’s just so awesome to see them at that next level playing so well.
Confident that the coaches will have everyone ready if they have to step up in new roles?
Yeah, I’m extremely confident. We have some phenomenal coaches that create great game plans and they get these guys so well prepared and our game plan won’t change as well. Everyone on this team has confidence in every man on it and what happens, happens and we’ll be ready for it.
Do you help those guys build confidence when they need to step up?
I usually go talk to them and try to get their confidence up but every time I’ve doen that, the guy I’ve been talking to has been extremely confident and ready to go, so no one’s really needed me to say anything to them, which is nice going into the game, I don’t have to make some guy feel confident—he’s always confident in his abilities, so that’s been good. If it happens, I still would do it, but no one needs it on the team, everyone’s extremely confident in their own ability.
Health after missing that game vs. Washington?
100%, yeah, played last week, felt good, body’s 100% healthy, ready to continue on the rest of the season.
Watch that one from home?
Yeah, I was watching on TV and I was kind of emotional. You know, it sucks, you work so hard with your teammates and you see them play so hard and not be able to be out there with them, it was definitely a little emotional but once I saw my guys start making plays and everything, it turned into pure joy and happiness because it was just amazing seeing so many different guys get the ball, be able to make plays on offense and defense, so it was cool.
3-0 on the road but Utah packs the house, you prepared for that environment and the team itself?
You know, we’re preparing the same way we do every week—we really don’t pay too much attention to outside noise and all that, I don’t think that has a huge affect on us, but in regards to Utah, I personally love playing there. They have, like you said, a really packed, loud stadium, so it makes the stadium a little more exciting and Utah’s a great football program, they always have a great defense and really tough players, always play really hard, so it’s always a fun game being able to play them, especially being out there with those fans involved too, get it real loud.
Punt block something you spotted pre-snap or something?
Not at all. It started in the beginning of the week just with prep and it wasn’t even designed for me to make that play actually but that’s just kind of how the cards fell, they had a scheme that they came out and ran something different and it kind of just opened up for me and I was able to make the play when the opportunity presented itself.
How did it feel?
Man, it was amazing, it was a blessing, just as a punt return unit, whenever we get that call going for the block, you know, we all get juiced, it just felt good to get another one, we got one against Hawaii but to get another one and bring the juice, it gave us the spark we needed to go out and put some points on the board, but yeah, it was an amazing feeling.
Still playing music?
Yes, I do, I make sure to tap in with my music side. I actually have my saxophone with me in my place, so sometime when I get some downtime I make sure to whip it out, you know, it helps to ease my mind, it’s like a whole different of me. I’m not going to lie—it’s like a whole different side, it’s a whole different part of my life, but yeah, I still make sure to incorporate that, try to play when I get some time. I don’t get a lot of time with ball and school and all that, but I for sure make sure that I continue to do that.
Favorite sax players?
I love Wayne Shorter, I got introduced to him when I was a lot younger. John Coltrane is someone that I would probably say is someone I want to be able to get to eventually. I got a lot of ways to go, but yeah, when life kind of calms down a little bit and I can take jazz a little more serious, that’s who I want to eventually be able to play like.
Bowl eligibility the floor or the goal?
Man, we try not to get caught up in it, but I would venture to say that's for sure the floor. We started this journey a long, long time ago, sir, and it's just about taking it one day at a time. Yeah, we're aware of bowl eligibility and everything that can come of getting a couple more wins and where we can end up and things like that, but we try not to allow that to get in our head cause it's easy to get wrapped up in that, you miss what's in front of us. Right now, that most important thing is Utah, it's coming out tomorrow and practicing and just being able to attack that cause once you get caught up too far in the future, you miss what's right in front of you. So right now, we're focused on Utah and nothing else, sir. But I'm a firm we can do whatever we want, put it like that.
Oh, he's a great player. He's able to make plays with both his arm and his legs. Just being able to take what we see this week in film and just being able to incorporate that on the field on Saturday because we get great scout, great scout look and coaches are gonna scheme it up for us, we just gotta trust it and be aware that, going into the game, we're playing a dual-threat type of quarterback. But we have all that we need to succeed this week, I have no doubt in my mind.
Like more experimental or traditional jazz?
Um, I would have to say tradition. Like, in high school – ok, in high school, I went to a performing arts high school down in San Diego called San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts. And when I was there, we kind of focused more on traditional jazz, we weren't really into smooth jazz. We were just more focused on the basics and being able to take that be able to explore within that and not get too caught up in the new way of music and things like that. So I'll for sure have to go with traditional.
Making the move to striker and learning behind Q Knight?
Oh man, I would have to say it was crazy how it worked out, it was a blessing. Me and Qwuantrezz have gotten extremely close, both on and off the field, just the kind of guy he is, we relate on a lot of different levels. And just being able to walk into that and have him take me under his wing is a blessing. He helps me, like I'll be having questions and really just being able to tie that into game experience as well. Most of the time, younger guys don't really get that experience, but being able to have that experience and be able to talk that over with him about coaching and things like that, it's working out well. I'm really thankful, I'm glad that Chip recommended that and we went on with that, but yeah, it's good, it's been pretty instinctual to say the least, not thinking too much, just trying to go out, have fun, play with the guys next to me and yeah, going for it all in the process. But yeah, it's been good.
Had to win to stay alive in Utah in 2019, similar situation this year? Probably have to win out starting this weekend?
Yeah exactly, exactly. So moving forward, kind of like I said earlier, it's easy to get lost, it's easy to get lost in it, so just being able to take it one day at a time, even smaller – one meeting at a time – being able to understand that we can just kinda focus, have tunnel vision, don't allow everything that's going on to get in your mind space. I feel like we'll be better off, in a sense, because once you start factoring that in, you allow the game to get bigger than what it is and yeah, yeah.
2019 game come up at all?
I try and forget, forget games like that. But yeah, just the big wins and the big losses, just trying to be able to press forward after them and yeah, not allow them to linger around in your mind, don't want to be thinking about that when we head back to Utah, but yeah.
Roommates on the team who have thoughts on you playing the sax?
Yeah, I try and make sure that I do it in the time that's not too late or too early to the point where it's disturbing them. I might even try to go out to, like, a common room or something like that to play in. But yeah, I've had my saxophone with me that whole time I've been here, when I was a freshman with Kazmeir Allen, Shemar Martin, yeah, I play the sax, I kinda go off, they go 'Ok, Martel needs his time, he's having a moment, yeah, he's having a moment. He'll go play his sax.' But yeah, they're pretty cool with it, they don't mind.
Specific song you like to play or trying to learn?
Mmm ok so, when I got out of college – I mean when I got out of high school, not college. When i got out of high school, I started to focus more so on learning certain licks and things like that, or like etudes, not really full songs because, I don't know, in high school, I had to learn them but I had to perform them and things like that, but I kinda wanted to get the fundamentals, like, take it back and really learn how to create. Like improvising, for instance, like how to create a good improvisation, so taking it bits and pieces at a time to be able to, overall, create the type of – to become the type of improvisers that I look up to, John Coltrane, things like that. So I haven't really been tapping into whole songs. I'm trying to think of some old tunes I used to play. Yeah, I can't think of any on the top of my head but yeah, like I said, I've been really focusing on the fundamentals cause yeah, I don't have to perform now, it's really just for me. So taking it slow, focusing on my tonality and things like that, but yeah. Yeah, it's funny talking about music.