EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Throughout his time as a head coach at Oregon, in the NFL and now with UCLA, Chip Kelly has not always been the most forthcoming with reporters.
Kelly seemingly enjoys the cat-and-mouse game and he plays it well, frequently being as coy as possible. That was true on Tuesday, as his 18th-ranked Bruins held their first practice in El Paso ahead of the 89th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl on Friday vs. the Pittsburgh Panthers.
UCLA won’t say for sure if its star players like quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson and running back Zach Charbonnet will play in the 2022 edition of El Paso’s game, even though they both have gone through every workout in preparation for the bowl game and were on the practice field at Bel Air High School on Tuesday morning.
“That’s what we hope for,” Kelly said when asked if their presence at practice in El Paso meant they’d play on Friday. “Everyone’s practicing fully right now.”
Kelly has once again engineered a prolific offense with a dual-threat QB in DTR and Charbonnet in the backfield, who rushed for over 1,300 yards in 2022. Those two were the biggest reasons why the Bruins come into El Paso ranked third in FBS football in total offense.
If they play – and their presence in the Sun City on the practice field would seem to hint at it – UCLA could put on an offensive show on Friday, particularly against a Pitt defense missing five starters due to opt-outs and other reasons.
“That’s the challenge. Coach Narduzzi does such a great job with them, they’ve always been one of the top defenses in college football. They’re sound, they’re aggressive. That’s the big matchup for us going into this game,” Kelly said.
UCLA defensive coordinator Bill McGovern took his turn in front of the media on Tuesday, after missing some of the 2022 season due to health issues. McGovern didn’t go into detail, but said he would be back with the Bruins in 2023 for the final year of his contract.
Interestingly enough, McGovern was asked about Thompson-Robinson during his availability and said the quarterback was ready to play Friday.
“We’re looking forward to him playing in the game. He’s excited about it, he was out there running around today throwing passes. We’re excited to have him out there on the field one more time,” McGovern said.
The Bruins have a few ties to El Paso. Running backs coach DeShaun Foster played with El Paso native Ed Stansbury for the Bruins back in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Additionally, Franklin graduate Cutter Leftwich is a graduate assistant at UCLA.
UCLA and Pitt kickoff the 89th Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl at noon on Friday in El Paso.