The UCLA Bruins football team enters the 2019 season with a ton of national intrigue. Now in the second season under former Oregon and NFL head coach, Chip Kelly, the Bruins are looking to take massive strides forward to improve from a 3-9 debut season.
There are truly a lot of positives that the Bruins have to like entering 2019. The team is returning 18 starters from last season, the highest number in the PAC-12 and one of the highest numbers in the country. Even with that, this team is still relying on very young players across the board.
In this four-part series of articles, I am breaking down the UCLA Bruins team so that a basic understanding of each position is made for you, dear reader. The first part of this series, the passing offense, is linked just below. Let’s not waste any more time, shall we?
UCLA Bruins Running Threats
You cannot begin to discuss UCLA Bruins football without mentioning senior running back Joshua Kelley. The 5’11” 215-pound UC-Davis transfer ran for over 1,000 yards in his first season with the Bruins, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns on the ground. He’s a talented back who runs with a lower center of gravity and incredible contact balance. His ability to pick between the tackles resembles a video game runner more than anything.
Kelley got very comfortable with the offense as he got later into the season. With four returning offensive linemen, I can’t imagine him regressing with UCLA this season. Kelley ran for 289 yards in the rivalry game against the USC Trojans; he might hit 300 yards against a team this season.
UCLA has ample support behind him. Freshman running back Keegan Jones was in for the spring and is expected to make an impact in a part-time role this season. He took a lot of first-team reps in the spring and showed a good ability to make defenders miss with a variety of moves.
Sophomore’s Kazmeir Allen and Martell Irby are also on the roster. Allen was the more explosive of the two, averaging 6.3 yards per rush attempt last season. Irby is built stouter and is more of the power back between the tackles.
Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson can run too. He was considered a dual-threat quarterback coming out of high school, and he gained 218 yards of positive rushing yards before sacks. He won’t run often, but UCLA can use him as a dual-threat type of guy.
UCLA Bruins Run Blocking
UCLA is a team that averaged 4.1 yards per attempt last season, which was about average in the PAC-12. The Bruins relied on their run game more the later the team went into the season and ended up averaging 155 yards per game.
Right tackle Jake Burton and right guard Chris Murray both now have full seasons starting under their belt. They played well last season, Murray even got three starts at the center position because of his quickness. I would expect the Bruins to stick with a zone-blocking scheme because of the usage of the RPO in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Freshman left tackle Sean Rhyan is supposed to be a physical freak. His senior tape from high school shows him to still be a little stiff, but he has a lot of power that he can use to drive people around the line of scrimmage. I’m interested to see how well he can recover when a defender gets around him.
UCLA has a lot of weapons to attack run defenses within 2019. Joshua Kelley could go as early as day two of the NFL Draft next season, and a young core remains behind him who are prepared to run a committee in the backfield for the next couple of years. Chip Kelly has managed this roster in the best way possible, and UCLA fans have to be happy with that. It can be one of the best run offenses in the PAC-12 this season.