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Dorian Thompson-Robinson shows growth in UCLA QB competition

LOS ANGELES — Dorian Thompson-Robinson is now QB1 on the roster. The rising sophomore is hoping to lock up the top rung on the depth chart too.
Thompson-Robinson, who wore No. 7 as a freshman, changed to No. 1 this spring. It was fortuitous that the offense’s former No. 1 jersey-wearer, running back Soso Jamabo, had graduated, but the transition seems perfectly timed for the quarterback’s rise into the spotlight during the second year under Chip Kelly.
As the only quarterback on the roster with game experience, Thompson-Robinson is likely the frontrunner for the starting position. He takes reps with the No. 1 offense in practice, but coaches stressed it’s still an open competition between redshirt sophomore Austin Burton, freshman Chase Griffin and walk-on redshirt freshman Josiah Norwood.
Thompson-Robinson is not relaxing.
“I still have that look-over-my-shoulder factor on me,” Thompson-Robinson said Saturday after UCLA’s third spring practice, “but I mean in the end, I know I’m taking the first-team reps, I got to get comfortable with my guys.”
Redshirt junior Michael Alves, the team’s most experienced offensive lineman, said if Thompson-Robinson hasn’t grown into the main leader of the team, he’s “one of the top three leaders.”
As a freshman, Thompson-Robinson said he kept to himself. He was worried to cross a line with his new teammates as one of the newest players on the team. When he had free time and wanted to throw – it’s his favorite down-time activity – Thompson-Robinson said he called receivers and running backs to the intramural field instead of Spaulding Field at Wasserman Center.
“I just didn’t know if that was my place to be,” Thompson-Robinson said.
He made Wasserman Center his home this offseason, organizing workouts almost every day between quarterbacks and receivers. Despite struggling at points last year, Thompson-Robinson sensed at the end of the season that without grad transfer Wilton Speight, it was his time to step up.
“He has the whole intangible package that you want,” Kelly said.
Thompson-Robinson, who threw for 1,311 yards and seven touchdowns but completed just 57.7 of his passes last year, said he learned the importance of timing his eyes up with his feet. He puts all his freshman struggles on himself, saying he felt “antsy” when he was thrown into the fray during the season opener when Speight injured his back.
His trial by fire may prove helpful this year as he leads the thin quarterback group. The Bruins have only three scholarship quarterbacks, but only two are throwing to begin spring practice as Griffin is limited with a minor wrist injury. Burton leads the No. 2 offense and threw a long touchdown to Demetric Felton in seven-on-seven drills Saturday.
Griffin is a three-star prospect listed at 5-foot-11 on UCLA’s signing day roster, but appeared closer to 5-9 as he spoke with reporters for the first time in his UCLA career. The Texas native is an eager learner, Burton said, who hasn’t let the injury stop his progression during his first college practices.
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“Whether Dorian or AB or Josiah is in, I’m putting myself in their shoes and saying where I would have gone with the ball,” Griffin said. “I know that if I found a completion, then I would have done my job on that play. Because once I get back, I know I can throw the ball accurately.”
Griffin was the Texas Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior when he threw for 4,051 yards and 51 touchdowns to just five interceptions with a 72-percent completion rate at Hutto High. He “tweaked” his right wrist in a workout this offseason and will be re-evaluated during spring break before the Bruins resume spring practices in April.
He expects to be throwing soon. Then he’ll be ready to compete for the starting job in earnest.
“It’s just the nature of being a quarterback, the nature of football, there’s only one position,” Griffin said. “We know we’re in a competition. As competitors, we can’t ask for any better situation.”
Quick hits
Linebacker Josh Woods, defensive backs Kenny Churchwell and William Nimmo and receiver Dymond Lee were limited to individual conditioning on the sideline during practice. … Saturday’s practice was the first in full pads this spring.

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