Game planning for a team is difficult enough preparing for one quarterback, but getting ready for two makes it all the more challenging. For Coach MacIntyre it’s even more stressful when thinking about the fact that the last time the team faced two quarterbacks in meaningful game action, Khalil Tate set an single-game FBS rushing record.
However, unlike the situation where Tate presented a unknown, hidden, level of explosiveness, both of UCLA’s quarterbacks (Wilton Speight and Dorian Thompson-Robinson) have seen game action so far, and thus have a higher level of predictability in terms of their attributes. Additionally, Chip Kelly runs a more straight forward, consistent, offense than the tricky scheme of Rich Rodriguez.
“Everytime someone says ‘preparing for two quarterbacks,’ I kind of break out into a cold sweat from the Arizona game a year ago,” MacIntyre said. “We prepare for [two quarterbacks], but there’s certain things that I think Chip will do to run his offense, and whichever guys in there, we’ll get a feel for if they’re throwing the ball down the field or doing more drop-backs.”
While Kelly will run more or less the same offense between guys, there’ll inevitably be some differences that the team is preparing for as well. Those differences have stuck out to Coach Mac when watching the two on game film.
“Wilt has a little more understanding of coverages and everything right now. It seems like they’ll probably sprint out a little bit more with Dorian, he’s a little bit shorter to get him out of the pocket to see a little bit better at times but they both can do everything they want in their offense.”
According to reports out of Westwood, it seems likely that Kelly will opt to go with the Michigan transfer Speight, who’s been unavailable the past two weeks after suffering a back injury in the season opener. Nonetheless, Speight’s rushing ability and knack for making throws outside the pocket have been underrated attributes of his game throughout his career, meaning Colorado will have to prepare for that regardless of who lines up under center.
Aside from a nightmare first half in Lincoln where CU let up over 200 yards on the ground, the run defense has made leaps and gains after a tough 2017. One of the reasons their run defense struggled so much last year was fatigue late in games at linebacker and on the defensive line. While Drew Lewis led the team in tackles, Rick Gamboa was a impact player in the middle, and Javier Edwards had flashes at times, all three were on the field too much and visibly tired by the fourth quarter.
While not everyone is getting the same number of snaps, to combat the fatigue, Colorado has established more of a consistent rotation particularly at the outside linebacker position that consists of Lewis, Jacob Callier, and Carson Wells. On the defensive line they’ve rotated in Lyle Tuiloma, Chris Mulumba, and Jase Franke at all the spots. This has been something that’s allowed guys to stay fresher not just during the course of a single game, but the season too.
“It’s worked out well, we’ve got a lot of speed on the field, a lot of guys rotating in, and I’ve noticed that they’ve been fresher as the games have gone on and our pass rush hasn’t always got to the passer, but we’ve harassed the passer, we’ve gotten there and we’re more fresh. I believe as the season go’s along that’ll carry out dividens, and will help us in situation where we’ve got to get some pass rush without having to blitz.”
With Akil Jones scheduled to be coming back healthy soon, and Jonathan Van Diest getting more practice reps on the inside the team should be able to create a even larger rotation of impact players in the coming future.