LOS ANGELES — Stephan Blaylock isn’t supposed to do this, but the sophomore is human after all. In moments of weakness, the sophomore goes against defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads’ “one day at a time” message and he imagines what it’ll be like Aug. 29 when he will likely earn his first collegiate start.
“It’s a big game,” the safety said of UCLA’s season opener at Cincinnati. “I know I’m going to be excited, it’s going to be a rush, we’re going to be on TV, but going into the game, it’s always about being focused and (taking) one play at a time.”
The meticulous commitment to spouting clichés illustrates just how dialed in UCLA’s defensive backs are toward helping the Bruins recover from last season’s 3-9 disappointment. They fight any urge to look ahead. When they wake up in the morning, they immediately think about ways they can ensure a good practice that day. After practice Friday, defensive backs Darnay Holmes and Elisha Guidry were two of the last players to walk off the field after staying late to work together on coverage techniques.
“We all know we have the physical game to play out here,” Blaylock said, “so it’s really all about mentality and staying focused.”
Blaylock played in 12 games with 22 tackles last year behind veteran Adarius Pickett. With Pickett fighting for a roster spot in the NFL – the undrafted free agent had five tackles in the Chargers’ preseason loss to the Cardinals on Thursday – Blaylock is prepared to step into a starting safety role.
The former St. John Bosco defensive back will be the lone first-time starter in UCLA’s secondary. He joins cornerbacks Darnay Holmes and Elijah Gates and safety Quentin Lake. The trio of returners has 51 combined career starts. Blaylock hasn’t looked out of place among the veterans.
“As a young kind coming up, he actually brings a lot of energy and effort,” Lake said.
Running back Joshua Kelley (knee) and receivers Theo Howard (wrist/arm), Michael Ezeike and Dymond Lee (ankle) remained limited in yellow, noncontact jerseys. … Kicker J.J. Molson made 10 of 12 field goal attempts Friday in his first extended full-team kicking period of training camp open to reporters. … UCLA practiced a fake field goal in which holder/punter Wade Lees threw a pass. … Three-star offensive lineman Patrick Selna verbally committed to UCLA on Thursday, giving UCLA 11 commits for the 2020 class. Selna was previously committed to Tulane, but flipped upon receiving his offer to UCLA, which was his first from a Pac-12 school. … UCLA has a scheduled day off Saturday.