Multiple UCLA football players, including junior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, are waiting to find out whether they can play against No. 11 Oregon on Saturday after at least one positive COVID-19 test placed teammates in quarantine through contact tracing.
The uncertainty facing the Bruins was confirmed Thursday evening by two people close to the team who spoke on condition of anonymity because of privacy concerns. A UCLA spokesperson would not comment on player availability, citing school policy.
Bruin Report Online first reported that Thompson-Robinson’s availability was in doubt.
Any positive tests require two follow-up confirmation tests through more sophisticated and sensitive testing, and it was not clear when those results would be available. The team had one player initially test positive during training camp before follow-up testing showed that it was a false positive. Another player’s positive test was confirmed earlier this month and he was forced to miss the season’s first two games.
The Bruins (1-1) are expected to have enough scholarship players available to play the Ducks (2-0) at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Ore., regardless of the pending test results, one person close to the situation said. Any players who were close contacts of anyone with confirmed positive results would have to quarantine for 14 days.
Thompson-Robinson did not speak with reporters as usual Wednesday, with a school spokesperson telling reporters at the time that there was a conflict with the team’s weightlifting schedule being shifted.
If Thompson-Robinson were unable to play against the Ducks, it would leave the Bruins with a starting quarterback who had not thrown a pass at the college level. Redshirt freshman Chase Griffin replaced Thompson-Robinson in the final minutes of the Bruins’ 34-10 victory over California on Sunday at the Rose Bowl, mostly handing the ball off and running for one yard in his only carry.
Griffin is a former Gatorade Texas high school player of the year who threw for 4,051 yards and 51 touchdowns as a senior, but concerns about his size led to him being lightly recruited by major college programs. He’s listed at 5 feet 11 and 184 pounds on the Bruins’ roster.
Barring a surprise, the other candidate to replace Thompson-Robinson would be redshirt freshman Chase Artopoeus, a walk-on.
UCLA’s most highly touted backup quarterback, Colson Yankoff, moved to wide receiver in training camp in an effort to get playing time with Thompson-Robinson firmly entrenched as the starter. Coach Chip Kelly said at the time that Yankoff, a former four-star high school prospect who spent his first college season at Washington, would not split his practice and preparation time with the quarterbacks because it would detract from his bid to become a wide receiver.
The most experienced returning quarterback in the Pac-12 Conference, Thompson-Robinson put up impressive statistics in his first two games this season while continuing to struggle with turnovers. He lost one fumble and had a pass intercepted during the Bruins’ season-opening 48-42 loss to Colorado, offsetting his 412 yards of total offense.
Thompson-Robinson also had a pass intercepted Sunday against Cal but finished the game with 196 yards passing and one touchdown to go with 52 yards rushing and one touchdown.
For the season, Thompson-Robinson has completed 34 of 66 passes with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 161 yards and two touchdowns.
Thompson-Robinson turned 21 last weekend and said his mother and girlfriend had flown in from out of town as part of a birthday celebration before UCLA played Cal.
“I was glad to get to spend my birthday with them,” Thompson-Robinson said Sunday. “I had a couple teammates come over to my apartment and we celebrated on Friday, just kind of had a little get-together.”