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Sports >  NCAA football

Pac-12 training camp report: UCLA QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson returns, another NIL deal and more

Aug. 20, 2021 Updated Fri., Aug. 20, 2021 at 2:55 p.m.

By Jon Wilner Bay Area News Group

Four developments that grabbed our attention during the second week of training camp …

1. DTR is back

UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson returned to practice late last week after his 10-day absence — the reasons were undisclosed — caused a slight swell of concern for Bruins fans.

This is, after all, a critical year, and Thompson-Robinson will play a central role in UCLA’s success or failure.

The missed repetitions early in camp weren’t vital for the multi-year starter, and he returned in plenty of time to prepare for the season opener next week against Hawaii.

The Bruins cannot afford a stumble — not with LSU looming on Sept. 4, not with the program seeking its first non-conference victory since 2017 and not with coach Chip Kelly entering what feels like a make-or-break year.

Another slow start could doom the season and possibly his tenure. The Bruins must be in midseason form the moment they step on the field. Getting Thompson-Robinson back with two weeks to spare was essential.

2. Big news in Boulder

Training camp began with six quarterback competitions across the conference. Now, there are five.

Colorado has its Week One starter, albeit under unfortunate circumstances: JT Shrout, a transfer from Tennessee and contender for the CU job, suffered a significant knee injury and will miss an extended period of time.

That leaves second-year freshman Brendon Lewis as the starter by default.

Lewis might have won the job anyhow — he played well in the Alamo Bowl and has a diverse skill set and high ceiling.

But with Shrout out and veterans Sam Noyer and Tyler Lytle having transferred long ago, the Buffaloes are left with inexperienced options.

Lewis has attempted 10 career passes, all of them in the Alamo Bowl. The only other scholarship quarterback on the roster, Drew Carter, is a true freshman.

3. All quiet on other fronts

As for the remaining quarterback competitions, we should expect clarity to emerge early next week.

The lack of separation among starting candidates at Arizona, Utah, Washington State, Oregon State and Stanford could be viewed in one of two ways:

Either the competition is close at a high level of efficiency or an average level of efficiency.

Our hunch is that Utah is better positioned than the other four. Transfer Charlie Brewer, who threw 65 touchdowns at Baylor and sizzled in the Utes’ spring game, hasn’t pulled away from Cam Rising, who started the 2020 opener but was hurt early in the game.

That tells us Rising is playing well and the Utes have two good options.

Oregon State might be next on the comfort list, with two 2020 starters locked in competition: veteran Tristan Gebbia and transfer Sam Noyer, who started every game last season for Colorado.

4. Cashing in

Oregon defensive star Kayvon Thibodeaux is one of the few Pac-12 athletes (that we know of) to make six-figure use of endorsement opportunities available under Name, Imagine and Likeness rules.

After adding United Airlines to his list of business partners, Thibodeaux now has deals that are reportedly worth $400,000, according to ESPN.

Elsewhere in the conference, the NIL news has been fairly slow.

We don’t doubt that dozens of athletes have, or will soon sign endorsement contracts — many of them linked to social media.

But the rollout thus far supports our belief that only a handful of Pac-12 athletes will sign deals in excess of $50,000 or $100,000.

The vast majority of arrangements will be worth hundreds of dollars, or perhaps a few thousand, to the athletes.

Expect more announcements once California’s Fair Pay to Play Act, which powered the NIL movement nationally, takes effect.

Originally scheduled for 2023, the legislation has been moved up to Sept. 1 of this year.

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