Mike Martinez, UCLA’s most experienced and best blocking tight end, is no longer with the program.
Bruins coach Chip Kelly confirmed Martinez’s departure Tuesday as his team entered the second half of preseason training camp but did not specify a reason for the exit. Martinez had not participated in practice since the spring, when he returned from the leg injury that had sidelined him for most of the 2021 season.
Martinez appeared to remain slightly hobbled by the injury when he last appeared on the practice field, moving somewhat awkwardly. But his value to the team transcended his modest statistics. In three seasons, the 6-foot-7, 266-pound Martinez caught six passes for 70 yards with one touchdown while emerging as the top blocker among the tight ends.
“You’ve got to compensate,” Kelly said. “We feel good about our tight end room — they’re working extremely hard and I think it’s a really, really good group. … It may be our deepest position on both sides of the ball.”
Redshirt senior Michael Ezeike, a converted receiver, and redshirt juniors Hudson Habermehl, David Priebe and Michael Churich have been joined by true freshmen Carsen Ryan and Jack Pedersen as part of a tight end group that figures to be heavily utilized. Kelly said he envisioned using some formations with four tight ends.
Ezeike is the only returning tight end who has caught a pass; he tallied three receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown last season.
Kicker Nicholas Barr-Mira, who had missed the previous two practice sessions with an apparent injury, returned and kicked field goals during the portion of practice open to reporters. … Kelly said redshirt senior linebacker Shea Pitts and Habermehl received scholarships in the spring. … Kelly said offensive lineman Patrick Selna and linebacker Damian Sellers remained part of the program even though they have not participated in fall camp and are no longer listed on the roster. … Receiver Kazmeir Allen, on his expectations for the season: “Our whole mindset is Rose Bowl or bust, so we’ve got to get there.”