Dillon Gabriel, the former starting quarterback for UCF, announced Thursday on Twitter that he will transfer to UCLA to play for Bruins coach Chip Kelly. Gabriel, a redshirt sophomore, started three games for the Knights in 2021 before a collarbone injury on the final play of a mid-September loss to Louisville ended his season.
In two-plus seasons in Orlando, Gabriel put together a prolific career, throwing for 8,041 yards, 70 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions. He added 372 yards rushing and eight rushing touchdowns on the ground.
The 6-foot, 200-pounder from Mililani, Hawaii, was ranked No. 7 among transfers, according to 247Sports, and was the No. 3 quarterback behind Quinn Ewers and Cameron Ward.
What does Gabriel's commitment to UCLA mean?
Prototypical Chip Kelly QB
Current quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is exactly what Kelly wants in a quarterback. DTR possesses a strong arm, pocket mobility, and is a difference-maker as a runner in space. If you substitute Gabriel's name in for DTR's, the previous sentence remains accurate.
Kelly wants a pass-first quarterback with a strong arm, but one who can also handle the added responsibility of being more than just a "willing runner" in his offense. Thompson-Robinson could return if he takes advantage of his free year of eligibility, but Gabriel's presence will allow Kelly to keep this offense cranking at a high level whether it's in 2022 or beyond.
Pac-12 South contenders
Let's assume for a minute that Thompson-Robinson will leave -- which, at this point, seems plausible. Will Gabriel's presence under center make the Bruins Pac-12 South contenders? Absolutely.
UCLA may return up to four starters along the offensive line depending on the decisions of some draft-eligible juniors, which would be huge for an offense that evolved into more of a force on the line of scrimmage than it had in previous seasons. And look elsewhere around the Pac-12 South. Utah is set to undergo some significant personnel turnover, USC is transitioning to the Lincoln Riley regime and Arizona State is still inconsistent. Simply put, the division is a toss up.
Gabriel is a proven difference-maker, which will give the Bruins a huge edge going into next season.
Oregon reportedly reached out to UCLA to get permission to speak to Kelly about its then-vacant coaching gig, but hired Dan Lanning shortly thereafter. That suggests that Kelly either wasn't interested or Oregon was more concerned with recruiting at an elite level with a young, up-and-coming coach like Lanning.
Either way, Kelly staying with UCLA, combined with him landing one of the most sought-after transfer quarterbacks, is a surefire sign that the program is stable for the first time in more than a decade. UCLA is one of those programs that always seems like it should be better than it is. Well, Kelly's sticking around and has another stud signal-caller in the pipeline. Maybe it'll live up to its potential sooner rather than later.