WATCH: Devin Kirkwood on Talking Trash, Bonding With UCLA Coaches

The Bruins’ rising young cornerback has built a strong connection with defensive coordinator Bill McGovern and coach Chip Kelly.

UCLA football cornerback Devin Kirkwood spoke to reporters following Monday morning’s fall camp session. Kirkwood talked about how his trash talk helps give him energy, who he likes to go against the most in practice, the bonds he has with Bill McGovern and Chip Kelly and what he thinks he’s proven so far this preseason. 

More comfortable in second fall camp?

Uh, it’s been really good lately, been a lot more progress this year, way more consistent, a lot better than I did last year. I feel like I’ve grown a lot more as a player over the offseason into fall camp. And this fall camp this year, I feel like I’ve shown that I’ve grown as a person and as a player, and I’m being a leader to my teammates that are same age as me, older and to the younger players that came in.

How have you grown in other ways besides as a leader?

Uh, my coverage has gotten way better, I’ve gotten more consistent with my man coverage, more consistent on my off coverage, too, knowing the down and distance, being able to key in on certain plays to make great breaks on the ball. And it’s just helped with coach McGovern, that he trusts and believes in me, so that helps amplify my game even more and he lets me be me.

Trash talk give you juice?

So when I trash talk, it doesn’t really mean nothing, but like, it gives me energy, I feed off of trash talking. Like, when people talk trash to me, it just amplifies my game even more cause it feels like now I want to prove something to you, I gotta show you how I really am. So in practice, when we be trash talking, I’ll be like ‘Ok, now I’m really about to show you who I am and just keep going out there and locking you up.’ That’s an everyday thing.

Ever have to back off of your trash talk with guys after practice?

No, not really, cause they understand when we’re in practice, when we’re on the field, we’re not friends. It’s defense vs. offense, but I still love my brothers. Even though we’re on opposite sides during practice, but I still love them. So when we trash talk, it just be all fun and games and then when we off the field, we like family.

Anybody give it back to you on offense?

Oh yeah, of course.

Who’s good at doing that?

Dorian love talking trash to me. Ethan Garbers loves talking trash. Jake Bobo, you know Bobo loves talking trash to me. Titus, that’s my guy. Titus, he talks trash to me every day. We go at it even off of the field, we just be talking trash to each other every day. It was me, Titus, Kam Brown, Kaz – Kaz Allen, he’s always talking trash to me. So basically, the whole offense be talking trash to me.

Anyone else on defense who supports your trash talk? Or is it you vs. the entire offense?

Oh nah, my whole defense be with me. All my brothers ride with me, like Blaylock, Stephan Blaylock, Mo Osling, John Humphrey, Azizi, who else, Croix, Alex Johnson, all my dogs, Kenny Churchwell, they all be talking trash with me cause as soon as something breaks out or anything that happens between us, we make sure we got our brother’s back before anything else. That’s family orientated.

Size help with going against someone like Bobo?

It helps a lot because I’m 6-3, 6-4 and Bobo’s like 6-4, 6-5, so it makes it easier for me and it makes it like he has to deal with my wide frame, so it’s like, I might not be the biggest in size, but my length, I play to my ability because it’s like, OK, we both might be big but if I know how to box you out like you know how to box me out, I feel like I have a great advantage on that and I just play to my ability.

Where are you physically?

I’m 197 right now, I want to be 200 when the season starts, so I can gain three pounds by then but really right now I love my weight. Like, my weight’s really good, perform at a great level, run, I feel good, my breaks, I feel more explosive than I was last year, make better plays and I’m always in the right position now. Everything has just been great for me.

Have a starting spot locked up at corner?

To me honest, right now I feel like I do but I still have to prove everything every day—you’ve still got to prove it, but I feel like I’ve shown myself and my skills this whole fall camp, I’ve continually showed up every day on the film and so has my brothers—Jaylin Davies, Azizi, John Humphrey, they’ve all shown up on the film too, but we’ve just got to keep working as a unit, keep balling out and at the end of the days, it doesn’t matter, ones, twos, if you’re playing and you’re balling, you’re going to play. So you’ve just got to make sure we know our assignments.

McGovern letting you be you means he lets you press more or play more in man?

Uh, he just lets me be me. Me and coach McGovern, that’s like my uncle. We talk every day, we crack jokes and we hype each up every day to go out there and better each other. Like, he’s got to make some great calls and I’ve got to go out there and play the best defense I can for him. But by him letting me be me, he lets me go out there and trash talk, he lets me go out there and compete to my full ability, like play man, press, off man, whenever I step out there, he’s banking on me, he put his money down on me and I put my money down on him whenever he out there.

Have with with the age difference between you and McGovern?

Not really, but he cracks jokes all the time and I look up to him a lot because he gives me great intel all the time about how I should play, how I should control my press, how I should line up, how I should play at the line of scrimmage, how I should always maintain my leverage, how I should always be top shoulder on certain routes, how in the red zone you play bottom shoulder, top shoulder in the middle of the field—he’s just helped me express my game in ways I wasn’t able to do last year, so now when I demonstrate it, it just looks like poetry.

A lot of interaction with the secondary?

Oh, he loves the secondary. He loves the outside backers, he loves the inside backers, he loves the whole defense, but the secondary, he loves us a lot. He loves everybody on our defense the most. Like, he wants everybody to be great because you never know when your time comes so you have to play, everybody has to stay ready, everybody has to know their name, their assignments, where they’re going, what gap they’ve got to fill, what coverage they’ve got to play, we’ve just all got to know, we’ve just got to keep communicating.

Chip out there throwing passes?

That’s my guy. Coach is my guy, like coach Chip, he’s the reason why I came here, he was one of the reasons why I came here, he’s helped me out dramatically, like, our relationship is really good and him coming and throwing the ball to us, it be meaning a lot because it shows that he’s not just an offensive coach, he’s a defensive coach too. He helps, he helps me understand schemes on the offensive side, understand down and distance on certain things on like how I should talk to refs on communication, making sure when I’m in I don’t do anything to jeopardize our team on the defensive side, so making sure that I always have a good relationship with the refs, ask them what can I do, what should I do to look for when I’m playing, like if I can do certain things at the line of scrimmage that won’t get called and how I should play my coverage because sometimes people get a little handsy and they let me know what’s allowed and what’s not allowed. He helps me understand how the receivers break in and out of their cuts, how I should get out of my breaks, he helps me understand the down and distance even more.

Put good zip on the ball?

Aw, yeah, that man, he be zipping the ball in there. He threw me one today.

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