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UCLA Football: Chip Kelly Dismisses Idea of a Dedicated Special Teams Coach

The Bruins head coach spoke about the team’s problems with special teams against Oregon.

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NCAA Football: Washington at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Before practice yesterday, UCLA football coach Chip Kelly met with the media for the first time after being able to watch the film of Saturday’s game against Oregon.

Naturally, he was asked about the play of the Bruins’ special teams.

His first question was about what happened when JJ Molson was late getting onto the field to try a field goal. Kelly chalked that up to a “communication issue,” saying that he has spoken with special teams coordinator Roy Manning about the problem. “It was fourth and ten. We weren’t considering going for it,” Kelly said. “So, I think there was a little confusion on the headset of we were going for it.”

Kelly was also asked to assess how the team has done on special teams this season. Surprisingly, Kelly didn’t revert to his standard answer of not looking back. Instead, he said that he thought that Molson and Stefan Flintoft had done a good job while acknowledging that “our special teams were not good on Saturday.”

“We gave up 21 points. We gifted 21 points to them,” he continued.

Ben Bolch of the LA Times next asked Kelly if the team would be spending more time working on special teams to fix those issue. Kelly immediately dismissed the question. He said:

Nah, it’s got nothing to do with that. It’s got to do with attention to detail and doing the little things....We can spend 12 hours on that, but I don’t think we need to spend 12 hours on it. We just need to be dialed in on the details of it.

Kelly also mentioned that the team had actually performed better with respect to tackling. He noted that they missed 12 tackles against Oregon which was an improvement from 24 missed against Utah. He was not happy with the number of dropped passes, noting that the team had six dropped passes against the Ducks. ”That was poor,” he said. “That’s not our norm.”

Soon after that, Kelly got a little testy. When Bolch asked if Kelly had considered having a “dedicated special teams coach” when he was hired, Kelly was quick to respond. “We do have a dedicated special teams coach,” he said. So, Bolch clarified the question by saying he meant a coach who only does special teams. Kelly replied, “There’s no one that does that. I mean, everybody...they coach a position. I don’t know what they would do the rest of the practice.” When Bolch suggested that some teams used the extra coaching position for a special teams coach, Kelly tried to make the idea sound dumb.

Well, in theory I could have four guys coach special teams and one guy coach on offense. So, there’s a lot of theories you have out there. But, what would they do the rest of the practice if they were the special teams coach? Because all those guys that are on special teams play other positions. So, they’d have to take a vacation. Get a lawn chair out there for them. Have them sit down and not do anything.

Thanks to UCLA Athletics for sharing the video of Coach Kelly’s interview.

Speaking of Ben Bolch, it’s worth noting that today is a big day for him. He’s got a new book out today titled “100 Things UCLA Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die.” While we will have a full review of the book soon, anyone who enjoys Bolch’s work for the LA Times will surely enjoy his book.

After practice, Stefan Flintoft met with the media and discussed the fake punt. He mentioned that Oregon gave them the look they wanted and so the coaches called it. He went on to describe the play this way:

I kind of blacked out in the moment....The second the ball left my hand, I’ve never been more afraid in my life. So, I’m just happy [Ethan Fernea] was there and he caught it and got first down. It’s definitely one of the more exciting moments of my career.

Christian Pabico was the other player who was interviewed yesterday. He spoke a lot about the mistakes the team has made over the past two weeks. When asked how he wants to finish up his college career over the next three games, he said that he wants to come away with some victories. “I don’t really care if I have one catch or if I have ten catches and a hundred yards in each of these games,” Pabico said. “I really just want to come out with three W’s.”

Thanks to UCLA Athletics for sharing the video of player interviews.

Three wins would be a nice way to end what has been a pretty terrible season.

Go Bruins!