New UCLA Football head coach Chip Kelly took the stage at Pac-12 Football Media Day today and it sounded more like his first press conference than his Spring Practice interviews.
Kelly sounded relaxed and seemed to be in a good mood, calling the day “enjoyable.” He even seemed to appreciate the fact that there were a lot members of the media who were interested in what he had to say. “That means we’re doing good things,” Kelly quipped. “So, I know that, if we go 0 for 5, there’s not going to be that many. Let’s just hope we have this turnout again.” Kelly added, “We’re excited about it.”
While Kelly was peppered with questions about grad transfers, aggressive out of conference scheduling, sports betting, and even uniform changes, his answers were a breath of fresh air for Bruin fans.
I think the one of the most revealing answers came in response to a question about whether the team is going to look like his Oregon teams. Skipping the joke he made in November about those players not having any eligibility left, Kelly offered his thoughts pretty thoroughly.
“I think that’s not fair to anybody, to be honest with you,” Kelly said. “Every team has a different dynamic, and I think it’s based upon what your personnel is. So to say that this guy used to coach here so this is going to look like this, I understand that.”
Kelly continued, “Maybe that’s a positive because they want to see what that looks like. But our job is to put our players in position to make plays. And I’m not being evasive. We only have eight seniors.”
So, wait...he’s not using youth and inexperience as an excuse? One has to wonder if Steve Alford was watching today.
While he explained that he still doesn’t know how the team is going to look, he compared it to how a car looks on the outside. “But what we don’t get caught up in is what does it look like, it’s just how does it work. So whether we’re driving a car that looks good on the outside, if it gets me to point A to point B, I’m happy.”
But, then, Kelly, the “offensive genius” threw everyone a curve ball. “If we’re going to be successful at UCLA, it really starts on the defensive side of the ball,” he said.
Take a moment and read that again. Chip Kelly, who was known for his creative offenses at Oregon said that, in order for UCLA to be successful, the Bruins will have to be good defensively.
Kelly, then, went even deeper:
One thing that people don’t realize or maybe just kind of glossed over is when we were really good at Oregon is because we were really good on defense. Our offense got a ton of notoriety. But Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, Michael Clay, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, Terrance Mitchell, all guys playing in the NFL right now were tremendous defensive football players. They just didn’t get enough credit.
But we were really good because we were really good on defense. For us to be really good at UCLA, we’re going to have to be good on the defensive side of the football.
Whoa. If that doesn’t get you excited for UCLA Football after the past two seasons, I’m not sure what will.
Before I get to sharing the entire video of Kelly’s session, I want to quickly highlight a few more of the things he said.
On whether UCLA will have any uniform changes:
I think our uniforms are iconic. Sometimes I think the Penn States, the UCLAs, the Alabamas of the world are in -- people can easily identify them. So there are no plans now for us to do it. When I talk to the Troy Aikmans of the world, he likes our uniforms. So if Troy likes them, I like them.
On playing in the “shadow of USC”:
I think you go back to Coach Wooden, and what you learn from Coach Wooden, who has been around a long time, and he didn’t talk about other opponents. He was just concerned with his own team.
I think that’s where sometimes we all have a certain amount of energy to expend on a daily basis. If our energy is going on somewhere else, I think we’re wasting our energy, and how do we improve on a daily basis and continue to get these kids to develop from day one to day two to day three and not be concerned is there a shadow or not a shadow.
The short time I’ve been in Los Angeles, there aren’t many shadows because there aren’t many clouds in the skies. So we’re not concerned about the shadow part of this deal.
On this year’s out-of-conference schedule:
Our schedule this year we play Cincinnati at home at Oklahoma. Fresno State. We have an open day we’re going to play the Tampa Bay Bucs, and then we’re going to start the league conference schedule. No, I love it.
On aggressive out-of-conference scheduling:
Yeah, we played LSU when I was at Oregon. We signed on for that. We played at Michigan. Played at Tennessee. I think when people talk about how to strategically schedule, I think the first time you start thinking about strategically scheduling, you’ve lost because you don’t think you can compete with people. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. So if they want to play us, I’ll play anybody.
I’m excited when I looked at our schedule. I think UCLA, USC and Notre Dame are the only three schools that have never played a 1-AA team. That’s part of something that they hang their hat on, and I agree with that. I’d love to play all great teams.
And I know teams want to come play in the Rose Bowl. All those games are really cool home and homes that have been set up. We got Michigan home and home, we have LSU home and home, Georgia home and home. I think Rutgers just dropped us, so they’re trying to fill a hole for that one. It’s a short window, but we’re open to playing anybody.
On injury reports and sports gambling:
I know it’s a big question, and I know it’s about gambling, and they don’t want to say it’s about gambling, but it’s about gambling.
So if you want to support gamblers, tell them who is injured. If you don’t, don’t tell them who is injured. Maybe they’ve got to figure it out on their own. But there’s been gambling everywhere.
It’s not like, when they pass this new rule, people are going to go: Oh, my God, we can gamble now? If you felt like that, you’re living in a hole because there’s been gambling going on for a long time.
On UCLA fans having high expectations and whether fans should temper expectations:
I don’t think my job is to temper or excite them. My job is to prepare our team as best we can to play Cincinnati, you know, and part of that is to not worry about that. And, I think, in this day and age with the kids that we coach, I think they have to learn to kind of block out the outside noise. So, if they have a head coach that’s not blocking out the outside noise, but is telling them to block out the outside noise isn’t the way to do it.
So, we’ve always been pretty good at just kind of focusing and concentrating on what we can get accomplished and what we need to get accomplished. If there are expectations, that’s a good thing. I’d rather be at a place where there are expectations than a place where they don’t care. It’s obvious, in the short time that I’ve been here, that people really care about it. So, no, we’re excited to go out there and play.
From Chip Kelly’s mouth to Dan Guerrero’s ears!
Here’s Coach Kelly’s entire podium session, courtesy of the Pac-12 Networks.
In wrapping things up, while there has not been an official announcement, it seems pretty certain from listening to Chip Kelly, UCLA’s Fall Camp will begin next Friday, August 3rd. It is important to note, however, that it’s still unknown whether Fall Camp will be open to the public or closed. Details should be announced very soon.