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2018 UCLA Football Fall Preview: The Chip Kelly Era Is At Hand

For anyone who stopped following UCLA Football after last season’s game against Southern Cal, it’s a brand new day!

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Media Day
Chip Kelly answers questions at 2018 Pac-12 Football Media Day
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I get it. Some of you were so disgusted by UCLA’s loss to Southern Cal last November that you quit the Bruins entirely. You may still be living in a world where Jim Mora is still in charge of the Bruins, only because you paid no attention to UCLA football since that game last season. It happens.

Well, if that describes you, I kind of feel sorry for you because you’ve missed eight of the longest months ever. Yes, my friends, that’s how long it’s been since Jim Mora was fired and Chip Kelly was hired to be the next head coach of the UCLA Bruins.

It’s been long because we’ve had to endure months upon months where the only thing we could do is wait for 4 pm on Saturday, September 1 when the Bruins kick off against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

So, for those of you who did tune out, allow me a super quick recap. Kelly tore down Mora’s recruiting class and rebuilt basically from scratch into a solid class. He hired an entirely new coaching staff, strength and conditioning staff as well as the rest of the football-related staff. He got the pieces reassembled in time to have an actual Spring Game, albeit only about half of an actual game. And, now, he’s ready to start the month-long march toward Opening Day that is Fall Training Camp.

Speaking of Fall Camp, we don’t know the details yet. Based on Kelly’s statements Wednesday at Pac-12 Media Day, expect the team to assemble on the field some time on Friday. Will it be open to the public? Don’t know that answer yet, but we will let you know when we do.

After Spring Practice, I think it’s probably safe to say that Chip doesn’t seem to mind fans watching practice from Lot 8, especially since he typically has the team practicing on the north practice field about 60 yards away from the fans, but that could change.

For those who may not have been following along, let me recap who will be coaching the Bruins this fall.

Returning Coaches

Believe it or not, there are actually two holdovers from Jim Mora’s staff. The first is running backs coach and Bruin legend DeShaun Foster. Then, there’s receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. That’s it.

Everyone else is new to Westwood.

The way Coach Kelly spoke at Media Day it sure sounds like he doesn’t care what happened before he took over the program. To him, what seems to matter is where the team is headed.

This is who will help lead it there:

2018 UCLA Football Coaching Staff

Name Coaching Responsibility UCLA Experience
Name Coaching Responsibility UCLA Experience
Chip Kelly Head Coach New
Dana Bible Quarterbacks New
Justin Frye Offensive Line New
Jimmie Dougherty Passing Game Coordinator/Wide Receivers 1 season
DeShaun Foster Running Backs 1 season
Derek Sage Tight Ends New
Jerry Azzinaro Defensive Coordinator New
Vincent Oghobaase Defensive Line New
Don Pellum Linebackers New
Roy Manning Outside Linebackers/Special Teams New
Paul Rhoads Defensive Backs New
Frank Wintrich Director of Football Performance New

Offensively, there are four new coaches. The first is, obviously, Chip Kelly himself who will probably call offensive plays, especially considering that UCLA, technically, has no offensive coordinator on this staff.

Dana Bible is the Bruins’ quarterback coach. He comes to Westwood with more than 30 years of experience coaching quarterbacks, having coached quarterbacks at both the college and NFL levels.

Originally, Angus McClure was going to coach tight ends, but, when he opted to leave for Nevada, Derek Sage was hired in his place. Sage worked with Coach Kelly for two years when Kelly was the offensive coordinator at New Hampshire. Since then, Sage has worked at Wyoming, Toledo and, most recently, Washington State. He was hired by Mike Leach last January to coach inside receivers, but switched to outside receivers before the start of the 2017 season.

But the offensive coach I am personally most excited about has to be Justin Frye. Frye’s history of success coaching the offensive lines at Temple and Boston College make him the right guy to fix UCLA’s offensive line. Now, it may prove to be a multi-year fix, but something tells me we are going to see a substantial improvement as early as this season.

On defense, the entire coaching staff is brand new. From defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro to Paul Rhodes every coach was somewhere else last season.

New DC Jerry Azzinaro spent last year coaching the defensive line at UC Berkeley. But, Azzinaro has known Chip Kelly a really long time. The pair spent eight years working together at Oregon, the Eagles and the 49ers and it’s clear that Chip trusts him. At Media Day on Wednesday, Kelly said, “For us to be really good at UCLA, we’re going to have to be good on the defensive side of the football.” That’s a pretty bold statement and it seems to back up the faith Kelly has in Azzinaro.

This will be Vince Oghobbaase’s first time as a primary position coach. He previously spent time with the 49ers as the team’s assistant defensive line coach, where he worked with Kelly and Azzinaro. He also spent 3 years as a graduate assistant at Ohio State. So, he seems to be a young coach with a pretty solid pedigree.

That snazzy-looking guy you keep seeing in pictures with recruits is linebacker coach Don Pellum. Pellum spent more than 25 years coaching linebackers at Oregon. Apparently, Pellum wears his championship rings every day to inspire the Bruins and make them want that kind of hardware.

Derek Sage wasn’t the first coach Kelly hired from Washington State. The honor went to Roy Manning who is the team’s outside linebacker and special teams coach. Coach Kelly called him an “up-and-coming coach” who was recommended by former Cougar defensive coordinator and new co-defensive coordinator for Ohio State Alex Grinch.

Defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads has more than ten years’ experience coaching defensive backs and nine years’ experience as a defensive coordinator. That kind of experience should more than make up for Rhoads’ terrible head coaching record at Iowa State where he was just 32-55. He spent the past two seasons on Bret Bielema’s staff at Arkansas coaching defensive backs and serving as defensive coordinator last season.

Aside from 15 days’ worth of Spring Practice, the guy who will have had the biggest impact on the team when camp opens this week is the new Director of Football Performance Frank Wintrich, who comes to UCLA from the University of Virginia.

As I wrote prior to Spring Practice, there’s a really good mixture of experience and young blood on this staff and it seems like Coach Kelly has done a good job putting together a group of teachers who can effectively teach the game of football to UCLA’s players.

Now, it’s just a matter of them getting the players on the field and communicating what they want the players to do each and every day.

This group of coaches should give Bruin fans plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the program moving forward.

Go Bruins!!!