The UCLA Bruins football spring practice got off to another positive start on March 5. That is when head coach Charles “Chip” Kelly officially began his second year with the Bruins after a four-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. Both teams fired Kelly but he never lost his faith or confidence to coach again.
His return to major college football pose some unique challenges for Kelly. Especially after a 3-9 start in his first season. Kelly is starting from scratch with young players to build his system around on both sides of scrimmage.
The curiosity is abundant about the differences Kelly’s offense seemed to undergo from college to the NFL. The key is just how much his UCLA offense will look like his old Oregon Ducks one. Most of all, whether he can do what no UCLA coach since Terry Donahue has done: win Pac-12 championships consistently.
UCLA Bruins nation enjoyed high hopes and expectations since his splash hire on November 25, 2017. Let’s be clear Kelly was not as successful at the pro level as the college level. Nor did the legendary Alabama coach Nick Saban with the Miami Dolphins.
Kelly the head coach posted an impressive record of 46-7 from 2009 to 2012 at Oregon. His up-tempo spread offensive system featured designed matchups, speed, and space which stretched defenses to the limit. His system exploited defenses by not giving them time to substitute or make adjustments to match the flow of the offense.
But times have changed with more advanced defenses designed to shut down gimmicky plays. College defensive coordinators continue to focus on matching hybrid up-tempo misdirection run and shoot offenses.
Kelly never changed his offensive methodology and he will stick to his subtle way fitting players to his scheme. The number one priority of Kelly’s system is his quarterback’s continuity.
A Dual Threat QB Is The X-Factor For Kelly’s Offense
UCLA freshman dual-threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the future for UCLA football. The Bishop Gorman High School (Las Vegas) QB will be a star if he puts in the time to grow. Thompson-Robinson saw action in 10 games last season but can use more reps at the position to become a real weapon in Kelly’s offense this season. Thompson-Robinson UCLA stats for 2018 are 122 completions with 194 attempts for 1,311 yards for seven touchdowns and four interceptions.
The opportunities are limitless with creative play variations to his strength in UCLA’s offense. It depends solely on Thompson-Robinson’s ability to grasp the intricacies of making split second but solid decisions to make big plays.
Kelly’s former Oregon Heisman trophy player QB Marcus Mariota aced his up-tempo spread, so did QB Jeremiah Masoli and QB Darron Thomas to mention a few.
This season, Dorian Thompson-Robinson will play well and show some signs of greatest, because Kelly will put him into a position to lead and demand the best his teammates have to offer.
The Kelly Rebuild Is In Progress And Moving Towards Long Term Gains
Chip Kelly, once the Ducks offensive coordinator, inherited a perfect situation when he took over the driver’s seat at Oregon. He benefited from state of the art world-class football facilities and an already winning program with head coach Mike Bellotti.
Bellotti had three top-25 classes and insisted on the Ducks having a significant recruiting presence in southern California. Kelly only added his personal touch to a well-oiled system with top-notch coaches like defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.
His success at Oregon was a simple formula, but the program looked more attractive to marquee five-star talent because the building blocks were already in place. And not so much Kelly’s aggressive recruiting. Kelly has his indirect method of recruiting less attractive three-star athletes to fit his scheme, rather than him spending time pursuing five-star athletes.
Kelly never changed his process at UCLA when it comes to his style of recruiting. The Bruins ranked 44th nationally in recruiting and seventh overall in the Pac-12.
For the entire 2019 recruiting cycle, UCLA only offered five five-star prospects and 25 four-star prospects. When it came to UCLA football scholarship offers, Kelly heavily focused his attention on the three-star group, with 51 three-star prospects offered. Kelly ultimately offered two two-star recruits, again with the thinking of molding them to his scheme. The University Of Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz uses a similar formula with an average expected return on his investment with Iowa players.
Kelly’s enigmatic recruiting approach keeps many guessing. But the outcome of this upcoming season will speak volumes either way.