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Coaching Carousel 2017: Is Chip Kelly the Right Fit at UCLA?

Chip Kelly
Every single season, the end of the college football season gives fans plenty of drama on the field, but a lot of chaos off it, when coaches leave and arrive throughout programs across the country. Drama was certainly the case this coaching carousel season when it came to Chip Kelly. Kelly, the highly successful former Oregon head coach, who had a less-than-successful run in the NFL, had been in serious talks to become the next head man at Florida but after plenty of rumors he ends up at UCLA. The move is an interesting one on both sides: for UCLA they get a huge name that has proven he can win, but hasn't coached at this level since 2012. For Kelly, he gets a chance to once more showcase his high-flying, up-tempo offense in the collegiate ranks, but will also have plenty of pressure on him following failed experiments with the San Francisco 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles. No matter what happens the Kelly hire will be a polarizing storyline for years to come. Was it the right fit, or will the Kelly hire haunt the Bruins for years to come?

The most interesting part of the Kelly hire has to be how he plans to run the program in 2017. Kelly was obviously highly successful running an extremely up-tempo style in college football that was revolutionary during that time, but the sport has changed. Spread offenses have become the norm in the sport, as has the no-huddle, go-go-go style that Kelly popularized. It will be interesting to see how Kelly runs a new-look offense, but there are many things in his favor. First off, Kelly will still coach in the Pac-12, a conference not known for its defense and a conference he knows very well. He also already has some serious talent on his roster in Westwood, even if projected first-round draft pick Josh Rosen leaves at quarterback. However, the biggest advantage for Kelly in his arrival at UCLA is the recruiting pipelines. Kelly was never considered an ace recruiter while at Oregon, but he still did a tremendous job of getting guys who fit his system and guys he knew could contribute. He'll have an even easier job getting recruits to come to sunny LA, which is a major destination improvement over Eugene, Oregon. Kelly will also be able to recruit all of southern California, which is one of the mot talent-rich areas in the United States. He has already gotten out on the recruiting trail, in fact, as he recently posed with five-star recruit defensive back Brendan Radley-Hiles.

On paper, Kelly has many of the tools he will need to succeed, but that doesn't mean that this hire doesn't have some question marks. The biggest question is on the defensive side of the ball, as it was when Kelly was originally at Oregon. For all the special things the offense was able to do, Kelly was never able to get a defense that would put him over the top. The key will be identifying a defensive coordinator that knows how to succeed in the Pac-12 and being able to consistently add young defensive talent. The tough part is that with his style of offense, the defense spends so much time on the field, which means finding depth and good conditioned athletes will be key. Another major question for Kelly will be the lack of money at UCLA. Not too say that the Bruins are in debt, but they do not have the same luxuries Oregon did. Oregon was able to get a ton of money poured in the program from legendary alum Phil Knight (the founder of Nike, of course), which helped them get top-notch facilities and crazy uniforms. Those things appealed to young recruits and also gave Oregon a brand. Kelly won't have that at UCLA, which could lead to some challenges in building a culture with the Bruins.

The key to Kelly's success in Westwood will be his ability to add depth and talent defensively, as well as develop players in the right manner. His predecessor, Jim Mora, was able to consistently land elite talent, but had a long list of players that never really adjusted to the collegiate level. In order to change that, Kelly must evolve his system and once more be able to connect with young players. There will be challenges ahead of Kelly, but all signs point to it being a successful tenure for the controversial head coach. With the recruiting area he is able to cover and his proven success on the West Coast, UCLA should be able to become the true Pac-12 title contender Mora was never able to quite create.

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