The UCLA Bruins have a proud football history, including a 1954 consensus natinonal championship. But last year continued a recent trend, as the team finished with a subpar record of 3–9. Coach Chip Kelly was hired to stop this decline and hopes are high that his second year will being an upward trend thanks to his first recruiting class. Fans remember what Kelly did at Oregon and still believe he can build a dynasty for the Bruins.
Kelly, however, is not looking that far forward. “We talk about being good on a daily basis. We want to come out and have a really good day,” said Kelly. “If we keep stacking good days on top of good days, then bowl games and all those other things will take care of themselves.” Kelly hopes to see results this year and will attempt to achieve them with a focus on his player development and coaching staff.
That focus has so far ensured that not only will top Bruins player talent return this season, but also the team leadership will stay intact. Kelly is counting on his returners to lead and get the job done, including Osa Odighizuwa at defensive tackle, Krys Barnes and Josh Woods at linebacker, Damay Holmes and Quentin Lake in the secondary, Dorian Thompson-Robinson at quarterback, Josh Kelley at running back, Boss Tagaloa at center, and others. But Kelly insists there is still room for younger players to step up and believes they must find their way to key roles for the team to succeed.
“We’ve got some young kids right now who are really doing a nice job,” said Kelly. “They’ve grasped what we’re doing scheme-wise both offensively and defensively, and so we’re excited about the guys we brought in. We’ll see.”
Kid Reporter Carlo Vellandi and offensive tackle Sean Rhyan
One of Kelly’s top recruits, offensive tackle Sean Rhyan out of San Juan Hills High School, is in a great position to perform. “Coach is looking for us to play fast and play well,” said Rhyan. “We want to execute our plays, and if we do all that, I think we’ll be okay.” Rhyan will likely win a starting job, and at 6’ 4” and 324 pounds, he will have tools to do his job protecting the quarterback and running back.
“I think Coach Kelly has a great mindset,” said Rhyan. “I like the way he thinks—he has a great philosophy.”
Kelly’s philosophy speaks to players. “We want to be a player-led organization, not a coach-led organization,” said Kelly. “We try to impart the power to our players, and they disseminate it from there.” Coach Kelly elevates his veterans and freshmen alike, putting the game in their hands.
Whether it is a winning formula remains to be seen, but Rhyan knows kids everywhere aim to earn a coveted spot on a college team such as UCLA. “Grades are first,” Rhyan reminds future athletes. “Sports are second. It takes a lot of sacrifice.”
As the UCLA Bruins look to start a comeback as an organization this year with the strong recruiting class of Kelly, that sacrifice just may pay off. Watch for a West Coast powerhouse team in the near future if Kelly and his UCLA Bruin team perform at the top of their game.
(Lead photo credit: Keith Birmingham/Digital First Media/Pasadena Star-News/Getty Images)