The UCLA football program has gone nearly two full seasons without the COVID-19 protocol removing a game from the schedule.
Coach Chip Kelly was very proud of the program’s success in preserving UCLA’s “ecosystem,” but that success changed Tuesday afternoon when the Bruins had to bow before the Holiday Bowl against 18 State. North Carolina, just hours before kickoff.
While the post-season didn’t turn out the way they wanted, the Bruins (8-4 overall) produced their first winning season in four years.
Among the questions that will be addressed this season will be whether UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond decides to extend Kelly’s contract. Jarmond continues to appreciate Kelly as the director of the football program.
Kelly will begin the fifth year of his current contract with UCLA on January 16, a date that will also void the $9 million buyout value for both parties.
The only thing set for 2022 is the upcoming schedule starting with three non-conference games at home. That will be three of the first eight home games on the schedule. The Bruins are scheduled to play three games out of state.
Attendance is also a work in progress during Kelly’s tenure.
The 2019 season’s average attendance of 43,848 was the worst since 1982 when UCLA moved home games to the Rose Bowl. Fans were not allowed to go to the Rose Bowl during the 2020 season that shortened the pandemic, but a year-long absence wasn’t enough to lure fans back for this year’s season opener.
In their first fan game in 637 days, the Bruins had a crowd of 32,982 who turned up on a hot Saturday afternoon to watch Hawai’i’s journey.
The national non-conference game against LSU, which took place in the second week of the season, drew 68,123 fans to the Rose Bowl. The Bruins were ranked but the momentum to attend, before students officially return to town at the start of the school year, was not sustained as the Bruins stumbled against the Fresno State.
The LSU game is only the second time UCLA has attracted 60,000 or more people with Kelly at the top. The first match took place in 2018 against Bang Fresno.
Here’s what happened this year:
What went right?
The Bruins not only produced Kelly’s first winning season, but they also became eligible players for the first time since 2017. All but two of the starters are back from the 2020 pandemic season, so very high expectations.
Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet was a great addition to the Bruins’ backyard, sprinting more than 1,000 meters while sharing the workload with senior Brittain Brown.
Players like Charbonnet and Brown, who moved from Duke after 2019, set an example for Kelly and the staff to refer to when recruiting others from the transfer portal in the future.
While an eight-win season could be seen as a sign of improvement, the case could be made that UCLA could not get the job done when it was counted that the Bruins hadn’t beaten a team with a record. over .500 this season.
The defense focuses on attack and ranks among the best in terms of defending against runs, but struggles with passes. This allows close matches with teams taking advantage of explosive play opportunities in the air.
Defensive quarterback Otito Ogbonnia is the only Bruin to give up his remaining status and announce his participation in the NFL Draft. Ogbonnia started 25 of the 43 games he played in his four-year career.
Redshirt senior Datona Jackson joined the Bruins in 2019 and started 17 of his last 19 games in defence. He is one of eight players out of the competition and will not be able to return.
Ethan Fernea was one of the longest-serving players and was used in a variety of skill positions during his six seasons with the team.
The other six players to leave have all joined the program over the past two seasons through the transfer portal. Rerun Brittain Brown, linebacker Paul Grattan and defensive linebacker Qwuantrezz Knight have NFL aspirations.
Defensive defenders Cam Johnson, Obi Eboh and full-back Jordan Genmark-Heath were among other notable starters who did not return.
This season’s outfield coach Jason Kaufusi and defensive coach Johnny Nansen have left Bruins to join Jedd Fisch’s coaching staff in Arizona. Nansen was hired as a defensive coordinator. Kaufusi’s role was not specifically announced when the hire was announced.
Who can leave?
Charbonnet, Defender Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Kyle Philips receiver, Quentin Lake safe and Greg Dulcich in the end are notable players as remaining who could claim for the early draft.
Thompson-Robinson relies on Dulcich and Philips as forward options and as close friends off the pitch. The trio may decide to leave together, after becoming members of Kelly’s first recruiting class in 2018.
Who is back?
Senior defensive midfielders Martin Andrus Jr and Tyler Manoa have announced their intention to return for another year with the Bruins.
The line of defense is arguably the position hardest hit by the COVID-19 protocols that led to the Holiday Bowl cancellation. With experienced players like Ogbonnia and Jackson gone, retaining Andrus and Manoa will help soften the blow.
Position depth is quite inexperienced as freshman Quintin Somerville and redshirt sophomore Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi failed to feature after injury. Other undergrads entered the transfer portal to explore other opportunities.
Bruins’ high school may be the most needed location this season, but will benefit from having freshman Devin Kirkwood and redshirt student Kenny Churchwell III come see the field and gain experience for the year. now.
Who is on the way?
The Bruins players will gain experience playing in midfield after securing commitment from Central Florida transfer specialist Dillon Gabriel.
The player has 8,037 passes, 70 touches and 14 interceptions in three seasons at UCF. His pledge comes less than a week after he was spotted visiting Westwood to watch practice.
If Thompson-Robinson does not return, there will be a quality competition between Gabriel and Ethan Garbers for the starting role in 2022.
Transfer of Duke Jake Bobo is also committed to the Bruins. The senior has 794 yards and tackles in 12 games for the Blues this season.
The Bruins have filled both coach positions, adding Chad Kauha’aha’a and Ikaika Malloe to the defensive coaching staff.
Malloe was hired as a coach for the outfield team. Kauha’aha’a’s role is not specifically defined but his previous experience could be used to train the defensive lines.
Both coaches have a degree of familiarity with the Pac-12’s footprint, having trained and recruited for other programs during the conference.
https://www.sbsun.com/2021/12/29/where-chip-kelly-ucla-football-stand-after-the-2021-season/ Chip Kelly’s position, UCLA football after the 2021 season – San Bernardino Sun