Just when it looked like Chip Kelly’s on-again, off-again relationship with the NFL might be back on again, it appears that the UCLA Bruins head coach is remaining in college football. However, it’ll be another Big Ten sideline he’s patrolling in 2024 after reportedly accepting the role as offensive coordinator for the Ohio State Buckeyes.
With Kelly heading to Columbus, who would be the next man at the helm for the Bruins?
UCLA Head Coach Candidates
Kelly has spent the last six seasons in charge at UCLA, putting together a 35-34 record with the Bruins. Before that, he compiled a 46-7 record with Oregon (2009-2012), a 26-21 record with the Philadelphia Eagles (2013-2015), and a 2-14 campaign with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.
While Kelly interviewed (twice) to be the Las Vegas Raiders OC, and was recently in Seattle interviewing with the Seahawks, it’s Ohio State who lands the former Bruins head coach to direct their offense, replacing the Boston College-bound Bill O’Brien. Who could take his place at the helm of the Bruins for 2024?
Will Stein, Oregon Offensive Coordinator
Will Stein is the youngest (34) and least experienced candidate on this list, as he has yet to get a head coaching opportunity in his 11 seasons as a high school and college coach.
In fact, he has only been a collegiate offensive coordinator for two seasons (UTSA 2022, Oregon 2023).
That being said, what he’s done in that short time has launched him into head coach consideration after engineering the No. 2 total offense in the nation last season at Oregon (44.2 points, 531.4 total yards per game).
The year prior, he orchestrated the No. 14 total offense with the Roadrunners (36.8 points, 476 total yards per game) as the top offense in CUSA. It may be early for Stein, but the Bruins should consider locking him up before someone else does.
Jamey Chadwell, Liberty Head Coach
There likely isn’t a more polished Group of Five coach than Jamey Chadwell, who boasts a 35-7 record over the last four seasons — 13-1 at Liberty last season, 22-6 at Coastal Carolina the three years prior.
He won a CUSA Championship last season, a Sun Belt Championship with Coastal in 2020, and two Big South Championships at Charleston Southern in 2015 and 2016, although the 2015 win was vacated.
The 47-year-old has won at every level and even got the Flames into a New Year’s Six Bowl last season. He is the highest-paid of the Group of Five coaches at $4 million per year, but something tells me the Bruins can top that.
Jimbo Fisher, Former Texas A&M Head Coach
After being fired by Texas A&M during last season, it’s plausible that Jimbo Fisher is completely content just sitting back and spending his massive $75 million buyout without the rigors of collegiate coach life. If Fisher is like most ultra-competitive titans of industry, then it’s more than likely he’ll eventually get back in the game.
With a 128-48 career record at FSU (2010-2017) and Texas A&M (2018-2023) and an 8-4 record in bowl games, including a BCS National Championship in 2013, there simply isn’t a more accomplished collegiate coach available on the market. If he even is available, that is.
Ryan Grubb, Alabama Associate Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach
Ryan Grubb hasn’t been a head coach before, and he’s been attached to head coach Kalen DeBoer since 2007, most recently as his OC at three different stops — Fresno State (2020-2021), Washington (2022-2023) and now Alabama.
However, rumors recently swirled that Grubb was interested in the same job Kelly is after (Seattle Seahawks OC), so there is a chance he could be looking to move up the ranks.
He’s been a hot commodity for a few years and has spurned some big offers in the past, like when he turned down Nick Saban after the 2022 season.
He is also one of the highest, if not the highest-paid coordinator in college football, so the Bruins would really have to open the checkbook to lure him away from Tuscaloosa.
Rhett Lashlee, SMU Head Coach
Rhett Lashlee is a bit of a dark horse candidate here, but he warrants a look after a successful first two seasons with SMU.
After being left to pick up the pieces when Sonny Dykes left for TCU, Lashlee put together a winning season in the 2022 aftermath (7-5) before adding an AAC championship and an 11-3 record last season.
Under Lashlee, the Mustangs had the 12th-ranked total offense in the nation in 2022 (37.2 points, 472.8 yards per game) and the eighth-ranked total offense in 2023 (38.7 points, 454.3 yards per game). The 40-year-old might not be on everyone’s list yet, so it could be a good time for the Bruins to buy early.
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