UCLA Football underwent a transition in 2018, when Chip Kelly took the reins of the mighty and historic Bruin program. The beginnings were more humbling than expected, with the Bruins going 3-9 in what was the worst season the team endured since 1971. Coach Kelly was under the gun every season, with the passionate supporters propagating his dismissal. His methods were questioned, and there was even betting taking place before the 2021 season as to when we would be fired! Fast forward to today, 7th November 2022, the Bruins are 7-1 heading into the home stretch of the regular season. The team recently jumped to #9 in Associated Press’s Top 25 College Football team rankings overtaking Alabama, a historically major force in college football. Popularity for the team and Coach Kelly is at an all time high, with results from SBRnets annual survey showing UCLA’s program as the 10th most popular in the nation, and the most popular in the west coast region. Furthermore, the fanbase is double the size of the next most popular team in the west coast region, USC, quite the welcoming statistic to the prideful Bruin community.
There are a host of factors that can be attributed to the rise and current success of Bruins Football. One of the most prominent being the major improvements of quarterback Dorian Thompson Robinson, or DTR for short. His career at UCLA has coincided with the arrival of Coach Kelly, and his growth trajectory is characteristic of the process-oriented approach implemented by Coach Kelly. Now considered a dark horse in Heisman Trophy – the award conferred to the most outstanding player in College Football – conversations, Thompson-Robinson ranks 5th in the nation in pass efficiency, 7th in offense yards per play and has 19 Touchdowns to his name across 8 games. His completion percentage has skyrocketed from 57.7% in his freshman year to 71.7% in the current season. Further, and perhaps most importantly, he brings an extremely competitive mentality, excellent leadership and a coachable attitude to the locker room. “He gets better every single day; he’s always trying to get better and he has that mentality.”, says Coach Kelly of his quarterback. (ESPN)
Another factor is the smart, loyal veteran culture of the team. Coach Kelly strives for a player led-team, with seniors like Thompson-Robinson, Zach Charbonnet, Stephan Blaylock, Jon Gaines shouldering responsibility on and off the field. The average starter on the UCLA football team this season, has had 37.5 games under their belt (Sports Illustrated). It could be this maturity that has led to the efficient brand of football the team is playing on both sides of the ball, a style reminiscent of the iconic 2010 Kelly led Oregon team. Adaptability is key, with the small things taking priority. Each drill, each training session has value and there is a natural process, maturation to be followed.
This culture and playbook sets up the team for what is to come. With UCLA’s shift to the Big Ten in 2024, tougher competition – and colder weather – can be expected. While we may not have our senior players taking the helm in seasons to follow, there is a good amount of young talent. With Coach Kelly signed on for another 4 years the future promises to be bright and intriguing. Presently however, the cards seem to have fallen in our favor this season, and things seem to be coming together. This could well be one of our best football campaigns in a while, and with the playoffs fast approaching, excitement and expectations are high in Westwood. There’s no other way anybody would want it! Go Bruins!