UCLA Coaching Candidates for 2024 after Chip Kelly quit

Chip Kelly survived the 2023 college football coaching carousel, with the cash-strapped UCLA Bruins deciding to keep him around in 2024. With Kelly now headed to Ohio State as offensive coordinator, it’s time to evaluate UCLA coaching candidates.

After firing Jim Mora toward the end of the 2017 season, the Bruins coaching search led them to Kelly. He seemed like an ideal candidate to take over the helm, boasting a college resume that includes three Pac-12 Championships and a stellar 46-7 record as the Oregon Ducks coach (2009-’12).

Related: Highest college football coaches buyouts

It was a struggle from the start. After enjoying two 10-win seasons under Mora (2013-’14) and then finishing with six wins in 2017, UCLA combined for 10 total wins in its first three seasons with Kelly at the helm. The Bruins seemed to be on the upward trajectory from 2021-’22, posting a 17-8 record, but more disappointment in 2023 followed by Kelly’s voluntary departure left a void atop this football program.

Let’s dive into our UCLA coaching candidates to replace Chip Kelly.

UCLA coaching candidates: Who will replace Chip Kelly?

PJ Fleck, Minnesota Golden Gophers

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The Bruins coaching search is on and it appears, in anticipation of Kelly’s departure, at least one prominent name is already among the UCLA coaching candidates under consideration. According to Brett McMurphy of Action Network, Minnesota Golden Gophers coach P.J. Fleck is an option.

  • P.J. Fleck coaching record: 8-56 overall, 50-34 with the Golden Gophers

Fleck, 43, landed his first head-coaching gig with Western Michigan in 2013. After a 1-11 record in his transition year, Fleck led Western Michigan to an 8-7 record and two consecutive bowl games in the next two seasons. After going 13-1 in 2016, he took over at Minnesota.

The Gophers have experienced highs and lows – 11-2 in 2019 and 2-4 in 2020 – with Fleck at the helm. One thing he’s brought to Minnesota is consistency. The Gophers went 9-4 in consecutive years from 2021-’22, before some regression hit this past year (6-7). While Fleck wouldn’t be the flashiest hire, the former Big Ten Coach of the Year (2019) is plenty familiar with the confidence and stable play is what the Bruins need.

D’Anton Lynn, USC Trojans defensive coordinator

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One of the smartest things Kelly ever did at UCLA was hire D’Anton Lynn as defensive coordinator. Before he started calling plays for the Bruins’ defense, the son of NFL coach Anthony Lynn was coaching defensive backs in the NFL. Lynn’s NFL experience and familiarity with pro concepts made him appealing to Kelly.

What makes Lynn stand out as one of the best UCLA coaching candidates is what he did with this program. In just a few months, the 34-year-old completely transformed the Bruins defense from one of the worst in the Pac-12 Conference to one of the best in college football.

UCLA Bruins defensive transformation under D’Anton Lynn

PPGYards per PlaySack RateQB Rating
202230.9 (99th)5.6 (75th)5.22% (97th)141.2 (99th)
202319.3 (15th)4.5 (8th)8.52% (15th)121.7 (22nd)

While Lynn has been away from the Bruins for a few months after agreeing to become USC’s defensive coordinator, this would be a fantastic opportunity for him. The Bruins’ athletic department knows it needs to be patient and it’s not like UCLA is flush with cash to spend as it heads into a new conference. Lynn already demonstrated his worth to the Bruins in 2024 and he should be one of the first coaches to get a call now.

Ryan Grubb, Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator

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The record-setting debt in the UCLA Bruins’ athletic department may impact the coaching search heavily. If that’s the case, after paying Kelly’s buyout, the Bruins might have to avoid a bidding war for a current Power 5 head coach and go after a top assistant.

Related: Chip Kelly wasn’t the answer for UCLA, but we’re asking the wrong question

Enter Washington Huskies offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Ryan Grubb. While head coach Kalen DeBoer receives a majority of the credit for Michael Penix Jr’s success, Grubb is the coach working with the Heisman Trophy candidate the most, and his accomplishments before that are impressive.

From 2020-’21 as the Fresno State Beavers’ quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, Jake Haener completed nearly 70 percent of his 840 pass attempts, averaging 8.4 yards per attempt with a 53-12 TD-INT ratio and nearly 7,000 passing yards. DeBoer brought Grubb with him to Washington, resulting in Penix going from second-team All-Big Ten quarterback in ’22 with Indiana to an All-American candidate in ’23. That’s exactly the kind of coach who the Bruins should want working with Dante Moore.

Jamey Chadwell, Liberty Flames

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Winning is ultimately everything, no matter what level of resources a college program has. Jamey Chadwell won at Coastal Carolina (39-22, .639) and it landed him the job as Hugh Freeze’s replacement at Liberty. In his first season with the Flames, Chadwell delivered a 13-1 record and a Fiesta Bowl appearance.

  • Jamey Chadwell coaching record: 52-23 overall, 13-1 at Coastal Carolina

Chadwell’s track record speaks for itself. While he doesn’t have a lot of ties to prominent coaches around college football, the 47-year-old has earned his promotions. After playing quarterback at East Tennessee State, he immediately transitioned to serving as a position coach for his alma mater (2000-’02). He then followed it up with a stint at Charleston Southern, before becoming head coach at North Greenville (22-14) and then back at his alma mater (35-14) before becoming Coastal Carolina’s offensive coordinator (2017-’18) and then head coach.

  • Liberty Flames offense 2023: 38.3 PPG (6th in FBS), 7.1 yards per play (3rd), 49.37% third-down conversion rate (5th), 4.7 red-zone scoring attempts per game (6th)

There are obvious risks for UCLA in hiring Chadwell. For as successful as he’s been, he’s completely unproven at the Power 5 level. Joining the Pac-12 would be one thing, but the Big Ten Conference is a whole different caliber of style of football. However, the Bruins are in a position where a risk might be necessary.

Related: Grading college football coaching hires 2024

David Shaw, former Stanford Cardinal coach

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David Shaw hasn’t returned to the sideline since he stepped down as the Stanford Cardinal head coach in November 2022. However, the 51-year-old has interviewed for gigs in the NFL and there are no signs the California native wants to leave football for good.

Related: 2024 Heisman Trophy candidates

Most remember what Stanford looked like most recently under Shaw. From 2019-’22, the Cardinal never won more than four games in a season and topped out at a 10-20 record in his last three seasons at the helm. It’s critical to remember, though, that Shaw was always coaching at a disadvantage because of the academic standards that make it nearly impossible for Stanford to compete at a high level.

While Shaw might not be one of the best coaches in football, he is one of the most well-respected and he has connections at both the professional and collegiate levels. If he’s looking for an opportunity close to home, UCLA might be his best path forward. Plus, with better resources, he should fare better than he did in his final years at Stanford.

Tony White, Nebraska Cornhuskers defensive coordinator

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Ties to the Bruins will play a factor in this coaching search. We’ve targeted some higher-end UCLA coaching candidates atop our list, but the school’s financial situation and worsening reputation must also be factored in. That’s why someone like Tony White stands out as a compelling option.

White, 45 in March, was a three-year starter for UCLA. After a short professional career (2002-’05), he spent one season as the St. Genevieve High School head coach in 2006 and then joined Karl Dorrell’s staff as a graduate assistant. White followed that up with stints as a linebackers coach at New Mexico (2008) followed by a long tenure with the San Diego State Aztecs (2009-’17) in a variety of roles.

Defenses under Tony White

PPGYards per Play3rd Down rateQB Rating
Syracuse (2021)26.5 (57th)5.2 (37th)38% (54th)147.8 (101st)
Syracuse (2022)25.0 (47th)4.9 (26th)41.46% (90th)134.2 (71st)
Nebraska (2023)18.3 (11th)4.4 (5th)37.22% (47th)117.8 (12th)

Considering what little White had to work with at Syracuse, the results he delivered are fantastic. He also helped turn Nebraska’s defense around this past season. Plus, with stints under head coaches like Rocky Long, Brady Hoke and Matt Rhule, he’s had the opportunity to learn from experienced leaders. If UCLA wants a cost-effective option with a smart coach who has earned his opportunity, White could be the guy.