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By Bill Seals
Sports Reporter 

DeShaun Foster is the new head football coach of the UCLA Bruins

 

February 15, 2024

What a whirlwind of a week for UCLA football! In a matter of days, the UCLA Bruins football team went from the end of the Chip Kelly era to the beginning of the DeShaun Foster era. Kelly resigned from UCLA on Friday, February 9th and on Monday, February 12th, the 44-year-old Foster was selected as the new head coach of the UCLA Bruins football program.

UCLA Athletic Director Martin Jarmond announced the hiring of Foster in an email on Monday morning. "We are excited to announce today that one of our all-time great Bruins, DeShaun Foster, will be the next head football coach at UCLA. His running backs group led the Pac-12 in rushing offense in each of the last two seasons and has posted three consecutive top-20 national finishes. Among the standout running backs DeShaun has coached at UCLA are NFL players Zach Charbonnet, Brittain Brown, Demetric Felton Jr., and Joshua Kelley."


Foster was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 2022. He was a four-year star for UCLA from 1998 through 2001. In 1998, he scored three touchdowns in a victory over USC. He was a member of the last UCLA football team to win a Pac-12 conference championship in 1998. In 2001, he was a second team All-American at running back for the Bruins.

Foster was a second-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in the 2002 NFL draft and scored on a 67-yard touchdown run on his first NFL carry. He also had a 33-yard touchdown run in the 2003 Super Bowl in a loss to the New England Patriots.

Foster has been the running backs coach at UCLA since the 2017 season and has coached at UCLA in 10 of the past 11 seasons. In 2016, Foster was the running back coach at Texas Tech, where the starting quarterback was Patrick Mahomes.


Kelly accepted a job with the Ohio State Buckeyes as their offensive coordinator. He will be working with and for Buckeye's head coach Ryan Day, who played for Kelly at the University of New Hampshire from 1999 to 2001, where he was the starting quarterback and Kelly was the then-offensive coordinator.

Kelly went 25-13 in the past three seasons and 35-34 overall in six seasons at UCLA. The UCLA offense was among the best in the nation in 2022, ranked 4th in the nation at 503.5 yards per game. Under Kelly, the Bruins could look terrific on one Saturday and flat on another. The inconsistency was frustrating to UCLA fans and the eccentric Kelly never really warmed up to or connected with UCLA fans.


Kelly had apparently grown tired of being a head coach in college football and was looking for an offensive coordinator position at the NFL or college level. He had interviews with the Las Vegas Raiders and the Seattle Seahawks for their offensive coordinator job openings. Kelly had never been much of a recruiter and this year's class is ranked 58th in college football and last in the Pac-12. In recent seasons, he had been relying on the transfer portal to replenish the roster. Being at a school like UCLA and not being able to recruit was a major problem.

Kelly's resignation gave Jarmond little time to find an experienced head football coach. Had Kelly resigned two months earlier, Jarmond might have made a different choice. Foster may have been his choice two months ago for the position, but we will never know. Kelly does owe UCLA a $1.5 million buyout because he resigned before the end of his contract, so UCLA will come out ahead financially with Kelly leaving.


The players celebrated the hiring of Foster, and the alumni seem to be happy to have one of their own backs in charge of the football program. Foster has never been an offensive coordinator and he will need to find one before spring practice begins. Foster is very aware of the demands that are put on a head coach in today's college game, and he knows he will need help.

"I need everybody. This isn't just a me-thing. I need everybody in here," said Foster. "It's going to take the fans coming out. I need the donors' support. I need the ex-players to come back. I need everybody. This is a family environment; this is how it's going to be ... I'm proud, I'm excited, I'm going to do everything I have to do to make this team win."


In an effort to re-connect with the fans, Foster said that UCLA will play a spring practice game and it is his goal to have the game held at the Rose Bowl. Kelly had discontinued the spring practice game. In his press conference on Tuesday at Pauley Pavilion, an emotional Foster explained the way he intends to lead at UCLA.

"My three pillars: discipline, respect, and enthusiasm. You're going to see it. You're going to feel it. We're going to get this Rose Bowl back to how it needs to be. We're in L.A., this is UCLA. This is a real university. This isn't a part-time school. We win banners in every sport. We can do it." Inspiring words for UCLA football fans that were never heard from Chip Kelly.


 

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