1. Chip Kelly, UCLA
Oh come on … it’s Chip freaking 46-7-record-at-Oregon Kelly. It’s going to work.
Granted, the bloom is off the rose after his issues as an NFL head man, and the 3-9 first season in Westwood was a stunning disaster, but 2018 might have just been the proverbial two steps back to take a giant leap forward.
Kelly didn’t exactly blow things up from the Jim Mora Jr. era, but he went with a whole lot of really, really, really young players in a total rebuild. UCLA was bad at running the ball when Kelly arrived, and worse at stopping the run.
It’s almost impossible to fix the lines overnight, but the team did get better as the year went on with the offense starting to work over the second half of the year.
Out of the top 25 tacklers from last season, only two were seniors and 18 were underclassmen. It’s still not going to be a great D, but as long as it holds serve, the O should be able to be the Chip Kelly O.
Four starters return on the offensive line, QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson got his freshman year out of the way, Joshua Kelley leads a nice group of running backs, and the receiving corps should be a major plus.
Beat Cincinnati on the road, take out San Diego State – neither of which are givens – beat Oregon State, win at least two of three at home against Arizona State, Colorado and Cal, and the base of wins will be there to come up with a solid year.
Pull off an upset or two, come up with a road win against Arizona or Washington State, and this should be a strong next step season for the program.