UCLA’s new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch says running game will ‘drive the train’
Jedd Fisch used to make photocopies for Steve Spurrier as part of an unconventional rise from someone who never played football to a longtime college and NFL assistant coach.
He’ll try to duplicate as little as possible in his latest stop.
UCLA’s offense was among the worst in the Pac-12 Conference and its running game ranked second-to-last nationally in yards per game last season, leading Coach Jim Mora to hire Fisch as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach as part of a massive overhaul.
Fisch, who was introduced to the Los Angeles media on Thursday, helped engineer a high-powered Michigan offense that averaged 40.3 points per game last season in his role as passing game coordinator. He said the Bruins coaxed him away by offering a higher-profile position.
“It is definitely great to be getting back to being the offensive coordinator and doing it at UCLA,” Fisch said during a conference call.
Fisch said the Bruins would run a multifaceted offense best suited to the players’ talents and expected it to feature different personnel groupings, tempos and formations while utilizing “a good mix of run and pass.”
“The running game and the passing game go hand in hand,” Fisch said, “and if you’re able to utilize a certain system or scheme that permits you to run the football to open up the deeper throws and open up the passing game, that’s where the success will come.”
Fisch and Mora said they have known each other for years and known of each other even longer through mutual contacts in the coaching community. Mora said his coast-to-coast search for an offensive coordinator after Kennedy Polamalu was dismissed did not include candidates who ran a spread offense even though the Bruins’ switch to a pro-style formation last season was dramatically unsuccessful.
Several teams have won national titles in recent years with the spread, though Mora momentarily seemed to forget the runs that Florida, Alabama, Ohio State and Oklahoma had while using that formation.
“As far as I know,” Mora said, “a spread team has never won a national championship and that’s one of our goals here.”
Fisch was expected to arrive in Southern California later this week and take over coaching the quarterbacks from Marques Tuiasosopo, who will remain on staff in an undisclosed role. Mora would not comment on the makeup of the rest of his offensive coaching staff.
Fisch, 40, said he had already exchanged text messages with quarterback Josh Rosen and intended to speak with him in the next 24 hours. Rosen will be the seventh starting quarterback Fisch has worked with in as many years, but the first with extensive experience; Rosen has started 19 games during his two seasons with the Bruins.
“I’m thrilled to be able to coach Josh,” Fisch said of the quarterback who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in November. “I get the opportunity and also understand the responsibility of coaching somebody with the talent that Josh has.”
UCLA’s running game is the biggest issue confronting Fisch after the Bruins gained only 84.2 yards rushing per game last season. Fisch said he understood the importance of running the ball even when his teams have had success throwing it, noting the philosophy he helped instill as receivers coach with the Denver Broncos in 2008.
“Our receivers had 250 catches and led the NFL,” Fisch said, “but they also understood that run blocking and the running game was what’s going to drive the train.”
Mora said he liked that Fisch had extensive experience in both college and the NFL after his start running errands for Spurrier at the University of Florida. Fisch has also been an offensive coordinator at Miami (Fla.), Minnesota and the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars in addition to other coaching roles that Mora said would give his newest hire instant credibility with UCLA players.
As far as his own NFL aspirations, Mora said he had none and that he hoped to finish his career with the Bruins.
“I mean, I hope I can win enough games to be worthy of staying here the rest of my career,” said Mora, who has gone 41-24 at UCLA after enduring a 4-8 season in 2016. “I love it here.”
2:33 p.m.: This article was updated with a clarification that national championships have been won by teams that ran their offense from the spread formation.
This article was originally published at 2:20 p.m.
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