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Who will replace Chip Kelly at UCLA? Here are 13 intriguing possibilities

Tom Herman, Jason Candle, Eric Bieniemy, Brian Hartline, David Shaw and Barry Odom.
Potential UCLA football coaching candidates, clockwise from top left: Tom Herman, Jason Candle, Eric Bieniemy, Brian Hartline, David Shaw and Barry Odom.
(Associated Press)
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Consider them part of an exclusive group, The 96 Club.

Chip Kelly’s sudden departure for Ohio State has put candidates for the UCLA head coaching vacancy on the clock. Martin Jarmond, the Bruins athletic director, said Friday afternoon that he wanted to name a successor within 96 hours.

What is Jarmond seeking in the first major hire of his nearly four years on the job? Integrity. Passion. Competitiveness. A developer of young men.

And maybe just as importantly, given Kelly’s estrangement from the four letters, loyalty.

Chip Kelly leaving UCLA at the worst time to take an offensive coordinator job shows how he put himself first over the success of the football program.

Feb. 9, 2024

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“I want to find someone,” Jarmond said, “who wants to be a Bruin.”

Here’s a list of candidates Jarmond and fellow search committee members Erin Adkins, Christina Munger-Rivera and Josh Rebholz might consider. No matter the decision, they won’t keep UCLA fans waiting long.

Seven intriguing candidates

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Tony White | 44

Why he makes sense: A diehard Bruin, White was praised as a coach on the field when he played linebacker for the last UCLA team to appear in a Rose Bowl game on Jan. 1, 1999. He went on to become a graduate assistant under coach Karl Dorrell before rising to defensive coordinator at Arizona State, Syracuse and Nebraska. In each of the last two seasons, White was nominated for the Broyles Award that honors the top assistant coach in the nation.

Possible drawback: It’s always a bit of an unknown when an assistant takes over a program for the first time. UCLA has not hired anyone without previous head coaching experience since Dorrell in 2003, leading to a mostly blah five-year run with the exception of the Bruins going 10-2 in 2005.

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Jason Candle | 44

Toledo coach Jason Candle runs onto the field with his players before playing Miami (Ohio).
Toledo coach Jason Candle runs onto the field with his players before playing Miami (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference championship game in December.
(Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)

Why he makes sense: Consistency has been a hallmark of Candle’s eight seasons at Toledo, the Rockets posting a winning record every year and going 11-3 in 2023. A dogged recruiter, Candle checks another box that Jarmond mentioned — developing players — because he has helped eight players be selected in the NFL draft since 2017.

Possible drawback: Success at the mid-major level is never a guarantee of winning in the big time.

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Barry Odom | 47

Why he makes sense: Odom was an immediate winner at Nevada Las Vegas, the Rebels going 9-5 in his first season to post their best record since going 11-2 under Harvey Hyde in 1984. A defensive guru who successfully overhauled that side of the ball at multiple stops, Odom also took Missouri to two bowl games in his four seasons as the Tigers’ head coach.

Possible drawback: UNLV’s storybook season ended on a sour note, with the Rebels losing their last three games. Odom never won more than eight games at Missouri and never finished better than tied for fourth place in the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference, the sort of results that sound painfully familiar to those who followed UCLA under Kelly.

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Eric Bieniemy | 54

Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy stands on the sideline.
Washington Commanders offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy stands on the sideline before a game against the Buffalo Bills in September.
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Why he makes sense: Long considered a head-coach-in-waiting, Bieniemy already knows the UCLA landscape after serving as the Bruins’ running backs coach and recruiting coordinator under Dorrell. He has interviewed for multiple NFL head coaching jobs after helping Kansas City win two Super Bowls as the Chiefs’ offensive coordinator.

Possible drawback: Bieniemy turned down an offer to be head coach at Colorado (his alma mater) before the 2020 season, so he might be intent on remaining in the NFL.

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Brian Hartline | 37

Why he makes sense: Turnabout could be fair play if the Bruins snag the Ohio State assistant who held the Buckeyes’ offensive coordinator title last season even though he didn’t call plays. Coach Ryan Day then brought in Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator before pivoting to Kelly upon O’Brien’s departure for the Boston College head coaching job. Hartline is still widely considered a rising star in the coaching industry.

Possible drawback: Even though he’s an ace recruiter who’s universally respected, Hartline still has not had full control of an offense and might need further seasoning before landing his first head coaching job.

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David Shaw | 51

Stanford coach David Shaw looks up at the scoreboard during a game against Oregon in October 2022.
(Andy Nelson / Associated Press)

Why he makes sense: Having spent well over a decade at Stanford, Shaw possesses sensibilities that make him attractive — he has won at the highest level (three Rose Bowl appearances, a school-record 96 wins) at one of the nation’s top academic universities. He also has a personal connection to UCLA because his son Carter will be a sophomore walk-on wide receiver for the Bruins next season.

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Possible drawback: Waning motivation was among the criticisms lobbed at Shaw as he closed his Stanford career with back-to-back 3-9 seasons. Also, a “books and ball” ethos reminiscent of the Kelly era might be off-putting given Kelly’s mediocre results and messy departure.

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Tom Herman | 48

Why he makes sense: Jarmond is familiar with Herman’s skill as a play-caller given they overlapped at Ohio State while Jarmond was an assistant athletic director and Herman the offensive coordinator who helped the Buckeyes win the 2015 national championship. Herman went on to meteoric success in two seasons as Houston’s head coach before a relatively disappointing four seasons at Texas in which he went 32-18. Herman grew up in Simi Valley, played wide receiver at Cal Lutheran and knows his way around Southern California.

Possible drawback: Herman’s star is fading given his dismissal from Texas and an uninspiring first season at Florida Atlantic in which the Owls went 4-8 in 2023.

Other possibilities

Tommy Rees, 31: An L.A. native, his deep ties to UCLA include father Bill working for 15 years under Terry Donahue and brother Danny playing for the Bruins. After serving as offensive coordinator for three seasons at Notre Dame and one at Alabama, Rees recently took a job as the Cleveland Browns’ tight ends coach and pass game specialist.

D’Anton Lynn, 34: This would be sweet, albeit unlikely, revenge considering Lynn just made the move across town to USC after a spectacular debut season as UCLA’s defensive coordinator. Going to a rival so quickly probably eliminates Lynn from consideration given Jarmond said he wanted someone eager to be a Bruin.

Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll walks on the sideline during a game against the Arizona Cardinals on Jan. 8.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

Pete Carroll, 72: After presiding over USC’s last golden era — not to mention its last major scandal resulting in NCAA sanctions — the former Trojans and Seattle Seahawks coach would undoubtedly be energized to ascend the L.A. college football mountaintop once more. But for how long?

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Chris Horton, 39: A former All-Pac-12 safety at UCLA and quality control coach under Jim Mora who is now a special teams coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens, Horton has annually turned his unit into one of the best in the NFL.

P.J. Fleck, 43: Winning big at Minnesota is no small feat given the school’s football history and recruiting struggles, but Fleck faced allegations of fostering a toxic culture from former players in 2023.

Jamey Chadwell, 47: He built Coastal Carolina into a name brand and is coming off a 13-1 debut season at Liberty, but his Charleston Southern teams were forced to vacate 18 wins because of NCAA violations.

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