Will the last one left in Westwood turn out the lights?
That’s one sentiment emerging from the westside of Los Angeles in the wake of an LA Times report into the concerning number of departures from the UCLA football program since the much ballyhooed arrival of head coach Chip Kelly. In what one outlet that covers the team described as a purge, some 63 players (!!) have left the team since November 2017 — a truly eye-opening number that is outside of the norm for most regime changes.
“You could have 35 scholarships available but you can only replace 25, so you’re down,” Kelly told the paper. “So I think we were at 76 [scholarship players] to start the season this year, so we’re down nine scholarship players that other people in our league have. … You can’t replace them in one class, you have to take it over time.”
Wideout Theo Howard was the latest to leave Westwood last week, with Kelly mostly being fine with the departures by citing players ability to find the right situation for them. Playing time was obviously a big driver according to the Times but being closer to home, issues with medical clearance and other factors were also cited by players for leaving. As a result, not only was the team down a number of scholarship players but the bulk of those remaining were young and inexperienced — with some 53% of the roster being made up of freshmen alone.
There’s been a lot of people wondering about Kelly’s tenure and how it’s gone off the rails lately (4-14 overall record) but a look at the roster — or more accurately who is not on it — might provide the biggest clue as to why UCLA has struggled so much under their high profile head coach.