UCLA head coach Jim Mora appears to be safe for at least one more year, because he is busy making staff changes in preparation for the 2017 season. Offensive coordinator Kennedy Polamalu has been let go from his position on the staff after a dismal season with the Bruins offense.
UCLA finished its season ranked 92nd in total offense, 127th in rushing offense and 96th in scoring offense. The lone bright spot for the Bruins was the passing game, with Josh Rosen leading the way through the air when he was healthy. Unfortunately for UCLA, Rosen was banged up this season and only played in six games. Senior Mike Fafaul took over and ended his season with 12 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions. UCLA also ranked 99th in the nation in red zone scoring percentage and 96th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage.
Polamalu took over as the offensive coordinator for UCLA last year to replace Noel Mazzone. Mazzone left UCLA for Texas A&M last offseason, leaving UCLA to promote Polamalu (a former USC offensive coordinator) from running backs coach to take on the role. The lack of focus or improvement in the running game was a surprising development for the Bruins, who relied too heavily on the pass to get things done.
Whoever takes over as offensive coordinator will be the third in three seasons for Rosen, with next season likely being his final year at UCLA before a possible departure for the NFL. Given the instability on the staff and possible uncertainty about what happens beyond 2017 if things go sour once more, Rosen leaving a year early for the NFL feels like a near-given. And who could blame him?
UCLA’s latest coaching staff changes figure to raise a few eyes around Los Angeles. Filling the role of offensive coordinator at UCLA will be running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. The news of the in-house promotion was first reported by Ryan Bartow of 247 Sports. Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports also reported the news regarding Polamalu, along with word UCLA will hire Marques Tuiasosopo away from USC and will add Rip Scherer to the staff as a tight ends coach. Tuiasosopo will take on the role of quarterbacks coach. UCLA had coaching spots to fill with the departure of offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone and quarterbacks coach Taylor Mazzone to Texas A&M.
Tuiasosopo has been on the coaching staff at USC for the past two seasons and he was in Washington in 2013 under former Huskies and Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian. He will now have the chance to go from coaching Cody Kessler at USC to young phenom Josh Rosen, coming off a freshman season with 3,669 passing yards and 23 touchdowns. Tuiasosopo’s father, Manu Tuiasosopo, played defensive line for UCLA in the 1970s and earned all-conference honors. Marques Tuiasosopo also got started in coaching at UCLA as a graduate assistant under Jim Mora before moving to Washington.
UCLA’s offense was 45th in the nation in scoring offense (32.2 ppg), 58th in rushing offense (177.62 ypg), and 62nd in passer rating. With the talent UCLA has, it still is looking to make the leap to become a viable Pac-12, if not a playoff, contender. The Bruins have long been stuck in neutral when opportunities to become the team to beat in the Pac-12 have presented itself, so the new-look offensive coaching staff will look for ways to kick things up a notch.
It should probably go without saying that UCLA adding coaches from USC’s staff adds a bit of fuel to the fire that is the rivalry between the crosstown foes.