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Reports: Ohio State set to replace Bill O'Brien at offensive coordinator with UCLA coach Chip Kelly

Chip Kelly is making a unique career change.

According to multiple reports, the UCLA head coach is leaving the Bruins to become the offensive coordinator for Ohio State. The Buckeyes needed an offensive coordinator after Boston College moved Friday to hire Bill O'Brien to replace Jeff Hafley.

Ohio State hired O'Brien to run the team's offense in January, but Hafley — a former Ohio State assistant — left Boston College at the end of January to become the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers.

Kelly has been UCLA’s coach since 2018 and the Bruins are 35-34 in his time with the program. After three consecutive losing seasons through 2018-20, UCLA has posted at least eight wins in each of the past three seasons. The Bruins went 8-5 in 2023 and beat Boise State in the LA Bowl. Not long after the reports surfaced that Kelly was heading to Ohio State, UCLA announced that he had stepped down.

"I want to sincerely thank Chip for his service to UCLA Football and our student-athletes across the past six seasons and wish the best to him and his wife Jill moving forward," Bruins athletic director Martin Jarmond said.

Los Angeles, CA - November 18:  Head coach Chip Kelly of the UCLA Bruins looks on against the USC Trojans in the first half of a NCAA football game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, November 18, 2023. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images)
UCLA was 35-34 during Chip Kelly's tenure. (Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images) (MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images via Getty Images)

It's a remarkable move, even if UCLA wasn't going to be a part of the same conference as Ohio State in 2024. But Kelly's departure from the Bruins comes as UCLA heads to the Big Ten along with Oregon, Washington and USC ahead of the upcoming football season.

Kelly has always been individualistic, however. And that's led to great football success. He took over for Mike Bellotti at Oregon after he was the Ducks' offensive coordinator. From 2009-2012, Oregon went 46-7 and had an innovative offense that took the college football world by storm.

That success brought Kelly to the NFL. He was hired by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Eagles promptly won the division in 2013. However, Kelly was fired at the end of his third season in Philadelphia and spent just one lackluster season as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

It also doesn't take much to see why Kelly could want to leave UCLA for a coordinator job at a school in the same conference. Kelly's name was mentioned as a surprising hot seat candidate at the end of the 2023 season and he has a buyout that drops significantly after the 2024 season.

UCLA also has a miserably tough schedule next year and enters the season without a stellar recruiting class. The Bruins' 2024 recruiting class ranks just 83rd in the country and when you count transfers along with recruits, UCLA only moves up to 69th in Rivals' rankings.

After opening the 2024 season at Hawaii and at home against Indiana, UCLA has a three-game stretch featuring games at LSU, at home vs. Oregon and at Penn State. UCLA also hosts Iowa and heads to Washington in November before home games against USC and Fresno State.

Ohio State's philosophical shift

Kelly and Ohio State head coach Ryan Day go way back. Day played football at the University of New Hampshire when Kelly was an assistant at the school and was Kelly's QB coach in 2015 with the Eagles and 2016 with the 49ers.

Day made the move to bring in O'Brien in January as part of a massive offseason for the program. Ohio State has lost three straight games to defending national champion Michigan and finished the 2023 season at 11-2 following a 14-3 Cotton Bowl loss to Missouri. Outside of star wide receiver Marvin Harrison — who sat out that game — most of Ohio State's top NFL-eligible talent made the decision to come back to Columbus. Players like RB TreVeyon Henderson, WR Emeka Egbuka and edge rushers Jack Sawyer and JT Tuimoloau are all returning for next season.

Ohio State has also added players like former Ole Miss RB Quinshon Judkins, ex-Kansas State QB Will Howard and former Alabama DB Caleb Downs through the transfer portal. The Buckeyes have a strong case to be No. 1 ahead of the 2024 season.

The season will also begin without Day calling plays. Day had called plays ever since taking over for Urban Meyer, but eyed an experienced offensive coordinator to call plays in his stead in 2024. O'Brien, Alabama's offensive coordinator in 2021 and 222, was set to be that guy until this week.

Now, it's Kelly. And it's not a stretch to say that Kelly will be working with the most collegiate offensive talent he's had since Oregon. Or maybe even ever.