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UCLA names former RB DeShaun Foster new coach

UCLA has named former player and assistant coach DeShaun Foster as its new coach, replacing Chip Kelly after Kelly took the Ohio State offensive coordinator job late last week.

Foster, who is in the school’s Hall of Fame for his running back career, had been on staff since 2017, before recently taking a job with the Las Vegas Raiders. Upon Kelly’s departure, multiple players called for Foster to get the job.

“This is a dream come true,” Foster said in a release. “I always envisioned being a Bruin ever since I was young, and now being the head coach at my alma mater is such a surreal feeling, and I’m grateful for this opportunity. The foundation of this program will be built on discipline, respect and enthusiasm. These are phenomenal young men, and I’m excited to hit the ground running.”

Foster takes over a UCLA program that has won at least eight games in three consecutive seasons and is on its way to the Big Ten. The Bruins have struggled in recruiting and the NIL space in recent years, but that was also never Kelly’s strength. The hope is that Foster’s energy and passion for UCLA can turn those around at a time when the Bruins need it.

“While undergoing a comprehensive search for our new head coach, DeShaun resonated from the start and throughout the whole process,” athletic director Martin Jarmond said in the release. “We are looking for a coach with integrity, energy and passion; someone who is a great teacher, who develops young men, is a great recruiter and fully embraces the NIL landscape to help our student-athletes. DeShaun checks all of those boxes and then some. He is a leader of men and a true Bruin. I am excited to partner with him as we usher UCLA football into an exciting new era.”

UCLA football has found success over the past few decades but struggled to sustain it. Bob Toledo reached consecutive BCS games in 1997 and 1998, followed by a 4-7 season. Karl Dorrell won 10 games in 2005 but was fired two years later after a 6-6 season. Jim Mora won 10 games in both 2013 and 2014 but went 4-8 two years later and was fired the following season. Kelly slowly built UCLA into a solid program again, but the Bruins had also hit a ceiling around eight or nine wins, clearly behind the Pac-12’s best.

UCLA led the Pac-12 in rushing yards per game in each of the past two seasons, the first time the Bruins had done that since 1976. Under Foster’s development, a UCLA running back has been selected in each of the past four NFL drafts. Now the former Bruin running back will lead from the head coaching chair.

A strong hire, given the timing

I think given the timing this was a good move for UCLA. Foster is loved by the players and by folks around the program. Foster did a terrific job with his running backs and kept cranking out playmakers, from helping turn FCS transfer Joshua Kelly into a guy who had back-to-back 1000-yard seasons for the Bruins to developing Demetric Felton to re-energizing the career of Zach Charbonnet, Foster proved to be one of the top assistants in the Pac-12.

“He’ll be great for retention,” said one of the UCLA staffers Monday morning right after the players were informed of the hire. “The kids loved it in the meeting. There was a lot energy and juice.”

Foster didn’t have coordinator experience, but one UCLA assistant coach told The Athletic on Monday that Foster has great communication skills. “He was a sounding board for the team. DeShaun had the pulse of the team. He knows how to motivate and lead and how to handle issues,” the assistant said.

Foster’s hiring also likely means there will be continuity with the Bruins staff as earlier this winter UCLA had signed their staff to new two-year deals. Who Foster tabs to become the Bruins’ new play-caller on offense will be a key move.

A huge challenge for Foster will be to fire up the money people around UCLA to get its NIL operation going. Some schools the Bruins are competing with in the Big Ten have an NIL war chest well into the eight figures. According to a team source, UCLA wasn’t even in seven figures on that front.— Bruce Feldman, national college football insider

Required reading

(Photo: Jevone Moore / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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