On Friday afternoon, Ryan Day named his mentor, Chip Kelly, Ohio State’s newest offensive coordinator.
It’s a big step in an offseason full of coaching changes in the news. Ohio State has had a hand in many of them: Kelly is the Buckeyes’ second offensive coordinator in a month. Bill O’Brien was in the role for three weeks before taking the head-coaching job at Boston College.
Day didn’t have to wait long to find his replacement and hit a home run with Kelly’s hire.
Here are some more thoughts on what Kelly means to Ohio State:
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Ohio State’s game will be one of the best in the country.
The main reason why I think Kelly’s hiring is a big deal for Ohio State, and in some ways a better fit than O’Brien, is because Kelly isn’t afraid to run the ball. .
While O’Brien is more of a 50/50 play caller, Kelly is known for his commitment to the run game and success with it. In Kelly’s final three years at Oregon, the Ducks finished in the top-five in the nation in rushing offense. At UCLA, the Bruins finished in the top-20 in his last four years and never averaged less than 37 carries per game. Play calls that lean toward running. In 2020 and 2021, more than 60 percent of games called runs; UCLA has never averaged less than 52 percent on run plays.
By comparison, Ohio State hasn’t averaged more than 35 carries per game over the past three seasons. The Buckeyes run the ball 51 percent of the time in 2023.
TreVeyon Henderson returns and Ole Miss transfer Quinshon Judkins is on the roster to share the carries with him. Together, in an approach led by Kelly, they should make it harder for the Buckeyes to stop and get heavy work.
Ohio State claims Ole Miss transfer RB Quinshon Judkins
You saw how good Kelly’s scheme was in 2022 with UCLA. The Bruins finished the season sixth in the nation in rushing, averaging 237 yards per game and a nation-leading six yards per carry. Zach Charbonnet is the team’s leading rusher, and Dorian Thompson-Robinson is the team’s dual-threat quarterback.
With both leading the way, UCLA led the nation with 3.19 yards before contact and finished 19th in yards after contact at 3.34, according to TruMedia.
The Bruins were also explosive in the run game, finishing sixth in the nation with 14.2 percent of their runs going 12 yards or more.
As good as UCLA’s run game is, the offensive line is not a finalist for the Joe Moore Award in 2022. The offensive line is good, but there’s no reason to think Ohio State can’t duplicate that success, especially with Henderson. and Judkins.
Henderson, when healthy, was one of the most explosive running backs in the country last season. Judkins averaged five yards per carry the last two seasons and combined for 31 touchdowns.
Kelly also likes to use Thompson-Robinson’s legs. He was one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country that season, throwing for 3,169 yards, 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions while adding 645 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
He had 57 designed quarterback runs that season for 271 yards and scrambled 46 times for 483 yards. I could see him using transfer quarterback Will Howard the same way.
Howard, who came to Ohio State with 921 career rushing yards, is already a good runner and shines in the read option game. That’s another weapon Kelly will use.
That’s a three-headed snake that Kelly will use. It will be difficult for the defensive coordinators to slow down the Buckeyes as long as the offensive line holds up.
Chip may not be an elite recruiter but he and Todd Fitch are good enough to work together.
One thing Kelly has never been is an elite recruiter.
His UCLA teams finished with a top-20 recruiting class just once during his time there. It’s not what he’s known for, he’s a great offensive mind, but recruiting problems shouldn’t be a major concern.
Kelly will be paired with Fitch and he has been helping for a long time. Although he can’t recruit on the road, he’s a mainstay in the program that helps on campus. And, as long as Day is the Ohio State head coach, the program will receive interest from the best quarterbacks in the country.
The key is to develop them into capable quarterbacks, which is also not a big problem. Ohio State, with Day, Fitch and Kelly doesn’t have to worry about that.
Day now feels confident about settling into a CEO role.
Day seemed saddened by the stoppage of play calling when he spoke to the media last week. And I don’t blame him, Day is an elite play caller and it’s something he enjoys doing.
But the time has come for him to pass the torch and hiring Kelly means he can do so without having to worry about managing someone who doesn’t have experience or doesn’t share his values.
With Kelly, Day can focus on everything he needs to do. It is almost impossible for a head coach to be successful while also calling the games as they have to worry about recruiting throughout the year, the transfer portal, showing the head coach and NIL responsibilities.
Day’s focus can now shift to running the program the way it needs to this season, without having to share his time trying to figure out an opening script and how to counter each defense.
This is also a move by Sun to show that he has put all his chips in this season. If Ohio State is going to be serious about going all in on reclaiming the Big Ten and getting back to the top of the college football landscape, it needs to happen.
Familiarity with Justin Frye will help the offensive line.
Kelly will have to spend the spring getting used to Ohio State’s biggest weakness, its offensive line.
He will look at each player and assess their strengths and weaknesses, but one thing must fast track this change, his connection to Frye.
The two spent four years together at UCLA when Frye was the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. Kelly knows how Frye wants to coach and develop his offensive linemen and Frye knows how Kelly wants to run his scheme.
If you’re going to run the ball like Kelly does, you need a good relationship with your offensive line coach and Kelly has that. Their relationship is as important as any of them on the offensive staff.
How does this affect the 10th position of the coach?
It didn’t change much for Ohio State’s final coaching position.
Kelly will move to the quarterbacks coach position and Day will look to use this last spot on one of the other sides of the ball. I have a feeling it will be a special teams coordinator, but the Buckeyes could choose to add a full-time linebackers coach or assistant defensive line coach, as well.
That decision should be official in the coming days, but Kelly’s addition doesn’t change anything on that front.
(Top photo by Chip Kelly: Kirby Lee/USA Today)