UCLA’s Chip Kelly explains his transfer-heavy recruiting

As a result of UCLA’s recruitment under coach Chip Kelly, high school players are becoming an endangered species.

Just check the numbers. The size of each of its high school recruiting classes has shrunk from 27 players in 2018 to 22 in 2019 to 20 in 2020 to 18 in 2021 and 11 in 2022. For the Class of 2023, the Bruins only have six players who have made oral commitments.

In the meantime, the number of transfers has skyrocketed. UCLA imported two transfers in Kelly’s freshman season, three in his second season, five in his third season, and eight in his fourth season. When the Bruins trot onto the Rose Bowl field for their season opener against Bowling Green on Sept. 3, their roster will feature 13 new transfers.

Don’t expect those trends to change given what Kelly described as a “year-by-year” approach to roster building in the transfer portal era.

“It’s not like that anymore, you bring 25 newbies, then we’re going to turn them all into redshirts and develop them, and in five years we’re going to be good,” Kelly said Tuesday. “In five years you probably won’t be there, so everything is year-to-year. We don’t really look at it as recruitment anymore, we look at it as team building, so how do we build the best team for the 2022 season and that’s a combination of high school [players] and transfers.

“You can’t predict what the market is going to be like because you don’t know who is entering the portal. It’s not like the NFL where in free agency you know this guy’s contract is expiring, he’s going to be a free agent, you know then who to identify. So you just have to stay on the ball and stand in front of it.”

Among the transfers Kelly has brought in since the end of last season are eight – edge rushers Grayson and Gabriel Murphyrecipient Jake Bobo and Titus Mokiao-AtimalalaDefensive tackle Jacob Sykecorner kick Azizi Hearnlinebacker Darius Muasau and offensive tackle Raiqwon O’Neal – are candidates to get starting places for the season opener. None of the team’s true newbies are likely to start this game.

The unspoken message to recruits: If you expect to become a Bruin, be ready to contribute quickly.

“I think the days of ‘Hey, let’s take a flyer about this kid, I think maybe he’s a developmental kid, he hasn’t really shown much, but he has some height, weight and speed, and we’ll just see If he drops out, you’re not going to do that now because you might not be able to have a scholarship for a kid to come and start for you next fall,” Kelly said.

Welcome back

Jon Gaines II may have been the Bruins’ happiest camper when he returned to training this week. His father, Jon GainesShe just got a long-awaited kidney transplant.

The team encouraged the senior guard to return home to suburban Milwaukee to be with his father as soon as the family learned a kidney was available. Jon Gaines had both of his kidneys removed more than three years ago due to cancerous growths requiring dialysis while awaiting a transplant.

His son flew home during the operation but arrived in time to see his father wake up.

“When he first got up he was very relaxed,” said the younger Gaines, “You know he was on painkillers and there was a huge scar where he had the incision, but I’d say probably two days after he was up and fooling around.”

The transplant will allow Jon Gaines to see his son play more often during his final season of college. Previously, the elder Gaines had to schedule dialysis sessions in Southern California up to 10 weeks in advance to ensure facility availability.

An impromptu celebration erupted when Jon Gaines II returned to the practice facility this week.

“When he came back we were all over him”, center Sam Marrazzo said. “You know, I just love him because that’s my brother right there.”

Align them

Although converted defender Tyler Manoa worked on left tackle and Siale Taupaki Working exclusively with proper tackle in the early training sessions, Kelly said the positions had become essentially interchangeable.

“I don’t think it’s specifically because you have a right tackle that’s just a run-block type and the left tackle is a pass-block type,” Kelly said. “Most of the time when you’re in spread formation, both tackles are exposed, they don’t have any tight end at all, so they both have to have similar skills.”

The other players competing for starting tackle spots are O’Neal, Garrett DiGiorgio, Josh Carlin and Bruno Fina. As in years past, Kelly said he intends to field his top five offensive linemen and use an eight-man rotation.

Marrazzo, who was limited to two games last season due to a left knee injury, said he has made a full recovery. UCLA’s Chip Kelly explains his transfer-heavy recruiting

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