UCLA Football: Why Bolu Olorunfunmi could excel in Chip Kelly’s system

SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 28: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi
SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 28: Running back Bolu Olorunfunmi /

Go Joe Bruin looks at the style of UCLA football running back Bolu Olorunfunmi and tries to explain why he could excel in Chip Kelly’s zone scheme running system.

Bolu Olorunfunmi is heading into his fourth year with the UCLA football program. In each year with the program, he has had a new offensive coordinator. That kind of inconsistency can derail a career, but hopefully the new coach, Chip Kelly, can take Olorunfunmi to the next level.

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There has been a lot of speculation about what Kelly will do with UCLA. Will he be more Oregon-based, or will he run what he did with the Philadelphia Eagles or will he do both?

In an article Inside The Pylon, Predicting Chip Kelly’s Run Game at UCLA (Part 1), author Ryan Dukarm looks at a few zone running plays Kelly has utilized in his coaching career and goes through the process of maximizing yards from reading the defense.

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To simplify, Kelly (and his quarterback) look at how the pre-snap match ups are set (and change accordingly, if needed). This is important especially if Kelly wants to run the ball up the middle, which is something that has not been effective for UCLA the last few seasons.

The one back that has shown consistency up the middle is Bolu Olorunfunmi and because of this, he should be able to thrive with Kelly’s zone runs.

Last season, Olorunfunmi was extremely productive in the game against USC where the Bruins almost beat the Trojans, but ultimately fell 28-23. With that in mind, I looked at how he succeeded in running the ball and how that will help in during his 2018 campaign.

In that game, Olorunfunmi had started at running back and in UCLA’s first drive, did not get much running the ball. There was an issue with blocking.

According to Dukarm, it is a “simple numbers game in the box to see where [the QB] should go with the ball”. If there are more defenders than blockers in the box (as the defense might be preparing for a run) then you throw. If the offense has the advantage, run. That was not the case with Olorunfunmi’s first run of the game.

Kelly probably would not have called for a run on this play, or at least had the foresight to realize that a run was not going to give them an advantage against USC’s defensive set up. As the above tweet describes, there are more defenders than blockers (8 defenders, 6 blockers), yet UCLA was dedicated to the run. The result was Bolu trying to hit a right side gap, only to be met by the OLB.

But things improved as the game went on and when everything came together, Olorunfunmi was able to perform to the best of his ability.

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In UCLA’s second drive of the game, the ball went to Olorunfunmi three out of UCLA’s seven possessions and he had positive yardage on each of those carries. Two of those plays were runs which moved the ball for the Bruins considerably.

On his first run, he only gets four yards, but they are important yards which gives UCLA a first down and moved the chains. UCLA did not necessarily have the advantage in blocking (8 defenders for USC, 8 for UCLA – 5 OLs, 2 RBs, 1 WR), but the blockers held their assignments and created a small gap for Bolu to run through. He also got an extra yards cutting to the right of the tackler before being taken down, which was a good look by the RB.

A few plays later, Olorunfunmi had a big run which helped lead to UCLA’s first score of the game. The Bruins had the defender-blocker advantage, 7-5, so going to the run was the right call here. Olorunfunmi knew it too as he starts to go right and then cuts left as he sees the left tackle locking up the defensive end. Olorunfunmi looks as if he is going to the edge but cuts back to the right and into the B gap, allowing him to pick up seven yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

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There was not a single Trojan around him until the OLB moved up in the box.

Olorunfunmi’s vision and quick reaction on this play shows why he should excel in Kelly’s system. Kelly wants speed, which he will get, but if he needs to grind out a few yards, especially in quick succession, then Bolu is the guy.  But it is not just running plays he can help out with. Last season, Olorunfunmi and fellow running back Soso Jamabo were among the top 10 Bruins in receiving yards.

That essentially gives Kelly multi-dimensional backs. Both were pretty reliable and were able to turn their receiving yards (both averaged over 10 yards per catch) into positive gains for the Bruins. This will help when deceiving defenses and will help on RPO plays (especially when faking the run and going to the pass).

Let us look at one of Olorunfunmi’s receptions during that USC game.

The thing that I love about this play, and it is something that has been apparent since Olorunfunmi was a freshman, is that he goes right at the defenders with zero regard for life. This is something he has always been able to do, position himself to lessen the blow of a tackler and get several extra yards after contact.

In the play above, Olorunfunmi has a lot of room on left side (though that will not always happen). Once the Trojans finally get to him, it takes three to take him down.

The ability to use his body is something that has benefitted Olorunfunmi. He has always been a solid running back, but we should see that evolve this fall. If you were not aware, back in spring, we had noticed that he was considerably bigger. “Swoll” is the term the kids are using these days. So come fall, expect a bigger, tougher, badder Bolu.

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This is why Olorunfunmi can evolve his game and help Kelly with the run. He has the experience, the vision, the work ethic, the skill and the body to help advance this team’s run game. He will also have the tutelage of one of the best offensive minds in college football, especially with the run. Because of this, I would expect Olorunfunmi to not only elevate his game, but he might get national attention because of it.