UCLA Football 2019: Position Group Preview – Running Backs

BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 13: Joshua Kelley #27 of the UCLA Bruins runs with the ball against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BERKELEY, CA - OCTOBER 13: Joshua Kelley #27 of the UCLA Bruins runs with the ball against the California Golden Bears at California Memorial Stadium on October 13, 2018 in Berkeley, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Go Joe Bruin continues to examine the UCLA football position groups ahead of the 2019 season as today we look at the running backs.

The running game is everything for UCLA football head coach Chip Kelly and this year he has a lot to choose from with nine RBs at his disposal.

RELATED: UCLA Football Position Group Preview – Quarterbacks

But Go Joe Bruin has also noticed a trend. Is the UCLA running game taking another step forward in the evolution of Kelly’s offense? We look to see who will be helping out with running the ball and how they will be doing it. Here is what we expect in terms of a depth chart.

Running Back

1. Joshua Kelley (R-Sr) 6’0, 210

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Chip Kelly may say that there is an open competition for the starting running back spot, but we all know that the best running back on the roster is Joshua Kelley. He returns after a 2018 season in which he ran for 1,297 and had six games of over 100 yards, including a record 289 yards against USC.

Every back seemed to slowly get better as the season went on, but Kelley improved exponentially. He appeared to have an understanding of what the coach required in the running game, adapted to it and became the best option for the Bruins.

With Kelley improving as the 2018 season went on, it will be interesting to see how he does to start the 2019 season at the top of his game.

2. Martell Irby (So) 5’9, 200

Irby became a very reliable commodity last season. As Chip was shuffling backs around and trying to find the perfect fit, a few backs showed they were specialists in different types of running scenarios. If Kelley was the speedster, Irby was the power back. The Bruins tried and struggled to run the ball north-south, but halfway through the season, Irby found his nitch in this situation as he was able to go through the tackles and pick up a handful of vital short yardage better than anyone else on the team.

3. Kazmeir Allen (So) 5’9, 190

Allen is quite possibly the fastest player on the roster. Last year, he had a few flashes of greatness, but couldn’t get consistent production. But things look to change this season as he gets more comfortable with the offense. It also helps that the offensive line is getting better and better, which will make the ball carrying duties easier for the RBs. If Allen can get into a rhythm than he will be a running back to be feared.

4. Keegan Jones (Fr) 5’9, 185

Jones joined the team in spring, giving him a bit of experience with the offense. His role will be similar to Allen… bring the speed. Jones is a very shifty back and had undeniable quickness. With another speedster in the backfield, Kelley is putting together one formidable (and fast) position group.

5. Jahmon McClendon (Fr) 6’1, 200

McClendon is an interesting recruit as he is one of the bigger backs on the team that has been known for playing power back, which leads us to believe that he might play fullback, which I will get into in a while. Still, the thing you will notice about McClendon is that he is massive and hard to bring down, giving the Bruins a planet in the backfield.

6. Christian Grubb (Fr) 5’10, 180

UCLA got more speed when they landed Grubb. He was a late addition to the 2019 recruiting class as he signed with UCLA well after February’s signing period, but should help out when the Bruins need to move the ball downfield quickly.

7. Cole Kinder (R-So) 6’0, 200

Kinder had a few highlight moments in 2018. Though he might be buried on the depth chart, he knows the offense and knows what is expected from Kelly. If he continues to play consistently, he will have more plays carrying the ball this season.

8. Dusty Mitchell (Fr) 6’2, 220

This is an interesting recruit as Mitchell primarily played linebacker and defensive end, leading us to believe that he might also play in a fullback-type role. Which brings us to…


1. Sitveni Kaufusi (Fr) 6’2, 235

2. Jahmon McClendon (Fr) 6’1, 200

3. Dusty Mitchell (Fr) 6’2, 220

Kaufusi is a bona fide fullback, leading us to the conclusion that the Bruins could be adopting a second running position: a fullback. Kaufusi is another large human being that you cannot miss when he is on the field. He is extremely shifty and can make defenders look the fool when they try to bring him down. But he is also a brilliant player that can see the field and get into space. He can also lineup from behind the quarterback, giving him experience in the zone read.

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With both Mitchell and Kaufusi having experience at linebacker, it leads me to believe that they have decent blocking skills (along with McClendon), which would help the Bruins, especially if they return to a two-back set. Giving the running game options will open up UCLA’s ground attack, but also allows for possible triple-options. This could be where the running game evolves.