Most likely candidates to replace Chip Kelly as UCLA head football coach

P.J. Fleck is emerging as one of UCLA's top targets in their budding coaching search after Chip Kelly fled to Ohio State as an offensive coordinator.
Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck
Minnesota Golden Gophers head coach PJ Fleck / Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

For the second time in a week, a college football head coach of a Power Five (or Power Four) left his position to become a coordinator. Jeff Hafley fled Boston College to become the defensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers. That opened up the job for Bill O’Brien, who was slated to become the Ohio State offensive coordinator. 

So, Chip Kelly, who was rumored to be on the hot seat, left UCLA to become to take the vacated OC position in Ryan Day’s staff in Columbus. Day and Kelly previously worked together when Kelly was the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. 

The coaching carousel just keeps turning. The current state of NIL and the transfer portal has made leading a college football program an even more all-encompassing 25/8 type of job. Turnover on rosters has led to turnover on staff, and now UCLA will need a new head coach to steward the program as it enters the Big Ten in 2024. 

These are the five most likely candidates for the job. 

. Former-Head Coach. Pete Carroll. 5. 36. Pete Carroll. player. Pete Carroll. .

The list of candidates is still developing and it might be hard to believe that a 72-year-old would leave the NFL to come back to college football, but Carroll knows how to win in Los Angeles. Seattle recently moved on from Carroll as its head coach, so he’s available for another challenge. 

Carroll is the same age as Mack Brown who is at UNC, and was still full of energy on the sidelines last season. Checking in at No. 5 on this list doesn’t exactly mean it’s likely, but he’s a name to monitor. 

Ryan Grubb. 523. Ryan Grubb. Ryan Grubb. . . Offensive Coordinator. 4. player.

Ryan Grubb would be an excellent fit. It would be his first head coaching job, but Grubb has shown an ability to coach elite offenses while working with Kalen DeBoer at Fresno State and Washington. 

It would be a surprise if Grubb left Alabama before ever coaching a snap, but Bill O’Brien just did it at Ohio State to become the head coach at Boston College. 

3. Jamey Chadwell. player. Head Coach. . Jamey Chadwell. Jamey Chadwell. 2283. .

Jamey Chadwell learned a lot about the limitations of a Group of Five team in Liberty’s 45-6 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. Chadwell has built elite Group of Five programs at Coastal Carolina and Liberty, but it’s time for him to make the leap to college football’s highest level. 

Chip Kelly was a retread, but Chadwell is a 47-year-old up-and-comer who was interviewed by Mississippi State for their head coaching vacancy. 

. Barry Odom. player. Barry Odom. . Head Coach. Barry Odom. 2. 2284.

Barry Odom bumped his head on the ceiling at Missouri in 2019 regressing to 6-6 after an 8-5 campaign in 2018. However, with just one season as the head coach of UNLV, Odom’s 9-5 record has revitalized his image and UCLA might be ready to give him his second chance in the Power Five. 

PJ Fleck. player. Head Coach. 1. . . . PJ Fleck. 487. PJ Fleck

When Bretty McMurphy first reported Chip Kelly’s departure, he mentioned P.J. Fleck as the top name in the search. 

Fleck was once the hottest name in college football after going 13-1 at Western Michigan in 2016. He landed at Minnesota and has had success, like his 11-2 record in 2019, but it’s tough to maintain that level of success in Minneapolis.

Coaching. Who will be UCLA's next football coach. dark. Next