OU football: Alex Grinch remembers Chip Kelly's wizardry from New Hampshire

UCLA head coach Chip Kelly and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch coached together while at New Hampshire. Kelly has struggled at UCLA, but is still regarded as one of the game's top offensive minds from yesteryear. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

As long as they attended last week’s game against San Diego State, UCLA ticket holders were offered four free tickets by the athletic department to this week’s game against fifth-ranked Oklahoma.

Two iconic brands, a stunning backdrop.

Free tickets.

UCLA is 0-2 following its first-ever loss to San Diego State and the Bruins are 3-11 in two years under Chip Kelly. After a full season in Los Angeles, he could only manufacture 28 total points the past two weeks.

Kelly once spun college football on his finger. He parlayed six years of offensive wizardry at Oregon into NFL stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.

He was supposed to make the Bruins better. Statistically, through two games, they’re worse now than in 2018 as they prepare to host OU in the Rose Bowl (Saturday, 7 p.m. FOX).

But just wait, OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch says. He spent four seasons as a cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator at New Hampshire while Kelly was offensive coordinator there from 1999-2006.

“I know in both personnel groupings, formations and the thing that you see on film is how close they are to this play versus this play and all of a sudden that's where it starts getting kind of getting hairy in terms of an opponent against him. It just hasn't happened yet,” Grinch said.

At least in theory, much of what Grinch coaches now he says was developed while facing Kelly’s high-tempo offenses in practice.

“[New Hampshire coach] Sean McDonnell, who by the way is sick right now, and so prayers go out to him … But he was a guy that wanted tempo. He wanted guys moving and obviously a defense has to match the offense,” Grinch said. “So much of what we do stems really from that time there. So in any event, you couldn't ask me about a guy in terms of from a respect standpoint that I'm going to tell you I have more. They're multiple. They do a lot of things.”

Kelly has coached offense and defense. He was defensive coordinator at John Hopkins before joining New Hampshire, where in 1997 he earned his first full-time position as the offensive line coach.

In 1999, he became offensive coordinator. New Hampshire upset Rutgers in 2004 and broke 29 school records on offense that year.

Grinch arrived in 2005 and was on staff when New Hampshire upset Northwestern 34-17 in 2006.

“What I do remember is always being a day behind [in practice],” Grinch said. “That center is working up field that used to be a run play, but they're throwing the ball. Again you go back and this is 2005. People didn't do that then. You see the linemen downfield and you’re saying, well that's a penalty. But he was on the cutting edge of that and we had to coach off of film. That was a big thing.”

Grinch remembers Kelly going to Eugene, Oregon, to interview for the offensive coordinator job there. Grinch and the other New Hampshire assistants sat in the campus offices back home figuring it might as well have been the New England Patriots job.

After ascending to head coach, by 2010 Kelly had the Ducks averaging just over 530 yards of offense and playing for a national championship.

The system hasn’t been effective at UCLA yet. The Bruins dwell at 127th nationally in total offense, averaging a meager 239.5 yards.

Kelly still has the Sooners’ attention.

OU nickeback Brendan Radley-Hiles, an Inglewood native who played at IMG Academy in high school, said Kelly made a last-ditch effort to sign him after taking the UCLA job, taking the long trip to Bradenton, Florida to visit with him in person.

“I have the utmost respect for coach Kelly. I look forward to playing against him,” Radley-Hiles said. “Again, last year was a great outcome for us. But this year I feel their quarterback, Dorian [Thompson-Robinson], he got more mature. You can tell he’s stronger with his arm and his progression. So I’m very anxious to play them.”

OU at UCLA

When: 7 p.m., Saturday

Place: Rose Bowl Stadium

Line: OU (-21.5)

TV: FOX

Radio: KRXO-FM 107.7

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