The Florida Gators are in the middle of searching for a new head football coach, and the fan base is seeking candidates that will revitalize a once potent offense. Rumors have been circulating that the eventual hire is going to be Chip Kelly. From a Gators fan standpoint, this is a no-brainier home-run hire.
Chip Kelly, who is a current NFL analyst for ESPN, has not coached during the 2017 season after spending the last four years as a head coach in the NFL. Before arriving to the highest level of football, Kelly modernized and changed the game of college football with his spread offensive attacks. Oregon quickly became one of the fastest paced teams in the country and had the speed to outrun any defense.
Below, Armchair takes a look at the recruiting classes and offensive rankings Kelly achieved during his time at Oregon.
Kelly wasn’t named the offensive coordinator until February of 2007, so he didn’t have time to affect the state of the recruiting class. In 2007, Oregon’s recruiting class ranked 14th nationally and second in the Pac-10. This was Kelly’s first year as the offensive coordinator in Eugene. His dynamic spread offensive attack helped the Ducks quickly emerge as the top offense in the Pac-10 in scoring (38.15 ppg) and yards per game (467.54).
In 2008, after Kelly’s first season, the Ducks class ranked 34th nationally and eighth in the Pac-10. This class wasn’t highlighted by many prominently ranked prospects from around the country, but still brought in several products that ultimately emerged onto the national scene. Names like LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner are three notable names that were in the 2008 cycle. In his second season calling plays for Oregon, Kelly impressively improved in both yards (484.8) and points per game (41.9). The 2008 Ducks offense broke the school record for yards and points in a single season, a record set under Kelly’s first year as the coordinator.
Oregon’s 2009 recruiting class ranked 30th nationally and fourth in the conference. This class only listed one skilled player on offense above a 3-star rating. The most impressive element in all of Kelly’s success is achieving these records with minimal nationally-recognized talent. After the previous head coach was promoted to the athletic director position, Kelly filled the head coaching vacancy. It was a pretty easy choice after Kelly brought Oregon’s offense into the national spotlight after just two seasons of calling plays. In his first year as head coach, Kelly lead Oregon to the Rose Bowl. In 2009, Oregon had a slight drop off in offensive performance, averaging 36.1 points and 412 yards per game.
The 2010 Oregon recruiting class leaped 18 spots in the national rankings, checking in at No. 12. This class was highlighted by wide receiver Josh Huff. During his career in Eugene, Huff reeled in 24 touchdown passes and amounted 2,366 yards. During this season, Kelly led the Ducks to the No. 1 ranking in the country. After finishing the season No. 2, Oregon had the opportunity to win a national championship in Kelly’s second season. Behind Doak Walker Award winner LaMichael James, the Ducks squared off against Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers, but eventually lost to the Tigers 22-19. However, the 2010 Ducks were the best offensive team in the country, averaging an astounding 49.3 points and 537.5 yards per game. If Kelly could provide numbers even remotely close to these, Gators fans are in for a hell of a time. Kelly was also named the AP Coach of the Year in 2010.
The Ducks’ 2011 class ranked 12th nationally and second in the conference. Each year at the helm, Kelly continued to build classes that fit his scheme. 2011 was probably his most successful recruiting cycle. The main focus wasn’t about bringing in four and five-stars, it was allowing players to be successful in Kelly’s offense. This class advertised eventual Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota and speedster De’Anthony Thomas. In Kelly’s third season, he led his unit to their third consecutive BSC Bowl appearance, beating Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. His offense averaged 46.1 points and 522.8 yards per game that season.
Byron Marshall was one of the top names in a 2012 class that ranked 14th nationally and third in the conference. In Marshall’s second season he eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark. With Darron Thomas declaring for the NFL, Kelly had to play redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota. In his first season starting, Mariota led the high-powered Ducks to their fourth consecutive BCS Bowl appearance. Oregon defeated Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. In his final year at Oregon, Kelly’s team ranked inside the top-5 following the season for the third time. Oregon’s offense ranked second in points per game (49.6) and averaged 537.4 yards per game.
After originally deciding to stay in Oregon with hopes of winning a national title, Kelly eventually bolted for the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Just months after departing Eugene, the NCAA handed several sanctions towards Kelly’s former university for violations during his time as head coach. Outside of the deadly and unstoppable offenses, the only real concern about Kelly is his ability to stay clean. Due to his violations, Oregon lost several scholarships over the next two years.
If Kelly decides to become the next head coach of the University of Florida, he will have all the talent in the world to recruit from in his backyard. It is hard to persuade prospects to come to Oregon, even with the most explosive offense, but being located in the state of Florida, he should have no issue reeling in the top classes in the country.
**All recruiting rankings were provided by 247sports.com.