Ohio State Coaches and Players Say New Offensive Coordinator Chip Kelly is Enhancing Buckeyes’ Offense

By Andy Anders on April 10, 2024 at 8:35 am
Chip Kelly

The vision for Chip Kelly as offensive coordinator has been clear since he arrived.

With plenty of overlap between his and Ryan Day’s offensive scheme – a Day scheme that has resulted in some of the nation’s most productive offenses each year outside of the Buckeyes’ most recent season – there were never going to be broad-sweeping changes to Ohio State’s attack.

That has become even more clear now that Kelly is close to wrapping up his first spring football season in Columbus.

“He’s been really neat because the offense hasn’t changed,” tight ends coach Keenan Bailey said. “This has been Chip Kelly’s offense and Ryan Day’s offense, it’s the same offense. It’s kind of neat going back to the roots and the origin, maybe understanding a new twist or why we called it how we did. And it’s been great for the tight ends, I’ll leave it at that. Not to get too much into scheme but we’ve definitely benefitted. And me personally, learning every day.”

While Kelly works to take charge of the offense and allow Day to step back into more of a CEO role, the Buckeyes’ players and coaches are building their relationships with the former UCLA head coach and learning the finer points of what he brings to the table.

“It’s been awesome,” transfer center Seth McLaughlin said. “He’s coached a lot of good guys and you can really tell the knowledge (he has) and he has a ton of excitement to coach us, which is awesome.”

Outside Day, who was mentored by Kelly as both a player and coach, no Ohio State staffer or player is more familiar with the Buckeyes’ new offensive coordinator than offensive line coach Justin Frye.

Kelly hired Frye as his OL coach when he first landed the UCLA job in 2018, then promoted him to offensive coordinator a year later. He spent four total seasons under Kelly before leaving for Ohio State in 2022.

Frye said he would have “laughed” if he was told after his move from Los Angeles to Columbus that Kelly would follow him two years later, but added that “it’s college football.”

“He just added to another piece of just good people here,” Frye said. “You’re coming to work here with guys every day, the kids we talk about a ton, but then for us as coaches as a staff. So adding just another good dude that’s in the room.”

Devin Brown had a preexisting relationship with Kelly from his time at UCLA, being recruited by the then-head coach out of high school before he ultimately signed with Ohio State, and he’s enjoyed having Kelly as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach now.

“He’s very laid back and wanting us to learn,” Brown said. “He’s very teacher-oriented. He wants us to learn and process everything without giving us the information. So it’s been good.”

In the case of Luke Montgomery, who is competing to start alongside McLaughlin at right guard, Kelly's reputation preceded him.

Kelly has a reputation for mixing tempos in his offense, including a healthy amount of no-huddle to push the pace on defenses. Kelly's 2010 Oregon team led the nation in both scoring and total offense. The Ducks finished top five in both categories in 2011 and 2012, his last two years in Eugene.

"When I first heard he got the job I got really excited, because I'm one of those guys who – the tempo, I can run with the tempo," Montgomery said with a chuckle. "I've been playing basketball my whole life instead of football. I feel like the fast-paced offense that we're running, it really fits the guys we have right now and I'm really excited for that."

Wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator Brian Hartline isn’t someone who’s worked with Kelly before, but he had plenty of great things to say after a handful of weeks working alongside him.

“I love working with Chip,” Hartline said. “I love talking ball. I love the viewpoints. I love the veteran (presence) that he has and I love all of it. Early on, the biggest impact – feeling, perspective in the run game has been awesome. Then off of the run game, some of the actions, relief throws, all that stuff, I love where it’s at. I love working with him and he’s a great person to be around.”

Around this time last year, there were thoughts around Ohio State’s program that it might be Hartline who took over play-calling duties from Day. The former NFL wide receiver was even given a trial run during spring and preseason practices last season. While Hartline will still have a role in game planning, Day ultimately looked to a more experienced hand to run the offensive show.

Hartline remains self-assured, though, and with good reason as he has the best track record of any receivers coach in college football. He’s expressed no envy toward Kelly, but rather an excitement to learn from and work with him.

“I sleep a little better,” Hartline said. “It’s really a great combo because we’re doing a lot as a group, it’s not just Chip and I. Obviously, Chip has an image, a view of things that I never had. So to have that experience and to have that viewpoint, I’m just trying to absorb as much as I can, but then I also highlight some things that we’ve done a really good job of. Nothing’s really changing, we’re just trying to enhance.”

“Nothing's really changing, we're just trying to enhance.”– Brian Hartline on the Ohio State offense under Chip Kelly

Much of Kelly’s spring has been spent learning Ohio State’s offensive terminology, which Frye has been a big help with given that he’s experienced in working with both Kelly and Day.

“He says something and he might speak in old terms, in terms of what we had (at UCLA), then maybe (I’ll) be the Rosetta Stone like, ‘No no, this is this,’” Frye said. “That happens to all coaches. It happened to me when I got here at first. I was that with Coach Day sometimes, like ‘Ryan, what do we call this?’”

Ohio State’s coaches and players will lean on Kelly to keep enhancing their offensive formula as spring practice nears its end.

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