New coach DeShaun Foster ready to bring enthusiasm back to UCLA football

LOS ANGELES (AP) — DeShaun Foster was a freshman running back in 1998, the last time UCLA won a conference championship, played in the Rose Bowl and was in contention for a national title.

As the new head coach of the Bruins, Foster wants to get his alma mater back to that level.

“My whole life I’ve hit the ground running,” Foster said during his introductory news conference Tuesday. “I came in as a freshman and I played big-time ball early. First carry in the NFL I went 67 yards, touchdown. That’s what I do. I’m gonna hit this ground running. I’m gonna get everything going, and this team is gonna win games.”

What success looks like for UCLA under Foster might well come down to addressing the enthusiasm deficit that developed under Chip Kelly, who resigned on Friday and then was hired as the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.

Although Kelly won 25 games in his last three seasons in Westwood, including two routs of crosstown rival Southern California, he struggled to drive donations for name, image and likeness compensation through the program’s collective at the same time attendance at the Rose Bowl cratered.

Foster said he planned to start meeting with donors on Wednesday, while stressing that UCLA football would become an attraction once again in a region not lacking for entertainment options.

“You’re gonna see the excitement, we’re going to bring back the excitement,” Foster said. “You know, people used to love coming to the Rose Bowl games, filling the stadium. It was jam-packed when I played in there. It didn’t matter who we were playing. We’re gonna get back to that.”

Athletic director Martin Jarmond acknowledged that refilling the coffers would be critical in creating an environment where Foster can succeed. The 44-year-old Foster has never been a head coach or coordinator, and Jarmond wants to have experience and mentorship around him.

Jarmond expects Foster will hire at least one current or former head coach to his staff.

“You can’t have a first-time head coach and not give the infrastructure and support to help him be successful, so we’re gonna bolster that up,” Jarmond said.

After playing six seasons in the NFL with Carolina and San Francisco, Foster returned to UCLA as a volunteer assistant in 2012. He spent the past seven seasons as running backs coach, remaining on staff when Kelly took over after the 2017 campaign.

In addition to helping develop players selected in each of the past four NFL drafts, Foster was known as one of the better recruiters on a staff not exactly renowned for grinding at the high school ranks.

Foster said that would change, with him leading the charge.

Jarmond repeated stressed the attributes of Foster that were in contrast with fans’ knocks of Kelly, using words like “energy” and “hunger.”

And while he refused to discuss the specifics of Kelly’s departure to a now-Big Ten rival following public flirtations with multiple NFL teams for their offensive coordinator vacancies over the past two months, Jarmond pointedly mentioned in his introductory remarks how much Foster cares about UCLA.

“He embraces UCLA, he embraces these players and our university’s community and we’re all going to do everything we can to embrace him and support this program,” Jarmond said.

The initial returns reflect as much. Foster was swarmed by former teammates for pictures after the news conference. Jarmond said no current players have entered the transfer portal since Kelly’s exit.

Running back Joshua Kelley, who played for the Bruins in 2018-19 under Foster and has spent the past four seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers, sees the UCLA community embracing its new coach and giving him every chance to thrive.

“I think he’s really ready for it,” Kelley said. “When he talks to donors, alumni, recruits, they’re all gonna believe in his vision, his plan because he commands respect.”


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