A feature in Grantland on Thursday morning had some interesting tidbits about Chip Kelly and how he is constantly tinkering with new ways to get an edge over his competition. Teams have taken notice and are trying to use what Kelly has done to their advantage as well. With regards to BYU and from what has been observed by media members the last few years, Kelly seems to have a disciple in Bronco Mendenhall.
Chip Kelly had incredible success at Oregon before making his debut as a head coach in the NFL last season for the Philadelphia Eagles. He took a team that won 4 games in 2012 and led them to 10 wins in 2013 as well as winning the NFC East.
Bronco and his staff have spent time observing pro and college teams during the off-season and implementing some of what they've seen. Bronco is known for trying new things in practice to gain a competitive edge. A lot of the new things that he's incorporated into practice over the last few years seem to be taken from the Chip Kelly School of football.
Kelly found success with the no huddle offense at Oregon and is attempting to bring it to the NFL level as well. Oregon was known for using giant cards with different pictures on them that indicated the play to the offense without them having to huddle. Quickening up the pace of play allows the offense to operate quickly and puts the defense on their heels. Oregon's speed and pace of play was a consistent advantage and gave Kelly a record of 46-7 in 4 years as head coach of the Ducks.
Last season, BYU unveiled the same card scheme that Oregon uses by notifying players of the play quickly without needing to huddle and running a play before the defense had time to adjust. In attempting to drive up the pace in last years practice sessions, Bronco joked that it was his understanding that, "Chip Kelly during his time at Oregon had 17 officials fired trying to drive the tempo." The Cougars were set on driving up the pace.
According to Bill Connelly in his pre-season preview of BYU, "based on run-pass ratios, BYU attempted 14.3 more plays per game than the average team last fall, the highest number in the country." BYU certainly achieved their goal of a fast paced offense, but it didn't lead to more wins. The Cougars finished the season at 8-5.
In practice, Chip Kelly has up all his quarterbacks throwing to different receivers at the same time. This is to increase the amount of reps that players are getting. While BYU doesn't always do this, I noticed in the scrimmage held last Saturday that Taysom Hill and Christian Stewart were throwing to receivers at the exact same time. Not quite as efficient as having all the quarterbacks that we would see at a Chip Kelly practice, but it is a small practice efficiency that certainly helps both quarterbacks and receivers.
Many fans noticed the music playing throughout the scrimmage last Saturday. This is another Chip Kelly-ism that Bronco has added to his practice sessions. The Ducks or Eagles may not have reggae and country music flowing from their speakers, like the fans were treated to at LaVell Edwards stadium, but it is a recent change that, as Bronco says, creates "chaos" and helps to prepare for game day. Whether or not Kelly started this, it's a good addition to the practice format.
One thing that Bronco is planning on doing for the upcoming season is change the time of practice to 6:00am. A big reason for the change is to help players get into the classes they need for their majors. In the past players have had to miss practice due to scheduling conflicts, but the new time should allow for all members of the team to be in attendance every session.
Some of these changes may have a large impact and others may be minimal, but the great thing about Bronco Mendenhall is that he is constantly searching out new ways to better the program and flip the status quo on its head. After a full year with the up tempo offense and the accompanying large scale changes made to game preparation, the Cougars may be ready to reap the rewards of Bronco's innovation.