Chip Kelly calls Ikaika Malloe a 'perfect fit,' comments on Pendergast's future with UCLA
Earlier this week, UCLA announced the hiring of Ikaika Malloe.
He’ll work as an analyst for the Bruins through their Holiday Bowl game and then begin in his on-field capacity. Head coach Chip Kelly said he’ll hit the ground running immediately, especially from a recruiting standpoint.
Malloe, 46, joins the Bruins’ staff with two decades of coaching experience—including three years as a defensive coordinator and six as a special teams coordinator—under his belt. And he fills an immediate need. With defensive line coach Johnny Nansen exiting town to be the new Arizona defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Jason Kaufusi following him to Tucson, the defensive side of the ball was a little short-staffed for Kelly and the Bruins as they prepare for their Dec. 28 Holiday Bowl with 18th-ranked NC State.
But with Malloe in the boat, the Bruins have at least one spot figured out for now, and Kelly seems to be pleased with the hire.
The UCLA head coach met with members of the media after practice earlier this week to discuss bowl prep, the team’s COVID response, and more, and it was there that he touched on Malloe’s hire a little more in-depth.
“I think he’s an outstanding coach,” he said. “We’ve obviously played against the Washington-coached teams, and then people that I have a ton of respect for in the profession had called and recommended him, people that worked with him on a daily basis. You look at the players he’s produced or helped produce while he was at Washington, we’ve run into him and know him from recruiting in our footprint here on the West Coast. He does a tremendous job from that standpoint.
“And then, as you just get to know him, he’s a quality person. That’s the one thing that stood out about Ikaika to me was the type of person he is. I think he’ll fit in great with our staff, I think he’ll fit in great with our players. He shares the same values and visions that this University and everybody here has—recruiting student-athletes and getting them to a place where they can be here for four years and become better because of it and the experience that they have here. I think he’ll fit in perfect with our staff and we’re excited to have him be part of it. He’ll hit the ground running for us here immediately, especially from a recruiting standpoint.”
As a defensive line coach at Utah State, Malloe coached three Aggies to All-Mountain West Honors in 2014—a first-team selection, a second-teamer, and an honorable mention.
At Washington, Malloe coached a different Husky player to a first-team all-conference selection in each of his first four seasons.
In 2016, Malloe coached Elijah Qualis to a first-team All-Pac-12 selection (and a second-team All-America honor). In 2017, Vita Vea won the Pat Tillman Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year award and the Pac-12’s Morris Trophy. In 2018, Greg Gaines was named the Morris Trophy winner and earned a first-team All-Pac-12 selection. In 2019, it was Levi Onwuzurike earning a first-team all-conference selection.
In Westwood, Malloe will coach outside linebackers, which leaves a d-line position still to be filled.
Following Nansen’s departure, Kelly promoted Clancy Pendergast to the d-line role. Originally brought on in August as an analyst, was probably initially thought of as a stop-gap option to get UCLA through the bowl game.
“Clancy’s here coaching the d-line through the bowl game. We had to get a guy immediately in here, and then obviously with the university you’re not going to be able to hire a guy one day later,” Kelly said. “Hopefully we’ll nail down that defensive line job here shortly.
But could he be a candidate for the full-time gig beyond the bowl game?
“Everybody is (a candidate),” said Kelly when directly asked that question.
A key piece in all this: Kelly acknowledged that Pendergast was on the road recruiting for four or five days during the initial window before the Early Signing Period.
The 30-year coaching veteran served as the USC defensive coordinator for four years total and as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator for their 2008 run to the Super Bowl. He’s spent a large chunk of his coaching career in the NFL, serving in a litany of roles. Pendergast has been a linebacker coach and a defensive backs coach, but never a defensive line coach.
Asked what he has brought to the table since his arrival, Kelly said “just a wealth of experience.” He added that he feels indebted to the coaches brought on as analysts this year, that he’s learned more about the game because of them and he knows they won’t stay as analysts on his staff for too long.
“We used a lot of Clancy when we were on the offensive side of the ball, so he would break down the opposing teams’ defenses,” Kelly said. They’d ask questions like, “What if we gave them this formation even though we haven’t seen it on tape? You understand that system, what would your answer be if you were on that side?”
Whoever is running the show, Kelly will need the defense to be better next season. Coming out of championship weekend, the Bruins had the 14th-best offense by Bill Connelly’s SP+ system but the 74th-ranked defense. In terms of yards-per-play allowed, the Bruins ranked 63rd nationally.
We’ll see if the Holiday Bowl proves to be an audition of sorts for Pendergast. The Bruins (8-4) kick off against 18th-ranked NC State (9-3) at 5 p.m. PT on FOX.