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UCLA football Coach Rick Neuheisel fires defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough

Neuheisel, shaking up his staff after a 4-8 season, also dismisses wide receivers coach Reggie Moore. The fate of offensive coordinator Norm Chow remains up in the air.

December 18, 2010|By Chris Foster

UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel began reshaping his football program Saturday, firing defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough and wide receivers coach Reggie Moore, and said that more changes are coming after the Bruins' 4-8 season.

Whether that means more firings or a "reshuffling" of the offensive staff remains to be seen. Neuheisel said he was "evaluating" the situation, leaving the status of offensive coordinator Norm Chow undetermined.

Neuheisel said there would be no more dismissals of defensive coaches, but "there are certain other things I want to continue to consider." He said the choice now was whether it will be "the same coaches with different responsibilities, or it will require new faces" on the offensive side.

The decision to fire Bullough, Neuheisel said, was based on the need for "versatility" on defense.

Bullough, Neuheisel said, "made a good case for the situation he found himself in," because of injuries and inexperience. By the end of the season, three freshmen were starting on the defensive front seven.

But Bullough "believes in the 4-3 [defense]," and Neuheisel said that he would like to see the Bruins incorporate a 3-4 look, with three linemen and four linebackers.

"Chuck is not the expert in that department," Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel had a somewhat similar philosophical difference with Chow this season. Chow prefers quarterbacks to play under center. The Bruins switched to the "pistol" offense, which has the quarterback four yards deep in a modified shotgun formation.

While the Bruins used some shotgun formations in Chow's first two seasons, the quarterback was mostly under center.

Asked how changing the defensive coordinator when changing philosophy compared to keeping Chow after changing the offensive philosophy, Neuheisel said, "I didn't want to make that mistake again."

Asked whether that meant it was a mistake to keep the same offensive coordinator with a new offense, Neuheisel talked about the "pistol," saying, "I think based on the numbers, with respect to the running game, it was some ways success. The overall productivity of the offense, I don't think it can be called a complete success."

When asked whether his "mistake" comment referred to Chow, Neuheisel said, "There are a lot of factors in regards to Norm and I'm still mulling that around in head, what the best way is to go forward."

Neuheisel didn't rule out calling the plays next season, saying "all of that is up in the air." That would reduce Chow's duties considerably if he remains.

Chow has a two-year contract extension at about $500,000 per season. UCLA's budget for assistant coach salaries was believed to be about $1.8 million this past season.

Bullough, 42, has one year left at $325,000, but will certainly land another job. UCLA would have to pay only the difference between Bullough's new salary and the $325,000.

Chow, 64, may retire if he is fired, leaving UCLA to pay off his extension.

"The offense is a place that we're still evaluating," Neuheisel said.

Bullough has been at UCLA for five seasons, starting as the linebackers coach. He was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2009 after DeWayne Walker was hired as New Mexico State's head coach.

The Bruins were solid on defense in 2009, allowing 21 points per game, but lost five of their front seven to graduation and NFL opportunities. Defensive end Datone Jones, the team's best pass rusher, was injured during training camp and lost for the season.

UCLA gave up 30.3 points per game in 2010, its third-highest total since 1921.

"It was on us players, not the coaches," linebacker Akeem Ayers said last week. "It was up to us to execute."

Neuheisel said, "Chuck's agent could make a great case, pointing to the inexperience as the reason things didn't get done. At some point, you have to make a subjective decision and trust that it is the best way to go forward."

Moore, 42, was the Bruins' wide receivers coach for three seasons. But, Neuheisel said, "I just felt we could play that position more consistently. I felt like there were lots of places we could clean up a little bit and be better."

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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