UCLA football appoints Jerry Neuheisel as new wide receivers coach
After seven years with the program – including four as a player under former coach Jim Mora – former UCLA football quarterback Jerry Neuheisel was named the team’s wide receivers coach in the offseason. (Daily Bruin file photo)
By Jon Christon
April 29, 2021 2:30 p.m.
While the receiving corps on the field will largely stay the same, it will have a new leader on the sidelines.
During the offseason, UCLA football promoted Jerry Neuheisel – son of former Bruin head coach Rick Neuheisel – to be the team’s new wide receivers coach, succeeding Jimmie Dougherty, who was on the Bruin staff for the past four years and left to be an assistant coach at Arizona in January. Neuheisel has been with the program for seven years, four of which he spent as a quarterback on former coach Jim Mora’s roster.
Rising redshirt junior wide receiver Kyle Phillips said he thinks Neuheisel was a great hire.
“Oh, man, I love Jerry,” Phillips said. “He’s a young guy who really wants it. He comes every day with a lot of energy and he really has our best interests in mind every day. He never cheats us, … everyone loves working with him.”
Although he was behind center when he played, rising senior wide receiver Chase Cota said there won’t be any sort of learning curve for Neuheisel, given his strong ties to the receiver room. Cota said that despite being under Doughtery the past few years, Neuheisel was always in the receiver room waiting for his moment.
Cota added that Neuheisel’s experience as a signal-caller could actually be beneficial, especially considering his work with starting rising senior quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson.
“He’s talking a lot, breaking down the whole route and everything, but then because he’s a quarterback, he’s like, ‘Listen, if you’re not right here, these are the catch points on all these plays, … if you’re not here, the quarterback is going to be off – I know exactly how I’d want you to run it,’” Cota said. “He’s trying to help me get in Dorian’s head.”
As part of the offensive staff a season ago, Neuheisel helped guide the Bruins to top offensive numbers in the conference. UCLA ranked in the top half of the conference in passing offense, total offense and scoring offense, the latter two of which the Bruins ranked second in.
UCLA has also increased both its total offense and scoring offense marks in each of coach Chip Kelly’s three years in Westwood. Phillips said he expects even more growth with the help of Neuheisel.
“I feel like we could be one of the best offenses in the country,” Phillips said. “We have explosive players all over the field. … I just feel like there’s not one part of our offense that’s missing. Everything just feels like it’s kind of clicking together, and I feel like we could have a really good offense this year.”
Neuheisel returns every contributing wide receiver back into the wide-out room this year, including Phillips, who ranked sixth in the conference – and fifth among wide receivers – in receiving yards with 370 yards in the seven games.
However, Phillips was one of only two receivers who passed the century mark in terms of yardage a season ago, as the Bruins relied mostly on the tight end and running back positions to carry the bulk of the receiving production.
Cota – last year’s third-leading receiver from out wide and the highest-ranked wide receiver recruit coming out of high school on the roster – said Neuheisel has already started to work on changing the lack of wide receiver production.
“We’ve had a bunch of little (offseason training activities) that we could have throughout the spring, and he’s really been breaking it down from the beginning,” Cota said. “Rather than practicing routes over and over, we’re doing just little tiny drills over and over to make sure every step is perfect. He’s really taken a good approach with us.”