UCLA is expected to hire Baltimore Ravens safeties coach D’Anton Lynn as its new defensive coordinator to replace Bill McGovern in the wake of McGovern’s ongoing health concerns, according to multiple reports.
Hiring Lynn, the 33-year-old son of former Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, would be a massive departure for UCLA coach Chip Kelly given his history of employing old friends as defensive coordinator. Longtime colleague Jerry Azzinaro held the post for Kelly’s first four seasons with the Bruins before Kelly pivoted to McGovern last season.
D’Anton Lynn has no experience as a defensive coordinator but is considered a rising star in the coaching ranks after spending time with five NFL teams. A former All-Big Ten defensive back at Penn State, Lynn coached the Ravens’ defensive backs in 2021 after stints as the Houston Texans’ secondary coach, a defensive assistant with the Chargers and Buffalo Bills and an intern with the New York Jets.
McGovern had to step aside because of the health issues that forced him to miss five games last season before he returned for the Sun Bowl.
It was not immediately clear if McGovern, who turned 60 on New Year’s Eve, would be retained in a less demanding position such as defensive analyst. Asked in late December if he expected to fulfill the final year on his two-year, $1.8-million contract in 2023, McGovern was unequivocal.
“Absolutely,” he said. “Absolutely.”
McGovern’s stepping aside from his role means the Bruins will have a third defensive coordinator in as many seasons. McGovern and Kelly had known of each other going back to their playing days at small New England colleges in the 1980s, long before McGovern joined Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles staff for three seasons as outside linebackers coach starting in 2013.
UCLA defensive analyst Clancy Pendergast filled McGovern’s spot in the press box during his absence, with all the assistants collaborating on the defensive game plan. Statistically, the Bruins experienced a drop-off in performance while McGovern was away, giving up 31.8 points per game after having given up 25.9 points with McGovern in charge.
But just when it appeared that McGovern would preside over a feel-good return in the Sun Bowl, the Bruins gave up 20 consecutive points in their 37-35 loss, including a late field goal after Pittsburgh drove into range for the winning points after beginning the drive on its own 25-yard line with 34 seconds left and no timeouts.
Defense has been the one constant blemish on the Kelly era, largely offsetting his elite offenses. The Bruins ranked among the worst defenses in the nation in multiple categories during Kelly’s first two seasons before improvement in 2020 preceded another falloff in 2021.
UCLA finished last season No. 87 nationally in total defense (403.3 yards allowed per game), No. 35 in rushing defense (130.3 yards allowed) and No. 117 in yards passing allowed (273 per game).
Now, its continuing quest for a rejuvenated defense will belong to Lynn.