Welcome, Mark Helfrich
Oregon will be just fine
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Congratulations, Mark Helfrich. You just got handed the keys to the Ferrari, according to reports. Now make it run faster, better and with more power.
It wasn’t all that surprising that Chip Kelly really was “comfortable” leaving college, and now it’s going to be a fun experiment to see if he can be another Jimmy Johnson instead of a Bobby Petrino.
|Mark Helfrich is the presumed successor to Chip Kelly at Oregon.
Can his offense work in the NFL? It already does.
New England all but ripped off Texas Tech -- even though no one in the NFL likes to admit to taking anything from college football -- and Washington is doing with Robert Griffin III what Kelly did at Oregon. Kelly went to meet with Bill Belichick in the offseason to give tips on how to up the tempo of the Patriots attack even more than the hurry-up style it already used, and with a little bit of tweaking to adapt to a pro-style passing game, the offense should work in Philly, and it could be unbelievable as long as Michael Vick can stay in one piece.
Fortunately for Oregon fans, Kelly is leaving behind a loaded program with all the pieces in place to continue its fantastic run, including Helfrich, who many believe is about to be named the next Ducks coach.
Just 39, Helfrich is a young, energetic coach on the rise, doing great things as the Boise State quarterback coach before serving as the understudy under Kelly, working as the offensive coordinator for the Ducks since 2009.
Along with working with learning from Kelly, Helfrich has been tutored by some of the best offensive gurus in the college game, coaching under Dirk Koetter, currently the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator, and Dan Hawkins, the former Boise State and Colorado head coach, before coming over to Eugene. While it obviously takes more than just being a good X's-and-O's man to be a national champion-level head coach, there might not be anyone in the college ranks better to step in right away and keep the momentum going.
Of course, the NCAA might have a little something to say about what the Oregon program is going to do going forward, and recruiting is going to have to take some sort of a hit after all the uncertainty surrounding Kelly and with the abrupt job change just a few short weeks away from Signing Day, but as long as the Ducks aren’t given the 2012 Ohio State treatment from the folks in Indianapolis, they’re still going to start the season a preseason top five team -- likely in the top three -- with all the pressure in the world to win the Pac-12 championship and go on to play for the last BCS title of the current format.
Eight starters return on the Ducks offense, and that doesn’t even count De’Anthony Thomas, who’ll step in at running back for Kenjon Barner. The underappreciated defense welcomes back seven starters including a loaded secondary, led by rising star corner, Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The kicking game should be fine and Thomas is one of the nation’s premier return men.
Schedule-wise, Oregon gets Tennessee at home and goes to Nevada, and in conference play it misses USC, gets a week off before going to Stanford, and has to deal with a trip to Arizona.
Basically, Oregon will be favored by double digits to win every game, with the possible exception of the Stanford showdown.
The chance is there for Helfrich to create his own legacy right away and pull a Larry Coker. Butch Davis left the Miami shelves stocked before bolting for the Cleveland Browns, and Coker benefited by taking the loaded 2001 Hurricanes to the national title and within a pass interference call against Ohio State of making it two in a row.
Kelly was one of the best head coaches in college football over the last four years, going 46-7 with four BCS appearances. How good was Kelly? Out of those seven losses, one came against a decent Stanford team in 2009, four came against teams that ended the season with a BCS win, one came against a 2011 LSU team that lost the BCS championship, and the other came to a 2011 USC squad that finished the year 10-2 and, if it was eligible, would’ve played the Ducks in a rematch for the Pac-12 title.
Don’t be shocked if Helfrich does even better, presuming he indeed gets the job.