Oregon Ducks (@IamMSilvestre)
Earlier in the year, I wrote an article about the Ducks’ 2013 prospects without Chip Kelly at the helm. I guessed that the talent of our athletes would hold true despite some scheme changes, and that the blueprint for success at our school had already been laid. Now that I have had a chance to observe some of the fine points of new head coach Mark Helfrich’s offense, I can give a better glimpse into what the real changes we should see from the new Oregon football coach.
The big difference is that Helfrich uses fake plays much more than Kelly did. During his tenure, Chip Kelly would run fake kicks occasionally, but the vast majority of his playcalls were nowhere near as sneaky as what I’ve seen Helfrich
call. There have not been many fake kick formations in 2013, but there have been many more fake plays.
For example, when Mariota hands the ball off in one of these new fake plays, he looks up, facing a wide receiver, and pretends to make a pass. When Byron Marshall takes a fake handoff, which he did multiple times against the Buffaloes this Saturday, he doesn’t immediately spring into blocking formation, he runs a pretend route and tries to draw defenders away from the QB. On one of these fake plays, Marshall was so convincing with his fake run that he allowed Mariota to waltz in for a touchdown uncontested. The defense didn’t even realize what was going on quickly enough to
make an attempt to chase him.
Under Mark Helfrich, the Ducks have risen from 7th fastest-tempo team in 2011 to number 3 in the nation through the first 3 games of this season, according to online reports. Despite the spike in speed, the playcalling has become even more complex. While not the fastest-tempo team in College Football, the Ducks have balanced speed with expanded playcalling.
Chip Kelly never used specialized running backs at Oregon. When LaMichael James was tired, he put Kenjon Barner in, and both backs played essentially the same way. This year, Mark Helfrich has called specific plays that draw on the
strengths of individual running backs. Marshall is definitely the more power-oriented rusher, using stiffarms and head-on contact in his game. Tyner relies on his speed. As a result, Tyner gets the call on sweep run plays, and outran a few Colorado linebackers toward the sidelines, but was also caught behind the line of scrimmage on a blitz in the first half. On the next play, he caught a short pass and sped straight through the defense for a first down. In the red zone, or on straight-up-the-gut running plays, Marshall is the running back of choice, as he has a better shot at shedding tackles,
and shoving his way through the defense. De’Anthony Thomas has lightning speed, strength, and ankle-breaking jukes. He can slice through the defense when he runs straight up the middle, or around the line. Complete with good hands, he is a true all-around running back. With Tyner and Marshall waiting in the wings, there will be
more specialized running back plays that Oregon fans didn’t see from Chip Kelly.
It is already clear that Mark Helfrich’s Duck football offense is different from Chip Kelly’s. Kelly stuck to traditional plays, and Helfrich is a sneakier playcaller. The Oregon Ducks’ new head coach has a unique brand of trickery, with complex fake passes and fake runs, specialized halfbacks, and the same disorienting speed that has been leaving Oregon opponents in the dust since 2009.