Found July 27, 2013 on
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For many Oregon Ducks fans, the conclusion of the 2012 season brought with it a renewed hope for next season. Freshman quarterback, Marcus Mariota, had surpassed even the grandest of expectations and had flourished as the leader of the vaunted Ducks offense. Oregon ran laps around its opponents, even being ranked at No. 1 by the Associated Press during the season. Its lone blemish was a home loss to eventual conference champion Stanford, which ended any hopes of a trip to the national championship game. The season ended in a Fiesta Bowl victory over Kansas State, and two weeks later the departure of head coach Chip Kelly.
For Ducks fans, the departure of Kelly created a bitter taste moving forward after another solid season. Questions began to circulate questioning whether the program would be able to continue its level of play in the coming years without Kelly leading the ship. Many worry about the program taking a step back. Today I try to answer those questions, and hopefully make a statement on the chances of this program continuing with its winning ways. For that we will put this in historical context of the Oregon program.
In 1995, then head coach Rich Brooks left his post with the University of Oregon football team to coach the St. Louis Rams. Brooks had revitalized the program which had struggled in mediocrity for nearly two decades and brought the school its first Pac-10 championship in 1994. One year later Brooks moved to the Midwest and in stepped his offensive coordinator, Mike Bellotti. Bellotti served as the offensive coordinator under Brooks for six season before being named head coach ahead of the 1995 season.
How did Bellotti do? Let’s just say he is credited with placing the program in the national conversation. From 1995 until 2008, Bellotti won 116 games against 55 losses. He also led the Ducks to their first 10-win season in 2000, while accomplishing the feat three more times in ‘01, ‘05, and ‘08. Bellotti is the winningest coach in Oregon Ducks football history and led the program to 12 bowl games, two more trips than the program had accomplished in its history prior to his hiring. Bellotti only won the conference on two occasions, although that had more to do with the dominance of USC during the last half of his career rather than an indictment on his abilities.
When Bellotti announced he was stepping down at the end of the 2008 season, fans wondered if a replacement could be found to continue the growth of the program and possibly raise the bar. In stepped offensive coordinator Chip Kelly. Kelly coached four seasons in Eugene and led the Ducks to three Pac-12 championships. During his tenure the Ducks made four consecutive BCS bowl games, the only team in history to accomplish such a feat. Oregon saw a boom in offense during Kelly’s time as well received national attention with a trip to the BCS championship game in 2010.
Kelly raised the level of play and expectations for the Oregon Ducks program during his four seasons. When Kelly announced his move to coach the Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon immediately looked for his successor. For the third consecutive search, The Ducks chose to elevate their offensive coordinator. Mark Helfrich was introduced as the new head coach for the program just days after Kelly moved to the Eagles. Helfrich had served as the offensive coordinator since 2009.
Oregon is expecting to continue its run of success with selecting the offensive coordinator as the next head coach. It has worked twice before and with amazing results. Keep in mind, Helfrich is not inheriting an empty roster or one which lacks talent. The new man in charge has Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback, Marcus Mariota, returning for his sophomore season looking to build on a great rookie campaign. The skill positions are still stocked with some talented and lightening quick players such as De’Anthony Thomas and Josh Huff. Think of the offense being in a similar situation as Stanford after Jim Harbaugh left to coach the San Francisco 49ers while his OC, David Shaw, moved forward with Andrew Luck. Make no mistake, I am not comparing Mariota to Luck. However, I am pointing out that the pieces on offense is there, and it is likely the philosophy will remain the same. The offense under Helfrich will continue to be explosive.
On defense, the Ducks will need to replace the departed Dion Jordan and Kiko Alonso. It is a talented bunch of the defensive end, albeit a young group. The defense’s best trait is its speed. From the line to the secondary, this unit can catch anyone. In 2013, the linebackers will be the glaring weakness due to the lack of experience. Losing the likes of Alonso and Michael Clay will leave many questions. However, expect the perceived weakness to transform into a strength as the season wears on and as the game experience builds. From top to bottom, as pointed out by F&F writer Amir Sabrah, this Ducks team is its most talented. That is of course strictly on paper. Time will tell if this season will prove that belief to be true.
Ducks fans, calmly remove your hand from the panic button and have a seat. The 2013 season is fast approaching and your Oregon Ducks are ready to make a run at another Pac-12 title. Above all, relax, you have nothing to worry about. The Ducks won’t survive life without Chip Kelly. No, instead of surviving, they’ll get better and take the next step.
BEST OF MAXIM
Embrace the Mantra
Chip Kelly’s departure from the Oregon Ducks‘ football program may have left a bit of uncertainty surrounding the program, but Mark Helfrich and his crew of Marcus Mariota and Ifo Ekpre-Olomu made sure to reassure the Pac-12 that the Ducks are here to stay.
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