A New Day
Spring football practices have already begun for a few programs around the nation. How cool is that?
And though fans of the Oregon Ducks will still have to wait until April 2 before their football program takes to the practice field, hype is already starting to surround a team that finished No. 2 in the standings last year and is poised to make 2013 the best season in school history.
If they want to accomplish that feat, however, Mark Helfrich will need to take the Ducks to new levels. And while it is a lot to ask a coach to improve upon a 12-1 record and No. 2 finish, Helfrich has the opportunity to do just that in his first season as the head coach of the Oregon football team.
Mark Helfrich. (Photo: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports)
The hiring of Helfrich came after Chip Kelly flip-flopped for a few weeks between whether he wanted to remain head coach of the Ducks or take his talents to the Philadelphia Eagles. As it would play out, Kelly left for the Eagles and will be attempting to bring an entirely different style of play to the NFL.
Meanwhile, back in Eugene, Oregon promoted Helfrich from offensive coordinator to head coach after realizing that he was always the right man for the job.
A native of Oregon, Helfrich was essentially “mentored” by Kelly during his time as the offensive coordinator at Oregon. So while Kelly did a lot of the play-calling, Helfrich gained experience operating the Duck football system and helped to make their offense one of the best in the nation.
And though there will be plenty of similarities between Kelly’s and Helfrich’s system, here’s what will be different about the new head coach’s football program.
One of the unique aspects about Chip Kelly–a charm, perhaps–was his demeanor when it came to dealing with the media and individuals outside his team. Though he was more than supportive in the community and abroad, Kelly always had a snarky way with the press that was likely representative of his feelings towards them.
And while that gave Chip a certain aura that made the press even more infatuated with him, Helfrich has already demonstrated that he will be a little more open with the media and the public.
One of the biggest ways Helfrich will likely open the program more to the public is by allowing individuals to come and check out practice every once in a while.
Now, if you have driven by Autzen Stadium lately, you will not only notice a new football operations building being constructed, but also a new outdoor practice field surrounded by some fairly big walls. Engineered during Kelly’s tenure as head coach, the outdoor facility likely had walls built around it so the Ducks could practice without the prying eyes of the media and public.
And though the walls are there to stay, expect Helfrich to allow media members into practice as he seeks to create a more welcoming feel to the program.
Airing it Out
As mentioned before, there will be a few similarities between the offense Helfrich will run and the offense that Kelly ran. Both spread offenses, expect many of the formations to remain the same and the tempo to match one another as well.
One of the big differences that can be expected to be seen when comparing the two offenses, however, is how much more Helfrich will likely have Marcus Mariota throwing the ball.
Kelly’s offense was absolutely fantastic on the ground. Using the speed of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and De’Anthony Thomas to get to the outside, the Ducks have consistently been one of the best teams when running the ball in recent years. And though players like Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, and now Mariota have racked up very good passing statistics, many of their throws came on screens and drawing defenses in with their rushing attack.
Expect that to change a little, however, as Helfrich is known for his ability to groom quarterbacks and teach them how to really sling the ball. What this will essentially do for the Ducks is give them a more vertical passing game that will be an extremely nice compliment to their running game.
So while Oregon’s rushing attack will still be a prominent feature of their offense, you can anticipate their passing attack become more vertical and integrated as well, giving them the ability of complimenting attacks that only open the field up even more.
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