Out with the old and in with the new. Chip Kelly has moved on to the National Football League and former offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has taken over the reins.
Helfrich, from Medford, Oregon and a former player at Southern Oregon, is the first Ducks football head coach born in the state of Oregon in over 70 years. The last native Oregonian to hold the position was John Albert “Honest John” Warren of LeGrand, Oregon who coached one season in 1942 with a 2-6 record.
Helfrich is the third consecutive Ducks offensive coordinator to be promoted to the head coaching position. Mike Bellotti took over for Rich Brooks in 1995 after Brooks departed for the St Louis Rams. Kelly took over for Bellotti who became the school’s athletic director. And lastly is Helfirch taking over for Kelly who is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.
After graduating from SOU in 1995, Helfrich took a position as running backs coach with the Raiders in 1996. He then took a position as a player/coach with the Vienna Vikings (Austria) in his only year as a professional player or coach. In 1997, Helfrich began his first stint with the Ducks, serving one year as a graduate assistant.
From 1998-2000, Helfrich was the quarterbacks coach at Boise State. With the Broncos, Helfrich coached QB Bart Hendricks to the Big West Conference Player of the Year in 1999 and 2000, as well as the No. 4 passing offense in the nation in his last season with the team. Helfrich then went on to take the same job at Arizona State from 2001-2005. Helfrich guided Sun Devils QB Andrew Walter to a third round NFL draft pick and passing records in nearly every Pac-10 conference statistic.
From 2006-2008, Helfrich was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Colorado Buffaloes. In 2009, Kelly hired Helfrich onto the Oregon coaching staff to heed the offense as OC and QB coach. Now the Ducks’ head coach, 2013 will be the first season since 1997 that Helfrich has not been incharge of the quarterbacks. That responsibility will move onto new offensive coordinator Scott Frost‘s shoulders.
Helfrich, as offensive coordinator, coached three different quarterbacks in four seasons. In 2009, the Ducks were led by Jeremiah Masoli who led the team to their first Rose Bowl appearance in 15 seasons. After Masoli was dismissed from the team, Oregon brought in sophomore Darron Thomas who led the team to the BCS National Championship game in 2010 and a Rose Bowl victory in 2011. 2012 saw the emergence of freshman Marcus Mariota who may very well end up being the best QB in school history before his career is over.
Helfrich was named National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year for 2010 and 2012 for his work with Thomas and Mariota. This offseason, Helfrich and Frost will be to find a reliable backup to Mariota and a starting running back in either De’Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall or true freshman Thomas Tyner.
Oregon has been a run-first, pass-second offense for the past six seasons, but it appears that will take a bit of change in 2013. With a star in Mariota, going to the air just makes sense.
[gn_quote style=”1″]“My background has always been throwing the ball a little more,” Helfrich said this spring. “But we’re going to try to score. We’re not making any drastic changes to the offense.”[/gn_quote]
On defense, the Ducks have huge voids at linebacker left by departed seniors Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and DE/OLB Dion Jordan. With no experience as a defensive coach, Helfrich will more than likely rely heavily on his veteran defensive coaches. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is in his 21st season with the Ducks and is one of the best at his job in the country.
Expectations have never been higher for an incoming Oregon head coach. From Brooks to Bellotti to Kelly, each one has raised the bar to another level. With incredible facilities, big backing from donors and elite level athletes, the pressure will be on for “Coach Helf” to win right away.
Just remember, Kelly opened his career with a bad loss to Boise State, and he had an okay career with the Ducks. Even if there’s some growing pains at first, history shows us that Helfirch should have a pretty promising run in Eugene.