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MailTribune.com
  • UO coaching staff chain is mostly unbroken

    Helfrich's promotion means only a few hires are needed to complete his staff
  • EUGENE — Expediency wasn't the primary motivation in UO athletic director Rob Mullens' decision regarding his next football coach — but it was a factor.
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  • EUGENE — Expediency wasn't the primary motivation in UO athletic director Rob Mullens' decision regarding his next football coach — but it was a factor.
    Continuity wasn't the main reason Mark Helfrich was promoted from offensive coordinator to replace Chip Kelly — but it helped.
    Thus, Oregon seems to have made as quick and seamless a transition as possible, for a program that just lost the most successful coach in its history. Helfrich — who was born in Medford and played football at Southern Oregon University — might not much resemble Kelly in terms of temperament, but with the chance to keep Oregon's staff of assistants mostly intact, and a pledge to stick with a similar offensive philosophy, not much figures to change in the way the program is run — or in the results, the Ducks hope.
    "I won't wear a visor," Helfrich offered as a difference between himself and Kelly. "I'll eat more vegetables."
    There are pressing concerns for Helfrich as he enters his first week as UO coach, following a promotion announced Sunday. He has a recruiting class to finalize, and at least two staff positions to fill, after confirming the departure of defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro to join Kelly with the Philadelphia Eagles.
    And then there's Oregon's high-powered offense. Helfrich didn't have a background in the spread-option before joining Kelly's staff, but he quipped Sunday that "we're not going to get into the wishbone; we're not going to be under center with four tight ends."
    "We'll be very, very similar," predicted UO tight ends coach Tom Osborne, who coached with Helfrich when the latter was a graduate assistant with the Ducks in 1997, and again at Arizona State from 2001-05. "I can't see us changing much. I say that, and we evolve what we do each year, because we're trying to stay one step ahead of our opponents. "… But aggressive play calling? I don't see it changing at all. But we'll see."
    Osborne attended Sunday's introductory press conference for Helfrich along with fellow UO assistants Nick Aliotti and Steve Greatwood — thought also to have been considered as replacements for Kelly — plus Scott Frost and several other Oregon head coaches, including Casey Martin, Vin Lananna and Dana Altman.
    Frost has been tabbed for a promotion from receivers coach to replace Helfrich as offensive coordinator, sources have indicated, though Helfrich has yet to announce as much officially. Helfrich said he's "very much hoping" to keep his remaining staff in place.
    "Each one of those guys could be somewhere else," Helfrich said. "To have their faith in me means more than I can express."
    Kelly called offensive plays while also serving as head coach the past four years, but Helfrich said the new staff won't assign those duties until after spring practices in April.
    "I'm very comfortable calling plays; there's several guys on our staff comfortable with calling plays," Helfrich said. "We're not worried about that. We're about the process and how we go about our business. All that other stuff will take care of itself."
    When Frost is formally promoted, Helfrich will have to hire a receivers coach and a defensive line coach. Recent UO graduate assistant Erik Chinander was thought to be a possible candidate for the D line job, but a source said Saturday he has opted to follow Kelly to Philadelphia.
    Helfrich also acknowledged the loss of key support staff members, including chief of staff James Harris, an important mentor to athletes in several sports at Oregon. Helfrich said he intends to "hire great people" for those positions, because "these guys deserve nothing less."
    The reaction from Oregon's recruits "has been great," Helfrich said. A few have expressed interest in visiting other schools since Kelly's departure, but none has publicly cut ties with the Ducks.
    Helfrich said his vision and that of Kelly in recruiting "are 100 percent the same philosophically, everything we're about. We're going to recruit character, we're going to recruit attitude, we're going to recruit toughness — and hopefully those guys will be fast, too. "…
    "There's so many things we've talked about that make this place special and unique, that have nothing to do with one person, and that's no disrespect to anybody. We're talking about this place, these players — that's what makes this special, and we'll do everything we possibly can to keep that rolling."
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