Experienced Ducks look 'to evolve'

Coaches have a year under their belts and top players return

EUGENE — Scott Frost proved to be almost as dangerous calling Oregon's blur offense last season as he was running Nebraska's option back in the day.

The Ducks led the Pac-12 in scoring (45.5 points per game), total offense (565 yards per game) and rushing offense (273.5 ypg) and were fourth in passing offense (291.5 ypg) last season.

Entering his second spring as the offensive coordinator, Frost is feeling more comfortable test-driving the football Ferrari Chip Kelly left in the garage when the former Oregon coach went to the NFL.

"You always want to evolve. I think it was a little tough for us to evolve last year because we had some guys in new positions, myself included," Frost said. "So most of what we did last year was essentially the same as what we did the year before.

"But I think if you're not evolving, then people are catching up with you. So I imagine there will be more wrinkles this year than were added last year."

The 2013 season was the first for Frost as an offensive coordinator. Mark Helfrich was also a rookie head coach. And wide receivers coach Matt Lubick was in his first year at Oregon.

The reconfigured offensive staff, which also includes longtime veterans, is more comfortable together.

"Everyone is always on the same page, and we want to do what it takes to win," Lubick said. "We all get better as coaches. I'm better because I know the system a little bit better, Frost is a year better, coach Helfrich is a year better. Each day we try to win the day, which just means getting better every day."

Having Marcus Mariota back to lead a talented offense will certainly help the coaching staff look smarter.

Mariota was the Pac-12's most efficient quarterback last year, completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 3,665 yards with 31 touchdowns and four interceptions. Despite sustaining a partially torn MCL in October, Mariota rushed for 715 yards with nine touchdowns.

Frost said the 2014 Ducks belong to Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who all passed up lucrative opportunities in the NFL to return to Oregon.

"I think they've embraced that," Frost said. "Marcus looks bigger and stronger than he did a year ago. He's throwing the ball great and running the team really well."

Five starters return on the offensive line. Left tackle Tyler Johnstone is still in the process of recovering from a torn ACL, and there are plenty of younger players pushing for playing time behind the more familiar faces.

Byron Marshall is looking to build on his breakout season (1,038 yards, 14 touchdowns), when he averaged 6.2 yards per carry. Frost said Thomas Tyner had a strong offseason after a notable debut his freshman year (711 yards, nine touchdowns).

There's also an experienced, talented group of receivers and tight ends returning. The goal is for everyone to improve on what they accomplished during 2013, including Frost.

"We never want to get comfortable. I think he's probably more efficient," Helfrich said. "We're pushing the envelope again from everything as far as scheme, or how can I get more of this in a drill or more of that in a drill. He did a great job last year, and we'll continue to get better hopefully."


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