Colin Huber

Pac-12 Coaches: Shaw vs. Helfrich

Created on Mar. 15, 2013 3:21 AM EST

Pac-12 football was a two-horse race in 2012. In fact, Oregon and Stanford have gone 1-2 for the last three years.

Briefly, it seemed Oregon would continue its stranglehold on the Pac-12, but with Stanford’s championship game victory last year, the powers-that-be may have tilted. Factor in Chip Kelly’s recent departure to the NFL, and many are ready to dethrone newly-appointed Ducks coach Mark Helfrich and crown David Shaw king.

But not so fast. Let’s compare.

David Shaw

From an experience angle, Shaw and Helfrich are on the same level – sort of. Shaw took over for Jim Harbaugh in 2011. He has a Fiesta Bowl berth, a Rose Bowl win and conference championship.

There is no doubt he can coach. The records speak for themselves.

However, the jury is still out on his recruiting skills. ranked Shaw’s 2011 class No. 4 in the conference, even getting snaked by Bay Area rival Cal. His 2012 class spiked to No. 1, but surprisingly slipped to No. 11 this year.

That could be because of the experience the Cardinal plan to return (15 starters, not including a kicker). However, it’s hard to gauge Shaw’s success as a recruiter when his successful seasons as a head coach were made up of (mostly) Harbaugh’s classes.

Bottom line: Shaw can coach. We’re still finding out if he can recruit.

Mark Helfrich

As if he’s Shaw’s clone, Helfrich takes over at Oregon after serving as an offensive coordinator.

There’s no use in trying to dig up stats. Oregon's offense has consistently ranked in the top five nationally since Kelly’s arrival. Naturally, Helfrich came in with Kelly and helped the guru create a new kind of speed, launching the Ducks into the record books.

This is good for Ducks fans, as the offensive game plan won’t change when Helfrich takes over. The Ducks will operate much like they did under Kelly. After all, Helfrich is a protégé, in a sense.

On the flip side, Helfrich has no head coaching experience on the college level, so the jury is still out on him, too. Nobody knows if Helfrich can recruit or coach as a front man.

Will he bring in decent classes? Can he make big in-game decisions? Will he change Kelly’s strategy, or bring in his own? What about defense?

Those questions alone will be enough to keep Oregon supporters attentive, because Helfrich has big shoes to fill and head coaching changes aren’t exactly the easiest on fans.


David Shaw came out on top last year, besting Chip Kelly. He'll do the same in 2013 due to his experience advantage. However, the verdict might not be the same down the road for Stanford. We'll keep a watch on all the recruiting news.

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