2. Oregon Ducks: Mark Helfrich
YEAR AT OREGON: 1st
Mark Helfrich might be new to the head coaching ranks, but the 39-year-old is no stranger to the sideline.
He’s no stranger to Oregon, either.
Helfrich takes over the reins at Oregon this year after serving as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator since 2009. The Medford, Ore., native held the same position at Arizona State, Boise State and Colorado.
Helfrich has pledged that Oregon’s offense will remain nearly identical. The difference, however, will likely be in the passing game.
Where former head coach Chip Kelley was a run-first type coach, Helfrich, the two-time National Quarterbacks Coach of the Year winner, will likely air it out a bit more. And that’s great news for sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota and future Oregon quarterbacks.
Helfrich’s familiarity with the OU system and players, combined with Oregon’s propensity for attracting world-class recruits, should allow the Ducks to continue being among the nation’s elite programs for quite some time.
The new coach is a novice to the head-coaching ranks, but has 15 years of coaching experience at major programs. Any slip-ups and loss of ground to Southern California and Stanford, however, won’t be tolerated in Eugene, which could potentially keep Helfrich on a tight leash until he proves he can win.
FOURTH DOWN: Helfrich becomes Oregon’s fourth head coach since 1977. Each of his predecessors — Chip Kelley, Mike Bellotti and Richard Brooks — also served as the Ducks’ offensive coordinator before taking the head job.