The University of Oregon will announce Mark Helfrich as their new head coach tomorrow. The announcement was expected as several sources had indicated all along that Helfrich was athletic director Rob Mullens' choice to replace former head coach Chip Kelly should he leave for the NFL.
When Kelly almost left following the 2011 season for the Tampa Bay Bucaneers, Helfrich was set to be named the new head coach before Kelly had a change of heart and chose to remain with the Ducks.
Helfrich continues a trend dating back 20 years of the Ducks promoting from within. Following the 1995 Rose Bowl, Rich Brooks went to the St. Louis Rams allowing then offensive coordinator Mike Bellotti to be promoted to head coach. When Bellotti stepped down prior to the 2009 season, Kelly was promoted to head coach.
Helfrich, an Oregon native, came to Oregon from Colorado where he had been the offensive coordinator for three seasons. In his second season with the Buffaloes, Helfrich saw the offense improve from just 16.3 points per game to 27.6 while also guiding a pass offense that nearly doubled its overall output.
Prior to his stint with the Buffaloes, Helfrich was the quarterbacks coach for the Arizona State Sun Devils under former Oregon offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. In his position with the Sun Devils, Helfrich helped guide the passing attack to several school records culminating with a 2005 season that saw Arizona State average 373.9 passing yards per game and 36.1 points per game.
When Kelly tapped Helfrich as the offensive coordinator for the Ducks in 2009, many wondered if he would be able to mesh his passing attack philosophy with Kelly's run-oriented spread-option attack. Helfrich excelled in guiding sometimes raw quarterbacks into record setting passers during his stint as offensive coordinator.
Helfrich has guided talented, but raw players, to stellar careers. Darron Thomas, who started just two seasons with the Ducks left as the all-time leader in touchdown passes. Thomas finished 11th nationally in passing efficiency as a junior with 33 touchdown passes against just seven interceptions.
The 2012 season may have been Helfrich's best work as a redshirt freshman chased the records for passing efficiency and completion percentage as a freshman. Marcus Mariota finished the season as a first team All Pac-12 quarterback and ranked as the passing efficiency leader for the conference and 7th nationally in the same category with a 163.23 rating.
The promotion of Helfrich also helps to maintain the continuity of the longest intact assistant coaching pool in the nation. The departure of Kelly has only caused one ripple with defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro leaving the staff.
Scott Frost is expected to be promoted to offensive coordinator leaving the Ducks looking for two more position coaches this off-season.
Oregon players all support the move and look forward to Helfrich taking over.
Senior offensive lineman Kyle Long, said to expect a "Seamless transition. [Kelly and Helfrich are] cut from the same tree. I'll tell Duck Nation right now, Coach Helfrich is a brilliant coach. Great relationships with his players and other staff members. We all love Helf."
Running back Kenjon Barner agreed saying "Nothing will change."
Helfrich is highly regarded by many in the coaching world as one of the brightest minds in college football. He will have some big shoes to fill, but his predecessor feels as if Helfrich is the right fit.
"He's really smart, really intelligent," Kelly said when asked why he made Helfrich his first offensive coordinator. "He brought a different perspective to our staff, because he had a different background. He wasn't a spread guy. I wanted to bring someone in who wasn't going to tell us what we already knew."
Helfrich is expected to keep most of the elements of Kelly's offense in tact.
Helfrich will make his official debut as head coach of the Ducks when they open the 2013 season on August 31 with a home contest against Nicholls State.