First Without Kelly
The Oregon Ducks will begin spring football practice on April 2, with this year marking the first time since 2007 that the team will not have Chip Kelly involved with the football program.
Coming off a year that saw them narrowly miss an opportunity to appear in the BCS National Championship game for the second time in three years–after suffering a loss to Stanford in overtime after the Cardinal tied it up on a controversial touchdown–and their second-straight BCS Bowl win, many may believe that the Oregon football program would be in a state of flux without Kelly.
And though his loss will surely have some sort of impact on the team, don’t expect the Ducks to stumble like all the Husky, Beaver, and Cougar fans would like to believe. For, though Oregon did lose the likes of Kelly and other key players, they return a stable of coaches and players that are ready to keep building the brand of this program as a national powerhouse.
The first opportunities they will have to do this will be when they kickoff spring practice after what was hopefully a successful offseason that saw players fill out their frames, get to needed physical levels, and begin to prep for the coming long haul.
Trying to get ourselves stretched out and ready for what is sure to be yet another exciting, grueling, and fascinating year of college football, let’s talk about some of the most important notes about the Ducks heading into spring camp.
Oregon’s recruiting class may not have packed the usual national punch it has in recent years–they were rated as the No. 26 recruiting class by ESPN in the nation with 19 prospects–but the players Oregon was able to sign will be huge additions in the coming years.
The most notable prospect to be part of the Ducks’ 2013 recruiting class is Thomas Tyner, an in-state running back who looks the part of an all-impact back at the next level. A five-star recruit by rivals and four-star by ESPN, he shows breakaway speed, a quick acceleration, and versatility in open space that will be a huge factor in him dominating competition at the collegiate level.
Other big new additions for Oregon will be Evan Voeller, Torrodney Prevot, Cameron Hunt, the Robinson brothers, and John Mundt. Prevot is one of the more notable names on this quick list of players, as he is rated as one of the top defensive ends in the country and was previously committed to USC.
Oregon loses a core group of senior leaders on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Among the biggest losses for the Ducks are Kenjon Barner, Dion Jordan, Kiko Alonso, Michael Clay, Kyle Long, and John Boyett.
Among the players listed above, only two–Barner and Long–were contributors on the offensive side of the ball. The defense takes quite the hit in its linebacking corps this year with the departure of both Alonso and Clay.
As tough as it is to lose some of the guys who will be heading to the NFL, there are quite a few returning players on offense and defense that should keep the Ducks trending upward.
Aside from do-it-all quarterback Marcus Mariota returning on offense, players such as Josh Huff, Bralon Addison, De’Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall, Colt Lyerla, Hroniss Grasu, and Tyler Johnstone will continue to bring the deadly Oregon attack on the field.
The defense features a bevy of great players in the defensive backs unit who will hopefully develop into one of the most ferocious cover units in the nation. The combination of Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, Avery Patterson, Brian Jackson, and Terrance Mitchell should wreak havoc on opposing receivers throughout the year.
The biggest difference in coaching obviously comes at the head coaching position, which Mark Helfrich has moved into during the offseason. Having been Kelly’s student throughout the past four years at the university, don’t expect the Oregon offense to skip-a-beat in 2013 as they will be as potent as ever. If there will be any difference between the two offensive systems, however, it will be that this year’s version of the Ducks may spread the field with the pass much more than in past years.
Scott Frost moves into the role of offensive coordinator and will continue to build receivers and quarterbacks along with Helfrich.
Other than the promotion of those two new coaches, much of Oregon’s coaching staff remained the same aside from the additions of Ron Aiken as defensive line coach and Matt Lubick as the passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach.
Oregon and its new roster and staff will hit the practice field on April 2 and host their spring game on April 27 at Autzen Stadium.