Most fans are setting higher and higher expectations for the Ducks each season. These increasing expectations lead logically to one thing: a National Championship. But there is a big unknown this year in new head coach Mark Helfrich. He does not need to rebuild a team, a nearly perfect one was just handed to him. As the new head coach for one of the best college football teams in the nation, he will face many difficulties during the 2013 season. However, with three more weeks of fall camp remaining, here are his two biggest challenges:
1. Stepping out of Chip Kelly’s shadow. There is no doubt that Chip Kelly was a phenomenal coach. In his four years as head coach he led the Ducks to a 46-7 record and four BCS bowl games. Now that Kelly has left Oregon for the NFL, it’s time for Helfrich to both create his own identity and place his own stamp on this football team. Helfrich is not Kelly and it does not make sense to compare the two, but everyone will. His team know’s that he is Oregon’s head football coach and not a caretaker, convincing the rest of the known universe is Helfrich’s immediate challenge.
2. Maintaining the running game. With the promotion of Scott Frost from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator, people will be watching the Ducks’ passing game with renewed interest. However, the running game is an interesting story of its own. Oregon’s backs are a diverse and incredibly talented bunch, but they are mostly young and all lack much college experience. The exception of course is De’Anthony Thomas who is a know quantity. That said, it is clear that Thomas needs help in the backfield. Helfrich needs to quickly bring Byron Marshall, Thomas Tyner and the others up to speed. The running game is an Oregon hallmark that must be maintained.
Of course many more challenges will surface once the season begins and as it progresses, but for now, these are his biggest.