In a interview for FishDuck.com on Thursday, I spoke with Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich at the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.
After suffering a gruesome knee injury in the fourth quarter against Utah last Saturday, Pharaoh Brown was taken to the University of Utah hospital and had surgery a few days later. Helfrich said that Brown is no longer in the hospital and is officially in Cleveland with his mother. “His mom is a nurse, so she’ll kind of be the primary care giver in that situation. The Cleveland Clinic is an outstanding facility,” he said.
Helfrich went on to say that the team’s toughest obstacle will be overcoming Brown’s absence since his production on the field was paramount to Oregon’s offensive attack this season. In 10 games for the Ducks, the athletic junior caught 25 passes for 420 yards and six touchdowns. Helfrich added: “Being away from his teammates is going to bug him (Brown).
There is no doubt that Oregon will miss Brown’s ability to make plays. He was becoming one of Marcus Mariota’s favorite targets since he possessed a unique combination of strength, power and speed. However, not only will the Ducks miss his on-field production, but they will also miss his leadership. Brown was one of the most popular players in the locker room and he mentored some of the younger players as well.
The likelihood of Johnny Mundt and Evan Baylis seeing more snaps at the tight end position significantly increases now. Although some coaches may find it difficult to integrate new players in their offensive schemes during the tail end of the season, Helfrich feels confident that they will step right in and contribute. “We feel confident in those guys. They’re different from Pharaoh (Brown) in perceived strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “But we won’t differentiate what we are doing offensively because of that position.”
With hard-fought victories over physical teams such as Michigan State, Washington and Stanford, the Ducks look to finish off the regular season against the two teams at the bottom of their respective divisions in the Pac-12: Colorado and Oregon State.
The perceived notion is that it’s difficult for a great team to not fall into the “trap” game when it plays a lesser opponent. Helfrich understands the perception, but he quickly shot the idea down: “We worry about us. We talk about us and our improvement, and we made plenty mistakes against Utah that our guys identified and will work towards correcting.” And he added: “We don’t talk about the opponent too often, regardless of who that is.”
Top Photo by David Pyles