Most Valuable Coaches (Not Named Helfrich)

Steven Holstad FishWrap, FishWrap Archive


Football is the ultimate team sport. There are 11 players on the field at once, all doing their part in a collective effort to either move the ball up the field, or get the ball back from the other team.

For every quarter of football that is played, countless hours are spent by the coaching staff, as they prepare their team for seemingly every possible scenario. Just like the players on the field, coaching requires a team effort. On that note, I want to highlight three coaches on the staff who are as important, if not more important, to the overall success of the Oregon Ducks as Head Coach Mark Helfrich.

Erik Chinander

Chinander, who is facing his first season as Outside Linebackers Coach, is looking to bring passion and energy to a position that is crucial to a team’s success. Being familiar with the Oregon program, Chinander hopes to continue on the successful route he forged in a variety of roles with the Ducks’ defense. Chinander has specialized in the “drop-end” position, which Oregon has had success with in the past.

He also has a shiny new pupil: A sophomore linebacker, Torrodney Prevot. Prevot showed promise in his limited role as a true freshman, mostly making his impact on special teams. With the departure of senior Boseko Lokombo, Chinander has a crucial decision to make regarding who will be  the starting outside linebacker, a player who will be depended on to get to the quarterback and get the ball back for Marcus Mariota and the Oregon offense.

Erik Chinander looks to bring energy to his new role

Erik Chinander hopes to bring energy to his new role.

Scott Frost

As Oregon’s offensive coordinator, it will be up to Frost to take an offense that averaged 45.5 points per game and make it better. How do you take something that is so potent and make it even more dangerous? How do you advance something already so advanced? These are just a few questions that Frost faces coming into his second year.

However, the most important issues Frost must address will be the Achille’s heel of his offense last year — turnovers, especially those in the redzone. In Oregon’s two losses last year — Stanford and Arizona – they were minus-five in the turnover margin, including two early redzone turnovers against Stanford, and one redzone turnover against Arizona. While a player fumbling isn’t directly Frost’s fault, as the offensive coordinator it is ultimately up to him — and Helfrich — to find out a way to eliminate such deflating turnovers.

Scott Frost is aiming even higher his 2nd year in

Scott Frost is aiming even higher for his second year.

Also, Frost is forced to replace two dynamic receivers from last season, Josh Huff and Bralon Addison. He is now faced with educating a fresh group of receivers, without slowing down the high-octane Oregon offense.

While receivers certainly cycle on and off the field as much as any other position, if Oregon found itself trailing Michigan State in the second game of the season, it would be up to Frost to decide who gets the first crunch-time reps of the season, whether they are ready or not.

Lastly, and I’m sure any coach in the nation would love to have this “problem,” Frost has a lot of premiere players, but only one football. It’s up to him and Helfrich to coordinate a game plan that utilizes the unique skill sets that each offensive player provides. Between picking between a collection of talented running backs, or helping one of the best quarterbacks in the nation take his game to the next level, Frost is essentially trying to find a way to make a Ferrari even faster.

John Neal

Entering his 11th season as Oregon’s secondary coach, Neal is perhaps Oregon’s most successful positions coach in terms of producing NFL talent. Under his tutelage, Oregon has produced NFL stars such as T.J. Ward, Jairus Byrd and Super Bowl champion Walter Thurmond III. He has also developed Pac-12 stalwarts such as Cliff Harris (he was great in 2012), John Boyett and Avery Patterson.

Like Frost, Neal is faced with replacing two big-time play makers, Patterson and Terrance Mitchell. Luckily, his job will be easier this year, due to Ifo Ekpre-Olomu deciding to return for his senior season. Neal will be tasked with naming two new starters for this upcoming season, and if everything goes according to plan, do his best to develop someone as the replacement for Ekpre-Olomu. Whatever happens, it’s bound to be exciting.

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu should soften the burden on new starters

Ifo Ekpre-Olomu should soften the burden on new starters.

In conclusion, this article is not saying that these three coaches are better, or work harder at their jobs, than their coworkers. It is only pointing out the unique positions in which they’re currently situated.

And, if these three coaches take their challenges and knock them out of the park, this upcoming season could be something truly special for both spectators and players.

Top photo by Craig Strobeck

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