Oregon Ducks

Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

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USA Today

Mark Helfrich takes intriguing route toward reinvention with the Chicago Bears

Mark Helfrich's move to the NFL as the Chicago Bears new offensive coordinator hit the sports world today like an unblocked, blindside blitz. 

Bam!

Where did that come from?

Helfrich waited 13 months before jumping back into the coaching world after Oregon fired him in 2016 following a 4-8 season just two years after he had guided the Ducks to the national title game. During his hiatus, according to some close to Helfrich, he received interest from several college teams about becoming their head coach or offensive coordinator. Repeatedly, however, Helfrich rejected inquiries while instead choosing to keep his family in Eugene, take time off from coaching, work in television and consider his future coaching options. 

Now he's back in the coaching game, taking his quarterback developing and offensive coordinating skills to the NFL to work for a team in desperate need of an offensive overhaul.

It's an interesting move for Helfrich and one that smacks of a man attempting to completely reinvent himself as a coach. It's a move that could pay off big time should he find success.

The easy move for Helfrich would have been to join former Oregon coach Chip Kelly at UCLA as the Bruins new offensive coordinator. Kelly hired Helfrich for the same position at Oregon in 2009 and the results were the greatest run of offensive production and victories in program history before it all came crashing down in 2016, four seasons after Kelly departed for the NFL. 

But taking that rout would have placed Helfrich right back under Kelly's shadow. Had they been successful, all of the credit still would have gone to Kelly just as it did while the two were at Oregon. 

By heading to the NFL, however, Helfrich is taking a swing for the fences at the highest level the sport has to offer.  Helfrich will still be in the shadows of an offensive-minded head coach in Matt Nagy, hired by the Bears this week away from Kansas City.

Nagy has said that he will call the plays in Chicago, as Kelly did for Oregon, which means that Helfrich's heavy lifting will be done during the week while game planning, offering play call suggestions during games and, maybe most importantly, assisting in the development of quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. 

The irony here, of course, is that one of the more amusing takes from Helfrich haters has been that he failed to develop a quarterback while riding the coattails of Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Marcus Mariota to success for two years post Kelly. Of course, that's a complete contradiction given that Helfrich recruited and developed Mariota.  Helfrich also coached and developed Jeremiah Masoli and Darron Thomas, and he recruited, developed and coached Bryan Bennett and Justin Herbert. 

In the end, Helfrich's starters at Oregon were Masoli, Thomas, Mariota, Vernon Adams, Dakota Prukop and Herbert, a certain future NFL draft pick. That's one hell of a run for any coach, and it's one that current coach Mario Cristobal will be fortunate to duplicate, providing he remains at Oregon long enough to do so.  

But, because Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak didn't work out, Helfrich has somehow labeled by some as having been a failure at developing quarterbacks. 

All of this nonsense also ignores the fact that long ago, while Helfrich was the quarterbacks coach at Boise State, he helped Bart Hendricks earn Big West Conference player of the year in 1999 and 2000. Later, Helfrich coached quarterbacks at Arizona State where he helped Andrew Walter set numerous ASU and Pac-12 record, and become a third-round pick in the 2005 NFL Draft. 

Both stints were under coach Dirk Koetter, a former Oregon offensive coordinator and the current Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach (more on that connection later).

In 2006, at the age of 32, Helfrich became the youngest offensive coordinator in the nation at Colorado. That run led to Kelly hiring him at Oregon in order to add Helfrich's pro-style acumen to Kelly's spread attack. 

Now Helfrich finds himself in the NFL as an offensive coordinator. The reality is this: Should he succeed in developing Trubisky and help Nagy turnaround the Bears' offense, Helfrich would then be in position to work his way toward becoming a head coach in the NFL. 

That's typically how these things work. The NFL is all about connections. Helfrich has a few, including Koetter. 

But, at the end of the day, Helfrich must produce. He must develop Trubisky. He must help Chicago's offense rise from its 2017 ranking of 30th in the NFL. Chances are that he will do just that. The guy can coach. He proved as much by going 33-8 over three seasons before that disastrous 2016 mess. He's also proven, despite inane beliefs to the contrary, that he can develop quarterbacks. 

Should Helfrich work that magic again, he could be will on his way to far bigger and better things than Oregon football. 

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Does the good outweigh the bad in Oregon's victory over ASU?

Did the good outweigh the bad in Oregon’s 31-29 victory over Arizona State in its home finale? You be the judge.

BEST

Seven wins: With two games remaining, Oregon’s victory over ASU matched its 2017 win total with its seventh victory. The Ducks improved to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 conference play.

First half success: After a month of slow starts, Oregon’s offense hit the ground running. The Ducks scored on a 78-yard opening drive, 74 of those yards came on the ground. UO’s 28 first-half points were the most scored by the Ducks since their second nonconference game vs. Portland State. Oregon’s 364 total yards of total offense in the first half were its most in a half this season.

Come at me, bro: The Sun Devils went at Oregon's young cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir all game long. Graham Jr. covered one of the best wide receivers in the nation, ASU’s N'Keal Harry, most of the night and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Lenoir also had three pass breakups, two of which came while defending Harry.

Gus comes up big: Oregon defensive lineman Gus Cumberlander had a huge impact on the game. He recorded a career high two sacks, the first Oregon player with two or more sacks in a game this season. He also recovered a fumble after when outside linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. strip-sacked ASU QB Manny Wilkins on ASU’s final drive to seal the win.

Hello record books: Wide receiver Dillon Mitchell broke tackles and made Sun Devils miss in space to reach 103 receiving yards, averaging 26 yards per catch. The junior’s six 100-yard game ties Oregon’s single-season record (Josh Huff 2013).

Freshmen shouldering a big load: CJ Verdell played Mr. Versatile. Verdell scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, his first touchdown catch of his career. Travis Dye showed off his cuts and spin moves to lead the Ducks on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, totaling 105 yards on 18 carries.

WORST

Second half blunder: Oregon’s offense couldn’t move the ball in the last 30 minutes, almost causing the Ducks to lose the game. Herbert passed for only 13 yards in the half, the team only gained 85 overall yards, and scored three points.

Turnovers: 17 of ASU’s 29 points came off of Oregon’s four turnovers: Herbert threw two interceptions, Ugo Amadi mishandled a punt return and Tony Brooks-James fumbled.

Injuries: According to Oregon coach Mario Cristobal, CJ Verdell is good to go after taking a "shot to the rib area" that took him out vs. ASU. Kano Dillon is "probable" after missing last week with strained ab. Steve Jones (concussion protocol) will be cleared or not on Tuesday. Penei Sewell (ankle) will not return for Saturday but could be cleared for the bowl game.  

Ready or not, it’s Civil War week! Oregon faces the Oregon State (2-9, 1-7) in Corvallis on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m. 

Titans' QB Marcus Mariota injures elbow - again

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USA Today

Titans' QB Marcus Mariota injures elbow - again

Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota exited today's loss at Indianapolis in the second quarter with an elbow injury and did not return. 

Titans' coach Mike Vrabel said after the game that Mariota was "okay" but that he went with backup Blaine Gabbert the rest of the way as a precautionary measure. The Colts won 38-10 over a Titans team that was coming off of a 34-10 at home over New England and a 28-14 win at Dallas. 

Mariota completed 10 of 13 passes for 85 yards with one interception and was sacked four times. The Titans fell to 5-5. Mariota injured his right elbow in the season opener at Miami, missed the rest of that game and the following week because of numbness in his right hand. 

 

Curtain closes at Autzen with optimism on offense

Curtain closes at Autzen with optimism on offense

EUGENE- It wasn’t a full game performance but the Ducks did have brilliant moments in a 31-29 victory over Arizona State (6-4, 4-4 Pac-12) in their home finale.

On senior night in front of 50,485 fans, Oregon improved to 7-4 overall and 4-4 in Pac-12 conference play, equaling its win total from last season with two more games left to play.

After a month of slow starts, Oregon’s offense hit the ground running. The Ducks scored on a 78-yard opening drive, 74 of those yards came on the ground. For reference, UO’s 28 first-half points are the most scored by the Ducks since their second nonconference game vs. Portland State.

“We got rolling and we got rolling quickly,” coach Mario Cristobal said. “It's more the trademark and the identity that we want for our football team, particularly our offense. When we have that kind of momentum going it's hard to stop us. We just need to continue that.”

The leading man of the show on offense? It’d be hard to pick just one.

Quarterback Justin Herbert tossed two touchdown passes, including a beautiful 57-yard pass to wide receiver Dillon Mitchell, finishing 19 of 34 for 262 passing yards. The junior extended his streak to 26 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest active streak in the nation.

Mitchell broke tackles and made Sun Devils miss in space to reach 103 receiving yards, averaging 26 yards per catch. The junior’s six 100-yard game ties Oregon’s single-season record (Josh Huff 2013).


“It’s not surprising,” Herbert said of Mitchell’s streak. “He’s a guy you can trust. When he gets the ball in his hands he makes special things happen.”

Justin Collins, a walk-on wide receiver, made his first catch of the season at a critical time- a 22-yard reception inside the ASU 10-yard line that set Oregon up for its third touchdown to put the Ducks up 21-13.

CJ Verdell played Mr. Versatile. Verdell scored a rushing and receiving touchdown, his first touchdown catch of his career.

Travis Dye showed off his cuts and spin moves to lead the Ducks on the ground, averaging 5.8 yards per carry, reaching 105 yards on 18 carries.

Ugo Amadi, the special teams star, electrified with a 26-yard punt return, recording his fifth punt return of over 20 yards on the season.

Tony Brooks-James came through in a timely role: With 11 minutes remaining, Arizona State narrowed the game to a five-point contest, but Tony Brooks-James responded on the ensuing kickoff with a dazzling 56-yard return into ASU territory.

Oregon’s four turnovers and sloppy second half did not negate the Ducks’ 449 total offensive yards and a first half lead that ultimately won them the game.

The Duck defensive performance cannot be overlooked. Oregon came up with big stops in the red zone, forcing three field goals.  Cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. covered ASU’s N'Keal Harry most of the night, and recorded a career-high six pass breakups. Oregon sealed the victory when outside linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. forced a fumble on ASU’s final drive with three minutes left.

It wasn’t a complete performance, but Oregon’s bright moments on offense provided encouragement after a terrible trend of first halves.

"It was key this week to start fast, start fast, start fast,” Travis Dye said. “And we executed.”

Ready or not, it’s Civil War week. Oregon faces the Beavers (2-9, 1-7) in Corvallis on Friday, Nov. 23 at 1 p.m.

Two games left, what are Oregon's possible bowl game destinations?

Two games left, what are Oregon's possible bowl game destinations?

The Oregon Ducks became bowl eligible last Saturday after earning their sixth win of the season against UCLA. After losing at Utah, the Ducks have two games left and their list of potential bowl games is narrowing. 

Oregon’s Pac-12 conference title hopes, and thus its Rose Bowl chances have wilted away. However, the conference has tie ins to plenty of other great bowl games. 

In the Pac-12 rankings, Oregon sits tied for fourth in the North Division with Cal, behind No. 8 Washington State, No. 18 Washington and Stanford. Seven Pac-12 teams are currently bowl eligible; Washington State (9-1, 5-1 Pac-12), Washington (7-3, 5-2), Stanford (6-4, 4-3), Cal (6-4, 3-4), Utah (7-3, 5-3), Arizona State (6-4,4-3) and Oregon (6-4, 3-4). 

It might be a little early to book your travel (especially considering the madness of the conference) but my prediction is that Oregon will end up as the conference’s No. 6 option and be in the Las Vegas Bowl on December 15th. 

The Ducks' remaining games are versus Arizona State and at Oregon State.

Around the nation, Athlon Sports and USA Today predict Oregon in the Sun Bowl vs. Pittsburgh and Boston College, respectfully. CBS has the Ducks in the Redbox Bowl and ESPN says the Ducks are headed to the Cheeze-It Bowl

Here is a quick look at Oregon’s likelihood for each Bowl game the Pac-12 has affiliations with:

Rose Bowl vs. Big Ten, Jan. 1, 2019, Pasadena, Calif.

Impossible. The Pac-12 champion goes to the Rose Bowl if not selected in the College Football Playoff. Oregon is not in the race to win the conference title.

Alamo Bowl vs. Big 12 #2, Dec. 28, 2018, San Antonio, Texas

Impossible. Oregon's loss at Utah means the Ducks cannot finish second in the conference.

Holiday Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, San Diego, Calif.

Highly unlikely. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Washington loses both its remaining games to Oregon State and Washington State. 
  • Whoever finishes second in the south division has five or more losses
  • Oregon wins its final two games

Redbox Bowl vs. Big Ten; Dec. 31, 2018, Santa Clara, Calif.

Possible. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins its final two games and ends up ranked 4th in the conference

Sun Bowl vs. ACC; Dec. 31, 2018, El Paso, Tex.

Possible. Here’s how it could happen:

  • Oregon wins its final two games and ends up ranked 5th in the conference

Las Vegas Bowl vs. Mountain West, Dec. 15, 2018, Las Vegas, Nev.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • To end up as the conference’s No. 6 option, Oregon would likely need to win one of its final two games. 

Cheez-It Bowl vs. Big 12 #6, Dec. 26, 2018, Phoenix, Ariz.

Probable. Here’s how it could happen:

  • To end up as the conference’s No. 7 option, Oregon would likely need to win one of its final two games. 

The Ducks could also end up an at-large bid, if the conference has more than seven bowl eligible (six or more wins) teams or if they lose all two remaining games.

Ed Dickson: Once a Duck, always a Duck.

Ed Dickson: Once a Duck, always a Duck.

If you could name one piece to Ed Dickson’s game that made him the great tight end that he is, what would it be? His size at 6’ 4”, 255 pounds? His breakaway speed timed at a 4.59 40-yard dash? Or how about his sure-handed catches all over the field, making linebackers and secondaries look silly?

Whatever you may think, Dickson encompasses all these traits making him a deadly matchup on any piece of gridiron. He proved this at the college level with the Oregon Ducks (2006-2009) and then onward to the NFL.

Dickson was drafted in round three, pick No. 74 of the 2010 NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. After a season in Baltimore, then two seasons with the Carolina Panthers, Dickson now resides in Seattle catching lasers from quarterback Russell Wilson in front of the 12’s. 

Let’s rewind the clock to a game that most likely put Dickson on the map with NFL scouts watching closely at the blur that was #83 in green and yellow. With the then No. 6 ranked California Golden Bears in town vs. the unranked Oregon Ducks, Dickson recorded 11 catches for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the Ducks’ 42-3 upset win over the Bears. 

Or perhaps it was his touchdown grab from QB Jeremiah Masoli with :05 left on the clock in Arizona to force the game into overtime and an eventual Oregon victory? Ok, there may be more moments in his college career that put Dickson on the map, but Dickson is still turning heads today in the NFL. 

We got to catch up with Dickson following the Seahawks’ 27-24 win over the Green Bay Packers last Thursday Night, Dickson grabbing the winning 15-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson.

“I got a lot of respect for the coach and the direction that he is going,” says Dickson of head coach Mario Cristobal and the current Oregon Ducks culture. 

The Ducks are currently sitting on a 6-4, 3-4 Pac-12 conference record with just two conference games left: at home vs. Arizona State this Saturday and then the Civil War in Corvallis, OR Thanksgiving weekend. 

Dickson remembers what it is like to play in Autzen Stadium and in front of thousands of screaming Ducks fans. “I’ve played in Baton Rouge before, I’ve been to some of these bigger stadiums, Autzen Stadium is No. 1 in college football to me.” 

Some advice for the Ducks with just two games and one bowl game left? “Finish hard. Finish hard. We got a lot of pride and a lot of people watching. Proud of them for what they’ve done this season and don’t hang their heads for anything. Finish hard and try to get two more victories, and then go into the offseason with the mentality that you guys are going to be better than you were this year.”

Uniform update for Oregon's home finale

Uniform update for Oregon's home finale

Saturday will be an after dark special; Oregon vs. Arizona State at 7:30 p.m.

The Ducks will be in black and green for their last game in Autzen Stadium in 2018; a glowing sendoff for the 10 seniors to be honored. Fans are encouraged to wear green. 

In UO’s home finale, Oregon (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) could spoil Arizona State’s three-game winning streak and Pac-12 South title dreams. A victory would match the Ducks’ win total (6) from 2017.

GET READY FOR THE GAME:

Two games left, what are Oregon's possible bowl game destinations?

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

How Oregon can win its home finale

Cristobal “formidable” in hypothetical Pac-12 coaches brawl, according to Leach

Streaks and stats you need to know: Oregon vs. ASU

 

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Arizona State

Here's where to watch and stream Oregon football vs. Arizona State

Oregon’s final game at Autzen Stadium will be an after dark special vs. Arizona State at 7:30 p.m. A win would match Oregon’s win total (six) from 2017. Here is coverage and how to watch the game...

Social Media

 

NBC Sports Northwest, 7:30 p.m. Friday: Talkin' Ducks

  • With Jordan Kent, Joey Harrington, Aaron Fentress and Bri Amaranthus

Pac-12 Networks, 7:30 p.m. PT Saturday: Oregon vs. Arizona State  kickoff

Radio: 1080 "The Fan" in Portland, KUGN-AM 590 in Eugene

Live stream: https://pac-12.com/live

GET READY FOR THE GAME:

Two games left, what are Oregon's possible bowl game destinations?

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

How Oregon can win its home finale

Cristobal “formidable” in hypothetical Pac-12 coaches brawl, according to Leach

Streaks and stats you need to know: Oregon vs. ASU

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

On senior day, the Ducks are counting on a true freshman; Travis Dye

No jokes. No frills. No gloves…?

Picture a 1970s or 80s running back, maybe at Green Bay in the snow; a workhorse scraping and crawling for yards on the ground.

According to junior offensive lineman Shane Lemieux, that’s what true freshman Travis Dye is like.

Dye is the younger brother of Oregon’s star linebacker junior Troy Dye, but he jokes around a lot less than his “class clown” brother.

"Travis is an example of you go your career coaching and you'll have a few true freshmen that right away are mature enough to handle that pressure," offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said. "I think him having grown up with Troy a little bit and his upbringing, they've done a really nice job… I think his maturity has showed.”

Dye enrolled early in January and has become Oregon’s No. 2 running back, behind CJ Verdell. However, this Saturday on senior day at Autzen Stadium, the 18-year-old may be asked to shoulder a bigger load due to the Ducks’ depleted depth chart.

Verdell’s and Cyrus Habibi-Likio’s status is unclear, after suffering a neck sprain and quad contusion at Utah, respectfully.

At Utah, Dye had the longest run of 18 yards and finished leading the team with 66 yards on nine carries. The best game of his excellent freshman season came at California; leading the Ducks’ rushing attack with 18 carries for 115 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown.

Among Pac-12 freshmen, Dye ranks in rushing yards (417) and rushing yards per game (41.7). Adding to his 83 carries and two rushing touchdowns, he also has 10 completions for 73 yards and one touchdown.

UO quarterback Justin Herbert complimented Dye on his route running and pass blocking. Dye has also impressed Lemieux.

“(Travis has) a mental capacity almost like a redshirt junior or senior would have,” said Lemieux. “He understands the ins and outs of defensive scheme, pass protections, where to hit the holes and how to be patient behind the blocks.”

Another major strength for Dye is his shiftiness and ability to run hard without hesitation. At 5-foot-10, 200-pounds, Dye has worked hard this season on breaking tackles and making defenders miss.

“I can’t get tackled by one guy,” Dye said.

This Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Dye will face a surging Sun Devils (6-4, 4-3) team that is looking for their fourth straight win to keep their Pac-12 South division title dreams alive.

Arroyo’s game plan is to pound the rock against an Arizona’s rushing defense that ranks 56th in the nation and allows an average of 153 rushing yards per game. In their last three losses (Washington State, Arizona and Utah), the Ducks have averaged just 86.3 yards per game.

If Troy is most likely to be Oregon’s class clown, what is Travis most likely to do?

“Score a touchdown,” Travis said.

With two conference games remaining, the Ducks (6-4, 3-4 Pac-12) are counting on it.

Jim Leavitt isn't living up to his $1.7 million price tag: Agree or disagree?

Jim Leavitt isn't living up to his $1.7 million price tag: Agree or disagree?

Aaron Fentress and I discuss if Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is living up to his $1.7 million contract at Oregon.

Leavitt is the highest paid coordinator in the Pac-12 conference and inherited a defense in 2016 that ranked 126th in the nation in total defense. In 2018, the Ducks are 67th in total defense. Over two years, Oregon's scoring defense has improved from 41.4 points per game to 28 points per game. 

What do you think?

MORE DUCKS:

How Oregon can win it's home finale

Cristobal “formidable” in hypothetical Pac-12 coaches brawl, according to Leach

Streaks and stats you need to know: Oregon vs. ASU

Best and Worst from Oregon's loss at Utah

Pac-12 movement in the AP Top 25 Poll