Mark Helfrich reaches 'the pinnacle' as Oregon's head coach

For Mark Helfrich, who went to high school in Coos Bay, Ore., played pick-up football inside Autzen Stadium, whose father and uncle are former Ducks, and whose brother and sister-in-law attended Oregon, Sunday's official promotion to head coach is "the pinnacle". 

Helfrich, 39, played his college ball at Southern Oregon and his coaching stops include NFL Europe, Boise State, Arizona State and Colorado before he was hired as Chip Kelly's replacement as the offensive coordinator at Oregon in 2009. The two began a symbiotic relationship that ultimately led to Helfrich following Kelly's footsteps again, this time to the big office. "He taught me much more in the past four years that we could discuss today," Helfrich said of Kelly.

"Because of the foundation laid by Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti and Chip Kelly and the generosity of Phil Knight and his family, this place is in the elite of college football," Helfrich added.

Oregon is a place where continuity is a tradition, as Helfrich continues a streak of hiring head football coaches from within that began in 1977. However, Helfrich was chosen for the job ultimately because he was the best person for the job. "Continuity was a bonus, but it was not the leading factor. It was a factor because of where we are in the recruiting cycle, but it was not the factor," said Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens. "The most important thing to us was to have long-term success."

Oregon had nearly a full-year to consider Kelly's eventual replacement, after he briefly accepted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job in January 2012 before changing his mind and returning to Eugene. 

"This didn't start Wednesday at 7:15 when I got the call." The wheels are always spinning. We were very aware this was  a possibility a year ago, and then again after the Fiesta Bowl. The clock didn't start when I got the resignation letter," Mullens explained.

When those wheels did start spinning, Mullens arrived at a familiar destination. "We talked to an awful lot of people," said Mullens. "We had five in-person interviews. We have a great staff, so naturally we had a lot of internal candidates. Everything we learned about Mark re-affirmed what we already thought. I've had the opportunity to observe Mark in so many settings over the past two years, whether it's in the office, locker room, practice field. He has a clear vision and has shown the ability to make difficult decisions. We wanted somebody to be the caretaker of this program moving forward."

As part is expected after helping Oregon enjoy a 46-7 mark over the last four seasons, Helfrich, who will be paid $9 million over his five-year contract, doesn't plan on changing much now that he's in charge. 

"99.2 percent of the time (Kelly and I) are in lock step. It's going to be that .8 percent when you're going to go 'Oh, that's different.' I won't wear a visor and I'll eat more vegetables," Helfrich deadpanned. "It's about the players and the process. I don't think there's going to be anything outwardly, hugely different."

"We will attack in all phases. We will embrace innovation in all that we do. To our great fans, we will work as hard as we possibly can to make you proud," he concluded.

Continuity may not have been the deciding factor for Mullens, but it was definitely preferred within the Ducks' locker room. 

"I feel like our team has a great vibe," said running back De'Anthony Thomas. "We're ready to go right now. Our team is excited for Coach Helfrich to step up and learn from him."

Multiple Oregon players made note of a constructive team meeting on Saturday night in which Helfrich was formally introduced as the team's new head coach.

"He walked up there, everybody gave him a standing ovation," cornerback Brian Jackson said. "As a defensive guy, I'm excited to be coached by him. That's who we wanted to step in that role. He's been there with us, he understand the way this program rolls. He knows the struggle, he knows what we go through. I feel like we're going to hit the next level."

Helfrich is keenly aware of the added duties he must now take on as head coach that previously fell to Kelly. "We're going to do our best to make everybody feel involved. The biggest thing that's simultaneously exciting and unnerving is, the players. Our kids have 105 brothers now."

In the end, Sunday came back to a high school kid that could only play in Autzen Stadium in a pick-up game now leading his own team on to that field. 

"I grew up in this state and I know what Oregon football means. It's an honor to me to be chosen as the caretaker of this program."

NCAA bringing long-awaited common sense to rule book

Practically from the moment he took the job, NCAA President Mark Emmert has pledged to streamline and add a dose of common sense to a rule book that long ago became more bloated than the aftermath of Thanksgiving dinner. That process began with a summit between Emmert and Division I presidents in August 2011, and took another step Saturday when the Division I Board of Directors approved a change in institutional philosophy in handling recruiting, fairness in competition and benefits that schools may supply to student-athletes and recruits.  

“These new rules represent noteworthy progress toward what can only be described as more common sense rules that allow schools more discretion in decision-making,” Emmert said in the NCAA's press release. “This vote by the Board of Directors refocuses our attention on the things that really matter, the core values of intercollegiate athletics.”

Among the newsworthy pieces, which will take effect on Aug. 1:

- Let your texting and tweeting fingers fly. The limits on communication in recruiting are now gone. 

- The USPS will be sure to send the NCAA thanks for some much-needed added revenue, as the limits on sending printed materials to recruits are now gone. 

- In-person scouting of future opponents is now outlawed except in "limited circumstances".

- Recruiting functions no longer have to be performed only be a head or assistant coach.

- The limit on the number of coaches who may recruit off-campus at any one time, commonly known as the "baton rule", has been repealed. 

- Schools are no longer required to provide materials such as the banned-drug list and APR data to recruits.

- Schools are now permitted to publicize recruits once they have signed a National Letter of Intent or other financial aid document.

- Student-athletes may now receive $300 more than "actual and necessary expenses", provided they don't come from an agent or booster. 

- Schools, conferences and the NCAA are no longer barred from providing financial support to student-athletes for academic support, career counseling, personal development and medical expenses.

- Most importantly, the NCAA now pledges to operate under the understanding that, while the organization will do its best to create a level playing field, real-world advantages such as "facilities, geographic location, and resources" are varied among its membership. In other words, the NCAA is now acknowledging the inherent differences between, for example, Florida and Florida Atlantic. 

“These new rules take a significant step toward changing the regulatory culture in Division I,” said Board chair Nathan Hatch, president at Wake Forest. “These changes make sense not only for our administrators and coaches but also for our student-athletes, the students who will eventually play sports on our campuses and the NCAA national office. Most important, we now have guideposts, in the form of the Division I commitments, to shape all our future rules.”

This is not and end game, but rather another step toward constructing an up-to-date, less non-sensical NCAA for coaches, players and recruits alike. How these changes, and the unintended consequences they create, will change the culture inside college football for the aforementioned groups remains to be seen. 

Muschamp: 'Our system has been pretty good'

Will Muschamp met with the media on Friday, one day after the Gators' defensive coordinator Dan Quinn departed for a similar position with the Seattle Seahawks. Following Quinn's departure, Muschamp wasted no time in promoting linebackers coach/special teams coordinator D.J. Durkin to defensive coordinator. 

"We're really excited about D.J. Durkin being our defensive coordinator," Muschamp said. "D.J.'s similar to Dan in a sense that the guy's a very smart, bright, energetic. Dan had never called defenses until he showed up at Florida, and he did a pretty good job in two years. D.J. hasn't, either. We're going to be good."

Muschamp clearly has a lot of confidence in his ability to teach defense, to players and coaches alike. 

"More than anything to me, he understands our system," Muschamp continued. "Our system's been pretty good, and we're going to continue to be really good."

In Florida's first year under Muschamp, the Gators defense ranked eighth nationally in total defense and 20th in scoring defense in a 7-6 finish. Florida jumped to fifth nationally in both total and scoring defense to go with a No. 2 ranking in pass efficiency defense and fourth in rushing defense in an 11-2 campaign this fall.

"Obviously, the results he had on special teams were outstanding," Muschamp explained. "A great teacher, he sees the big picture of the game, what it takes to be successful."

The thought here is Durkin can lead a defense equally well as he did with Florida's special teams. He is the reigning FootballScoop Special Teams Coordinator of the Year after all. 

Oregon to name Mark Helfrich head coach

Chip Kelly may be gone, but Oregon has already brought his "next man up" philosophy into action by promoting offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to head coach. 

Helfrich, 39, replaced Kelly as Oregon's offensive coordinator when Kelly took the Ducks' head coaching job in 2009, and now follows his predecessor into the big office. A graduate of Southern Oregon, Helfrich's coaching career began as a graduate assistant in 1997 and worked at Boise State, Arizona State and Colorado in between stops at Oregon. 

“What we want is someone who understands the culture that is unique here, not only within our football program but within our community," Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said in a Wednesday press conference. "We want someone who has proven excellence and that has been around winning programs, who knows what it takes because expectations for this program have shifted. We want to compete for Pac-12 championships and we want to be in BCS bowls and we want someone who understands what it takes from A to Z: from recruiting to creating a culture of academic excellence, to understanding the role of that team in this department and this community, and then of course, on-field success.”

The promotion of Helfrich not only falls in tradition with Kelly's program, but also with Oregon's larger history. Helfrich's hiring continues a string of in-house head coaching hires that began in 1977, and also keeps alive Oregon's streak of hiring a head coach without previous FBS or FCS head coaching experience that has lasted since 1974. 

Helfrich is a two-time winner (2010 & 2012) of FootballScoop's Quarterbacks Coach of the Year

In four years of running the Ducks' attack with Kelly, Oregon never ranked lower than eighth nationally in rushing offense or scoring offense. Helfrich is now charged with finding the next Mark Helfrich, someone to help oversee that speedy talents like Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas continue reaching the end zone in record-breaking fashion. 

Rob Moseley of the Eugene Register-Guard is also reporting that wide receivers coach Scott Frost will replace Helfrich as the Ducks' offensive coordinator. Frost has been Oregon's wide receivers coach since 2009. 

Kliff Kingsbury constructing a coaching staff in his own image

Kliff Kingsbury blew into Lubbock a month ago like a West Texas dust storm and has spent that "fast and furious" month holding together Texas Tech's recruiting class while building his coaching staff. 

In what has to be the first and only occurrence in FBS history, outside receivers coach Sonny Cumbie and inside receivers coach Eric Morris will serve as co-offensive coordinators. Cumbie played quarterback at Texas Tech from 2000-04, and Morris played wide receiver for the Red Raiders from 2004-08. Morris was hired away from Washington State, where he worked under former coach Mike Leach, and Cumbie was retained from Tommy Tuberville's staff. 

"Playing here, being a walk-on and having the success he did, he's what Texas Tech's about," Kingsbury said of Cumbie. "He was coveted by a lot of schools and we were lucky to keep him. The kids love him and he has a great rapport with everybody here. We were lucky to keep him on our staff."

Befitting a young coach returning to his alma mater, Kingsbury has filled his staff largely with young coaches returning to their alma mater. Also befitting a coach that has quickly risen through the coaching ranks (he started his coaching career as a quality control assistant at Houston in 2008), Kingsbury sought to identify a new wave of fast risers to fill his staff.

"I want guys that want to be head coaches. I think that's how you get the greatest work ethic out of them. I want guys that want to move up and become head coaches, and I think they will," said Kingsbury. 

Texas Tech's defensive coordinator will be Matt Wallerstedt, the former linebackers coach at Texas A&M brought to Lubbock by Kingsbury. "I wanted him, Texas A&M wanted him too. They made it tough," he said. "(The defense) going to be multiple, and he'll be aggressive. I know he'll attack and go after people, and that's what I want to match our offense."

Another former Texas Tech wide receiver, Trey Haverty, was brought in from TCU to coach the Red Raiders' safeties and special teams. Mike Smith, a 2004 graduate of Texas Tech, will be Texas Tech's co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Kevin Curtis, a 2002 Texas Tech graduate, will coach the team's cornerbacks, bringing the staff's total to six former players (which one has to believe is an FBS high at this time). 

"These guys all had coveted jobs," Kingsbury explained. "Their universities wanted them, but they wanted to come back here."

Filling out the staff: Lee Hays was brought in from Houston to coach the offensive line, Mike Jinks was plucked from the Texas high school ranks to coach running backs, John Scott, Jr., was pulled from Georgia Southern to coach the defensive line, and Chad Dennis joined Kingsbury and Wallerstedt in the exodus from College Station to run the team's strength and conditioning program. 

With the primaries on his staff in place, Kingsbury now just has to close out Texas Tech's 2013 recruiting class, kick-start the 2014 class and plan spring football. 

"I know it will be later than y'all are probably used to," Kingsbury said. "We want to get them into the weight room for an extended time, and we want them to learn the offense and get them in meetings."

Above: Scott Roussel (FootballScoop), Kliff Kingsbury, Bob Thomas (President - ProGrass)

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