What did Chip Kelly take with him when he left Oregon to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles?
Did he take a unique offensive style? Maybe he did, but that style can easily be replicated, perhaps even improved upon.
Did he take with him the gumption and willingness to take risks that made Oregon so hard to predict? Perhaps, but that's not the only way a team can win football games.
Did he carry away Oregon's hip and shiny image? Nah, Phil Knight has that covered.
But he may have stolen Oregon's ability to bring home some of the top recruiting classes in the country. He was a respected coach, brilliant football mind and excellent recruiter, and the fact that he's departed for the NFL has made an impact in Eugene already this offseason.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Oregon had the No. 19 recruiting class in the country according to 247 Sports. Hardly shabby stuff, but hardly the level the program has become accustomed to.
Consider the following, from Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian:
New coach Mark Helfrich will announce his first recruiting class at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The class was formed against unenviable circumstances with Kelly leaving and an NCAA investigation pending.
Although committed recruits said those things didn't bother them, as of Tuesday night, Rivals.com had Oregon's recruiting class ranked just seventh in the Pac-12 and 36th in the country.
Oregon last year ranked fourth and 16th, respectively. In 2011 the Ducks came in second and ninth.
So in the past three years, Oregon's recruiting class has dropped in the rankings. I don't think it's a coincidence that last year Kelly flirted with the NFL and this year finally made the jump.
That is to be expected. When a household name like Kelly leaves a school, prospects will be concerned that the program might regress. And to be fair, Oregon has done a nice job of weathering the storm this year.
But the real question will come in the future. All eyes will be on Helfrich this season. If Oregon underachieves, you can bet there will be questions about the future of Oregon. Prospects will wonder if Kelly took Oregon's run of prominence with him.
It could create a ripple effect that lasts for years and has been already been foreshadowed this offseason. Then again, if Helfrich and the Ducks play up to expectations in 2013, the uncertainty surrounding the new regime will be lessened.
We know that Kelly's departure hurt this year's class. The damage wasn't crippling, but the blow was felt. The real question now is whether or not Helfrich can match Kelly's skills on the recruiting trail in the future.
If he can't, we'll know what Kelly took with him when he went to the NFL—Oregon's place among college football's elite.
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