The Oregon Ducks have a new head coach in 2013, Mark Helfrich. You knew that, right? But what you probably don't know is how will Helfrich handle play-calling this year.
Will Helfrich call the plays himself like his predecessor Chip Kelly did? Will he allow new offensive coordinator Scott Frost to call some or all of the offensive plays? Will defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti still reign supreme and handle the defensive calls from the top of Autzen Stadium?
Lots of questions, and the answers probably are not black-and-white, but more an intriguing shade of grey.
In an interview with the Portland Tribune's Kerry Eggers on February 18, 2013, Helfrich said that he wasn't yet sure whether he or Scott Frost will call plays this fall. And when Helfrich was hired, he indicated that the allocation of play-calling responsibilities might not be made until the conclusion of spring practices.
Under Kelly, offensive coordinator Helfrich hung out upstairs in the box and whispered defensive formations into the head coach's ear. He may have suggested offensive plays in the heat of the moment, too—no one outside the Ducks' brain trust really knows for sure how it worked between Kelly and Helfrich.
According to Rob Moseley of The Register-Guard, offensive line coach Steve Greatwood was also involved in formulating the game plan, and was designated the running game coordinator. Greatwood, of course, is still on the Ducks' staff in the same role, according to GoDucks.com.
The logical conclusion is that Helfrich will take over the play-caller role, and install Frost in the box in Helfrich's former role. But one wrinkle might be the addition of new receivers coach Matt Lubick. His title is passing game coordinator/wide receivers coach. This would lead one to believe that Lubick, as well as Greatwood, will also be involved in developing the game plan.
Helfrich told Eggers that "play-calling can be done every which way." He added that he, Frost, Greatwood, running backs' coach Gary Campbell and special teams' coach Tom Osborne all work together really well.
When asked by Kevin Gemmell of ESPN.com in a January 25 interview how hands-on Helfrich intended to be with the defense, Helfrich replied:
"To be determined. We obviously have a very veteran staff on both sides of the ball, and I have a tremendous amount of trust in those guys. It's more about reaffirming that process and reaffirming how we do things, and letting those guys coach."
Helfrich seems big on the process, and, in almost every interview he's done since being hired, has referred to the process leading to the play call as being more important than the play call.
Maybe. But, ultimately, doesn't one guy have to actually call a play? And, in the case of the Ducks, be rather brisk about it?
Coach Helfrich: chitchat and consult all you want with your assistants, but call the plays yourself.
Kay Jennings is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.
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