The Oregon Duck basketball season has ended. Time to usher in its football season under new head coach Mark Helfrich.
Like his predecessor Chip Kelly, Helfrich will ban fans and media from spring practice. So technically, we won't know anything from observations. According to an Associated Press report, Helfrich called his first practice on Tuesday as head coach, "weird, at points." More:
Helfrich has said he does not plan to change Oregon's offense, except for "tweaking" it here and there. And, at least for the spring, he'll keep practices closed to fans and the media, just as Kelly did.
"There's some things we've changed a little bit -- how we do some drills -- but that happens every year at every school in America ... nothing drastic at all," Helfrich said.
The main thing Helfrich said he wants to see out of practice is improvement.
"We can't be in coast, we can't be in decline, we can't be in idle, we can't be in neutral," he said. "When it's time to work, we work."
The tweaking Helfrich referred to is probably the most interesting tidbit of the day. What the heck needs to be tweaked? Is he going to instill an even more uptempo offense? Dial down the tempo? Go heavier on the pass? Never, ever punt again?
Oregon's offense doesn't need much tweaking. The defense, however, could use a little adjusting.
Oregon's total defense was ranked No. 6 in the Pac-12. For comparison purposes, USC's much-aligned defense was ranked No. 7 in the league yielding an average 20 yards-per-game more than Oregon's last season. The team with the best defense in the league, Stanford, was also the team that won the Pac-12 championship and went on to beat Wisconsin in the 2013 Rose Bowl game.
So it's interesting to note how Helfrich commented on the offense—not the defense. Then again, maybe the report excluded comments regarding the Ducks' defense. Or maybe he didn't address the defense to the AP.
We should expect to hear (hopefully) about the heavy competition for some starting linebacker spots with Kiki Alonzo and Michael Clay both gone. Safety John Boyett missed 12 games last year after undergoing season-ending surgery (knees) after playing Arkansas State. Brian Jackson and Erick Dargan filled in admirably for Boyett and Avery Patterson, who also had a season-ending injury (knee).
The secondary is going to be a significant concern if Helfrich can't find the right defensive backs to plug into the depth chart. This year will mark year two of Mike Leach's Air Raid at Washington State. It will also mark year one of Sonny Dykes' Bear Raid at Cal.
Since both Washington State and Cal play in the North division along with Oregon, the Ducks will have to face two prolific passing teams, but there's more.
The Ducks' 2013 schedule is decidedly more difficult than last year's cupcake non-conference schedule. After opening with Nicholls State, Oregon will play at Virginia, host Tennessee and then play Cal after a bye.
Duck hunting season will begin in September.
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