Oregon Football: How Mark Helfrich Can Get Ducks Championship Ready in Fall Camp
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The ultimate goal of the 2013 Oregon Ducks is to win a national championship.
You could certainly fire back with something about how that's the goal of every team, and that may be true on the surface. But some teams have a realistic chance of doing so, and others are simply hoping to bring a full effort each week and improve upon last season.
Whether or not you believe the Ducks are a championship-caliber team is irrelevant, because after four straight BCS appearances, I can guarantee the entire team has its eyes on the crystal trophy awarded to the winner of the title game in January.
Sure, they'll take it one day at a time and focus on winning each day, but this is a loaded squad that could be destined for another strong season.
So what can new head coach Mark Helfrich accomplish during fall camp to get his team ready?
Here are five things that must happen if the Ducks hope to make another championship run this season.
Will the highly touted Cameron Hunt play as a true freshman?
This item on the agenda probably isn't as important as the rest, but I think it's a good idea for both the coaching staff as well as the new players to have an idea of what the full depth chart will look like.
Some things can change due to injuries (see Alex Balducci burning his redshirt late last season), but we should know right away who will play and who will be learning from the sidelines.
Because if you don't play against Nicholls State, you aren't going to play. No offense to the Colonels, either, but this is a game in which Oregon will likely sub in its entire depth chart. Last season against Arkansas State, even Byron Marshall, a then-true freshman, didn't play the entire game.
So after August 31st we should have a pretty solid idea about who will be counted on during the season.
Some would argue that it benefits players to prepare each week as if they'll play, but the hope is that they'll have that mindset regardless of whether their redshirt has been pulled. It benefits the entire team much more to have a clear idea of what the playing roster will look like, and fall practice is the perfect time to figure out who's ready to go and who needs a year to get ready, physically and mentally.
If Mark Helfrich can exit fall camp with a clear idea about whom to redshirt, he'll be on the right track.
Continue to Implore Leadership
QB Marcus Mariota must be a leader this season
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As much as his team will be working on techniques and understanding the nuances of the playbook, Helfrich must also continue to implore leadership from key players.
One of those guys is quarterback Marcus Mariota, who has the reins to an offense expected to pass more than it did in 2012.
But perhaps even more important will be need for leadership on the defense, where there's no hiding the losses of Michael Clay, Kiko Alonso and Dion Jordan. Look for guys like Boseko Lokombo and Tony Washington to step up and become vocal leaders at linebacker.
A team cannot win unless leaders emerge, and it appears that the Ducks are in good shape in that department. But establishing leadership is an ongoing process, so in order to get the most out of his team in fall practice, Helfrich must continue to urge leadership from his players.
Build Team Chemistry
De'Anthony Thomas appears to be enjoying himself during the spring game
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Team chemistry may be the most underrated aspect in all of football.
We know it's important, but fans tend to get much more excited about a loaded roster or 5-star recruits. Which is fair, because the players win the games. But players that communicate and trust each other will win a lot more games than those who simply approach each game like its a job.
Having fun is critical component to good football. Plus, you're much more likely to stand up and fight for a friend or family member than anybody else, right?
It's the same idea with the football team, and with a brand new class of incoming freshmen, it's important for "building team chemistry" to be high up on Helfrich's to-do list.
Many of these guys had summer workouts to meet each other and begin to develop those friendships, but now it's in an official setting and the start of the regular season is just a few weeks away.
Helfrich must find ways to build team chemistry, especially with the freshmen, during fall practice because it will create a much stronger team both on and off the field.
Define Team/Individual Goals
RB Byron Marshall
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Before the season begins, it's important for everyone to be on the same page about what they'd like to accomplish in 2013.
That means setting specific team goals so players know exactly what's on the line when they line up for an extra rep or when they decide to study the playbook for an extra couple hours.
But the concept of setting team goals is hardly revolutionary. Perhaps more important for Coach Helfrich will be sitting down with each player and setting individual goals for the season.
This won't include anything that could be counter-productive to what the team hopes to accomplish, but rather things like setting a limit on Tyson Coleman for missed tackles or putting a completion percentage in Mariota's mind. If each player has a specific list of things to work on and build on throughout the season, a lot can be accomplished that will benefit the team in both the present and the future.
This rings especially true for guys who won't play as much. Helfrich must still find ways to keep them motivated to get better every day.
If both team-oriented and individual goals are clearly defined throughout fall practice, the season is set up for players to stay engaged and get better each day.
"Win the Day" Mindset
Both Helfrich and former RB LaMichael James know all about winning the day
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Chip Kelly's legacy lives on.
The most important thing he brought to the program was his "Win the Day" motto which now permeates every aspect of the Oregon football program.
It's essentially the same as taking things one day at a time, a cliche that every writer and coach loves oh-so-much, but it's become a culture in Eugene.
You can always tell when guys "get it" because they'll talk about winning the day during interviews and noticeably absent from the soundbites will be any sort of looking ahead.
It's important for the young guys to understand what "win the day" truly means, because it's that same effort that has led to four straight BCS bowl appearances. Fans can get annoyed when coaches and players treat every game the same, but the only way to do your best is to approach every game the same way.
Otherwise, letdowns against "lesser" opponents are bound to occur.
Winning the Day is about living in the moment and working as hard as you possibly can in that moment so that you can be prepared for the next one, be it another practice or an actual game.
If Mark Helfrich can enter the season with his guys fully ready to win each day, fall camp will have been extremely successful.