Mark Helfrich found himself unexpectedly thrust into a promotion to head coach of the Oregon Ducks when Chip Kelly doubled back on his NFL considerations and became the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. With just three weeks before the all-important signing day and the Oregon program suddenly in flux, many people predicted disaster for the first-time head coach.
And for a while, it looked like they might be right. With Kelly gone, his strict “no other visits” rule regarding recruits who had verbally agreed to come to Oregon was off the table, leaving many recruits able to explore their options across the country. That opened the door for ace recruiters like Urban Meyer of the Ohio State Buckeyes and Tosh Lupoi of the Washington Huskies to do their best sell-jobs and try to flip some of the Ducks’ best recruits.
In the end, the Ducks did suffer a loss in recruiting with four-star athlete Dontre Wilson flipped to Ohio State to play for Meyer. Losing a top recruit like that is never a positive thing to happen to your program, but Helfrich rallied the Ducks and made a strong finish to the recruiting season.
The Ducks signed six recruits after Helfrich became the head coach, including a pair of recruits flipped from Pac 12 rivals. Cameron Hunt, rated as the No. 15 guard in the country, came on board after his commitment to the Cal Bears waned following the firing of Jeff Tedford. They were also able to reel in Torrodney Prevot, a four-star defensive end/linebacker hybrid type of player that had previously been committed to the USC Trojans.
Helfrich further bolstered his first class by going after some recruits that Kelly had been hesitant to offer. They added a quarterback in Damion Hobbs, lineman Elijah George, running back Kani Benoit and dynamic athlete Juwaan Williams in addition to Hunt and Prevot, whom Kelly had backed off on after they were committed elsewhere.
In addition, Helfrich kept the Oregon staff intact, for the most part, and even added some excellent coaches to the mix. Former Arizona Cardinals defensive line coach Ron Aiken will take over the same position in Eugene for next season and proved pivotal in getting Prevot to sign with Oregon.
On top of that, Helfrich brought in Matt Lubick, formerly wide receivers coach and lead recruiter for the Duke Blue Devils. His knowledge of the passing game and West Coast recruiting connections will only make this Oregon staff stronger.
So while many predicted that Mark Helfrich wouldn’t be able to keep things together once taking over for the Oregon Ducks, he’s been able to maintain continuity, continue the strong recruiting push Oregon has become famous for and may have even made the coaching staff stronger than when he was the offensive coordinator. All in all, Helfrich has easily passed his first major test as a head coach.