Monday, September 2, 2013

Manic Monday Episode 1: Helfrich calms the storm

I think this will be my new Monday "thing" as I continue to write personal thoughts here on top of my writing duties. Every Monday; even a holiday Monday seem to have their moments of mania.

The other reason it is apropos has to do with something that occurred to me while talking with Yahoo Sports Radio Saturday night after the game.

All off season the only thing anyone could talk about, with good reason, is what they thought would be the difference between Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich.

Many speculated that the passing game might get more emphasis simply based on Helfrich's background as a quarterback coach who worked with some prolific passers in the past.

I thought any additional emphasis on the pass would be more related to the fact that Oregon is as deep at wide receiver as it has ever been and that even had Kelly been the coach this year, we might have seen the evolution to more passing.

After one game, well, there is no way to know for sure whether this team will pass more than in the past; there simply is not any evidence that can support any conclusion one way or the other. Yes. Oregon ran the ball against Nicholls State. They ran the ball a lot. But that does not necessarily imply they will continue to do so, only that against Nicholls, that was the game plan.

But I did see something different from Helfrich and that will be what might make the difference in where the program goes under his guidance.

Simply put, manic approach to every moment versus confident calmness.

Chip Kelly, in just about everything he did was always manic. He was like the kid with ADD; could never stop moving, talking; motioning; always seemed like his head was about to explode. That translated to the team at times as you could see them always seeming almost antsy.

Saturday, Helfrich showed a confident calmness that made everything seem slower.

With Kelly, Oregon jumped out to 50+ point leads and had the 4th team in by the third quarter.

Helfrich saw the team jump out to a 24 point first quarter. Then, more like what SEC teams do with a big early lead against an overmatched opponent, Oregon slowed down just a tad to work on some communications and fundamentals with the first units. Suddenly, a team that scored twice in the first four minutes of the game had slowed down some and looked "mortal" for the briefest of moments.

There was value, though, in this approach. In the past, with a 50 plus point lead, second and third team quarterbacks were relegated to handing the ball off and watching the backup running backs get continually stuffed.

Saturday those same quarterbacks had the full playbook in their arsenal; run; pass; zone reads; everything. This was a refreshing change as it gave Jeff Lockie and Jake Rodrigues meaningful snaps rather than meaningless repetitions.

Whiel this approach may have made some wonder when it was still "just" 38-3, it seemed to have a lot more validity by the end of the game when Lockie had led two touchdown drives and Rodrigues another before ceding to walk-on Dustin Haines to run out the clock.

Chip Kelly's mania worked a lot of magic in four years. Maybe, just maybe, Helfrich's more calm approach will get Oregon over yet another hump. Those reps by Lockie and Rodrigues were important.

Would they have had the same opportunity in manic mode? Probably not.

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