Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Oregon targets talk Kelly's NFL move
By Erik McKinney
Continuity among Oregon’s coaching staff has been a big reason for the Ducks’ ascension into college football’s highest ranks. And even though head coach Chip Kelly is leaving Eugene, Ore., for the Philadelphia Eagles, it’s continuity on the staff that could keep the Ducks pointed in the right direction on the recruiting trail.
Though no official announcement has been made, many of Oregon’s recruits believe that offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich will step in as the next head coach for the Ducks. Helfrich has served as the offensive coordinator for the past four seasons and helped turn the Oregon offense into one of college football’s most powerful weapons.
Just two days before becoming coach of the Eagles, Chip Kelly was visiting USC commit Nico Falah.
The belief among many of Oregon’s targets is that Helfrich’s promotion to the head coaching position will keep the Ducks flying high.
Former South Carolina quarterback Tanner McEvoy, who spent this past year at Arizona Western and is now on Oregon’s radar, said Kelly's decision doesn’t change anything for him.
“Assuming [Helfrich] goes in, I don’t think they’ll skip a beat,” McEvoy said. “I don’t think it will affect my decision.”
McEvoy is being recruited by Helfrich, and the quarterback said the relationship he has with the assistant coach helps Oregon in its pursuit of him. He added the Helfrich is supposed to visit him on Thursday and that the two hadn’t spoken about Kelly as of an hour after the announcement. Even if things change drastically and Helfrich isn’t named the next head coach, McEvoy said his interest in the Ducks won’t be altered much.
“I would have to re-evaluate, but I don’t think it will affect me much,” McEvoy said. “I’m sure they’ll hire a great head coach.”
Having been through the recruiting process before, McEvoy has a different perspective than many high school recruits and said his recruitment -- which could last well into February -- probably has two more official visits in it, likely to Boston College and Wisconsin.
“I’m keeping my options open because you never know when you’re going to wake up and a coach is going to be gone,” McEvoy said.
For offensive lineman Nico Falah (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), a USC verbal commitment still being pursued by Oregon and Washington, his shock made its way to Twitter.
“Chip Kelly left?!?! He was at my house 2 days ago,” read a Falah tweet, which was retweeted hundreds of times in just a few hours.
But if anyone read outrage into that comment, they were mistaken. Though he was caught off guard, Falah wasn’t completely turned off to Oregon by Kelly’s departure.
“He told me if he leaves, one of the current staff members will take his place,” Falah said in a text message to ESPN.com. “So, yeah, they are an option still.”
Recent Cal OL commit Cameron Hunt was scheduled to take a visit to Oregon this weekend, and he hasn't let the news change his mind.
"As a recruit, you can't really worry about a coaching change. It's something that happens. I think that looking forward, I think they're going to hire from within, so that won't make for a huge scheme change. It's not too big of a deal. I'm still planning on taking that trip to Oregon on Friday."
But Hunt did wonder what Kelly's decision says about Oregon's future.
"Certainly there are some questions -- wondering why he left in such a hurry when he said he’s coming back," Hunt said. "Is it same thing Pete Carroll did at USC before the sanctions? But I'm sure [assistant head] coach [Steve] Greatwood will have some answers for me when I'm there."
Three-star ATH Juwaan Williams (Tucker, Ga./Tucker), who will decide between Oregon, Notre Dame and Vanderbilt on Jan. 28, understood why Kelly made the move.
""It is a great opportunity for Chip and his family," Williams said. "Oregon is losing a great coach and recruiter."
But unless there were drastic changes to the rest of the staff, Oregon would remain on Williams' short list.
"I'm still considering Oregon," he said. "The staff will be the same. So it's the same situation, but without coach Kelly, unless he takes some of his staff."
Another quarterback target, Damion Hobbs (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill), is also being recruited by Helfrich and has an official visit scheduled to Oregon this weekend. Hobbs said he will still take the visit, but, like Falah, couldn’t hide his initial shock.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, but that is a surprise,” Hobbs said. “I heard he was staying like last week.”
One prospect's father said he has been preparing his son for something like this for a long time.
"We had this conversation a few weeks ago when we got information from Coach Kelly that he might be looking at other options," Louis Allen, father of three-star WR target Devon Allen (Phoenix/Brophy Prep) said. "To be totally honest, the head coach isn't going to determine where [Devon] goes to school. First is the educational opportunity and second is the opportunity to succeed on or off the field or track."
Louis said he doesn't blame Kelly for taking the opportunity to coach in the NFL.
"In all honestly, I'm not surprised at all," he said. "I know as a working man myself, I'm always looking for bigger and better opportunities, so why wouldn't Coach Kelly do the same? It isn't influencing Devon's opinion of Oregon at all. He liked the school and the program."
RecruitingNation's Kipp Adams, Blair Angulo and Damon Sayles contributed to this report.