Coaching stability key to Ducks success
July, 2, 2012
By Brandon P. Oliver | ESPN.com
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesChip Kelly has done a good job of keeping continuity on his coaching staff since taking over as Oregon's head man in 2009, which is a big reason behind the Ducks' sustained success.When thinking about the Oregon football program, most tend to think of the flashy uniforms, the facilities and the ties to Nike as being the big reasons for the rise of the Ducks. Those things have played a huge part in Oregon's success, but the most commonly overlooked part of the equation is the continuity of the coaching staff in Eugene.
Sure, head coach Chip Kelly has only been in Eugene since 2007 and is entering his fourth season as the face of the program, but for the most part Oregon's staff has been together longer than most. In an era where coaches use schools as stepping stones and successful coaching staffs rarely have more than a couple of years together, the Ducks have a level of chemistry among the coaching staff that has helped fuel their meteoric rise to the top.
Head coach: Chip Kelly is entering his sixth season at Oregon and his fourth as head coach. While his name is tied to nearly every job that comes open, Kelly turned down the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job this past offseason. Kelly has been a part of the greatest streak in Oregon history. His record as head coach is 34-6 and the overall record of the Oregon program since his arrival is 53-13.
Offensive coordinator: Mark Helfrich, an Oregon native, was a graduate assistant for the Ducks in 1997 before moving on to build his reputation as an offensive guru. After stints at Boise State (1998-2000), Arizona State (2001-05), and Colorado (2006-08), Helfrich made his way back to Oregon in 2009. After a decade of musical chairs at the offensive coordinator position, Helfrich has been a steady hand for the Ducks.
Defensive coordinator: Outside of three years in the NFL and one at UCLA in the late 1990s, Nick Aliotti has been a staple in Eugene during the past two decades. After some years that had Oregon fans calling for his job, Aliotti is now able to run his defense the way he always envisioned. His complex scheme requires athletes to cover ground and play multiple roles. In recent years he has been given the athletes to allow for him to turn things up on the defensive side of the ball.
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireNick Alliotti has been a fixture in Eugene, as the defensive coordinator has spent the better part of two decades with the Ducks.
His strong West Coast ties, particularly in Northern California, have been very fruitful for the Ducks over the years. Aliotti is one of the mainstays in Eugene and is a strong leader in the locker room for both players and fellow coaches.
Running backs: The longest tenured coach in Oregon history is also one of the most important. Gary Campbell is seen as a great recruiter and has helped guide the Ducks to one of the best rushing attacks in the country every year. A Texas native, Campbell has helped the Ducks make huge strides in national recruiting, particularly in his home state. Entering his 30th straight season with the Ducks, Campbell has a new core to work with and looks to be on the brink of another few seasons at the top of the national rushing charts.
Wide receivers: Another relative newcomer to the staff, Scott Frost has injected some youth into the Ducks staff and has helped recruit a new level of talent to the wide receiver position. As the youngest member of the staff and its most successful college player, Frost earned instant respect from the players when he joined the staff in 2009.
Offensive line: Steve Greatwood epitomizes what it means to be an Oregon football coach. The Eugene native and Oregon alum has been a coach for the Ducks for more than 25 years. After stints in the NFL and as the defensive line coach, Greatwood has been in charge of the offensive line in Eugene since 2005. His lines have helped lead a rushing attack never seen before in Eugene. A well-thought-of coach nationally, Greatwood has been a big part of the success in Eugene -- recruiting at a high level during the past few years.
Defensive line: Another relative newcomer, Jerry Azzinaro also came to Eugene before the 2009 season after stints at Duke, Syracuse, Boston College, UMass and a number of smaller schools in the northeast. Azzinaro's unique approach has paid dividends along the defensive front. Recruiting tall, athletic players and developing former receivers and tight ends into all-league players on the defensive line has been his biggest accomplishment in Eugene. A roster full of talented athletes awaits Azzinaro in future years, so the old-school coach has a chance to leave his mark on Oregon football with the likes of Dion Jordan, Arik Armstead, Ricky Heimuli, Taylor Hart, DeForest Buckner and many more making up the core of the defensive line.
Linebackers: Don Pellum is another Oregon alum with nearly a quarter century of coaching experience in Eugene. "DP" is in charge of most of the recruiting efforts and has been instrumental in helping the Ducks gain traction in Southern California. One of his biggest accomplishments was being the lead recruiter in the Ducks pursuit of De'Anthony Thomas out of Los Angeles Crenshaw High School. He has been named among the top recruiters in the country over the years by various publications because of his relationships with big-time West Coast high school programs.
Defensive backs: A Northern California native, John Neal arrived in Eugene in 2003 after eight years at UAB. His nationwide connections have helped the Ducks reel in some top defensive backs during his tenure. Most importantly for the program, Neal has proven himself to be a master of developing talent that other schools decided not to pursue. Neal took players like Jairus Byrd, Patrick Chung, Walter Thurmond III and TJ Ward, among others, and transformed them from overlooked recruits into impact players in the NFL.
Tight Ends & Special Teams: In his first six-year stint with the Ducks, Tom Osborne helped turn Oregon into a tight end factory with the likes of Josh Wilcox, Blake Spence, Jed Weaver and Justin Peele all earning all-league honors before the latter three moved on to the NFL. After a six-year term at Arizona St, where he coached the likes of ASU All-American Zach Miller, Osborne returned to Eugene in 2007 and helped turn Ed Dickson into an NFL tight end.
As special teams coordinator, Coach "Oz" has overseen some of the most successful units in Oregon history. Osborne has received plenty of accolades for his skills as a tight ends coach as well as his efforts with Oregon's special teams.
Strength and Conditioning: Jim Radcliffe is another West Coast native whohas been a staple in Eugene for more than a quarter century. He has been instrumental in helping the Oregon players maintain a high level of fitness, allowing them to run Chip Kelly's fast-paced offense.
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