Fast-rising Kelly feels ready to lead Oregon

March, 14, 2009
3/14/09
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller

Pac-10 defensive coordinators might want to rethink that sigh of relief they collectively exhaled Friday upon learning that Mike Bellotti was stepping aside at Oregon so offensive coordinator Chip Kelly could become head coach.

Kelly will change a few things in his new position, but he probably won't change something that produced 40 points per game over the past two seasons.

"I wouldn't be surprised if I'm calling plays on Opening Day," Kelly said.

Kelly wouldn't be pinned down Saturday on how he would go about replacing himself as coordinator and quarterbacks coach, other than to say he'd like to have someone aboard before spring practices begin March 30.

"I could be the offensive coordinator, but I don't have to make that decision today," he said. "The only thing that will change [offensively] from this year to next year is hopefully we'll score more points."

That would be more than the 42 points per game the Ducks hung up in 2008.

Kelly said there will be some changes, which he and Bellotti told the players during a team meeting on Friday. He said some things in recruiting might be different. Practice periods might be shorter.

But he also said that one of the benefits of this transition will be the continuity and familiarity for all parties -- players, coaches, administrators and boosters.

"I'm really cognizant of not making sweeping changes in a program that finished ranked ninth in the country last year," he said.

For his part, Bellotti said that one of the reasons he feels comfortable transitioning from football coach to athletic director is his faith in Kelly.

He pointed out that Kelly is not just an Xs and Os, spread-option quarterbacks guru. Kelly has coached the offensive line. He's been a defensive coordinator.

"He understands football from the ground up," Bellotti said.

In recent weeks, the general feeling was that Bellotti, 58, was leaning toward coaching the Ducks in 2009.

Kelly, 45, who was briefly courted by Syracuse and Mississippi State this winter, went out of his way to insist he was in no hurry to take over since the decision to name him head-coach-in-waiting in December.

"I was willing to wait as long as Mike wanted to wait," he said.

His waiting is over. Kelly said he'd been contacting the Ducks' incoming players, explaining the situation, and he said the reaction has been enthusiastic.

While not mentioning any specific names, it also was acknowledged by both Kelly and Bellotti that the Ducks are awaiting word from one 2009 recruit, who everyone well knows is running back Bryce Brown, the No. 8 player in the nation, according to the ESPNU 150, who is expected to choose between Oregon, Tennessee, LSU and Kansas State on Monday.

While he admitted that he'll be learning as he goes as a first-time head coach, Kelly said he's confident he can make a smooth transition with few growing pains.

"I wouldn't have accepted [the job] if I didn't think I could do it," he said.

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