TEMPE, Ariz. -- While Oregon suffered through a terrible string of off-field problems since its Rose Bowl run, an Arizona State Sun Devil watched from afar with feelings that could be best described as "complicated."
Aaron Pflugrad, you see, was set to be the Ducks starting slot receiver in 2009. But his father, Robin, the the Ducks receivers coach since 2006, did not have his contract renewed for that season, a decision based on Chip Kelly's looming ascendancy to the head coaching job.
So, after catching six passes for 107 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, Pflugrad opted to transfer.
While it's fair to say that Aaron Pflugrad doesn't hold warm feelings for Oregon, he doesn't seem like the sort to relish the Ducks misfortune with a smirking vindictiveness either.
It simply was clear to him after spring of 2009 that things weren't going to work out. Too much baggage.
"A couple of people whom I respected in the program-- [receivers coach Scott Frost, secondary coach John Neal and strength and conditioning coach Jim Radcliffe] -- they said I should give spring a go," Pflugrad said. "You've got a lot invested in a program, so you say, 'I'll give it a chance and see how things go.' But I just felt like I needed a fresh start."
Aaron said his father didn't push him to leave Oregon.
"When I decided to leave, I think he was shocked because I had a chance to be a starter in the Pac-10, something I wanted for so long," Aaron said. "He was good about it. He wanted what was best for me."
Did he leave behind hard feelings with Kelly?
"I don't think so," Pflugrad said. "I think we both realized it was a tough situation."
The good news is both Pflugrads found new opportunities. Aaron, after sitting out a year, is slated to start at receiver for a Sun Devils offense that is rebuilding at the position, while Robin is the new head coach at Montana.
"I'm pretty proud of him," Aaron said of his dad. "The situation at Oregon, I feel like a lot of coaches at that point in their career would have been backed into a corner. But he just kept grinding and now he's a head coach at a pretty solid program."
Pflugrad, now a junior, caught 23 passes for 247 yards and one touchdown and returned 11 punts for 72 yards for the Ducks.
While he calls Arizona State a "fresh start," Tempe isn't completely new to him. He grew up in the area when his father was the Sun Devils receivers coach and recruiting coordinator from 1995-2000 under Bruce Snyder. Nor is coach Dennis Erickson a stranger. Pflugrad went to an Oregon State football camp while Erickson was the Beavers coach. In fact, Erickson recruited him twice -- first as Idaho's head coach in 2006 and then at Arizona State.
As for the offseason problems at Oregon, Pflugrad seems shocked as much as anything.
"It's pretty surprising to see that going on," he said. "It's them making bad decisions. I'm friends with some of the guys. I was really close with some of them. I thought they were good guys. I just think they made some bad choices."
Naturally, a coach's son isn't going to prematurely handicap the competition.
"It's hard to tell right now," he said. "They're both big, tall guys who can wing it pretty good. I think we'll find out in the spring. Someone is going to rise to the occasion and take the job."
As for whether he's circled Sept. 25 when Oregon visits Arizona State -- "Family weekend," no less -- Pflugrad is a bit coy, while again sounding like a coach's son who isn't interested in fomenting a controversy with a biting comment.
"We'll see," he said. "I consider myself as someone who plays my hardest in every game. If you go by that, then it will be the same."