Observations from Oregon: Kelly's in charge
Posted by ESPN.com's Ted Miller
EUGENE, Ore. -- Chip Kelly has to be himself, so he's going to figure out a way to change the job of head Oregon football coach so it fits him, not the other way around.
Administrative tasks bogging him down? He'll spend all summer carefully planning out every detail of the Ducks -- and his -- schedule so that won't be an issue during the season.
"Our schedule is set until after the bowl game, whatever bowl game we go to," he said. "I could tell you what time our meeting is on Oct. 26... I can tell you what day we start spring practice. Our spring game is on May 1. We've got the whole year planned out."
A jones to continue directly coaching players not getting satisfied? Kelly created the "tazer" position, a hybrid running back-receiver, which he now coaches just like any other position coach. Kelly has daily meetings with his tazers, Ed Dickson -- formerly known as one of the nation's best tight ends -- and LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, who once were backup running backs.
A football practice with a million things going on still missing something? Hey, let's play music during practice, from James Brown to Pearl Jam to Eric Clapton to the new stuff that the kids like.
(Kelly's eclectic tastes get a tip of the cap from the Pac-10 blog. He even likes the Dropkick Murphys, whose version of "I'm Shipping Up To Boston" is the best part of the movie, "The Departed.")
"As long as the songs don't have any profanity," he notes.
In the old days, head coaches climbed towers to lord over practices. Most head coaches these days linger on the periphery, giving only occasional pieces of sage advice or offering bits of intimidation as motivation.
Kelly starts coaching at the first whistle and doesn't stop until the last.
He barks: "Finish!" "Aggressive!" "Where are you supposed to be?"
Five quarterbacks throw the ball into the air at the same time during a drill. One ball hits the ground. Kelly knows exactly who and what went wrong.
At any moment, he could be explaining nuances to a player who catches his eye or debriefing with an assistant.
"That's the fun part. You have to coach the way you know how. Some guys are great at being CEOs," he said. "I want to stay involved."
He's also willing to do some things that seem strange but may soon be better described as "innovative." Quarterbacks wear helmet cams, so coaches can look through their eyes. Stand-ins for defensive linemen strap onto their shoulders what look like large black fans in order to obscure the vision of the quarterback.
If there was any question that Kelly might wait to put his imprint on a program that thrived for 14 years under Mike Bellotti, well, the answer is no. These Ducks are now Kelly-green.
- While former backup quarterback Justin Roper's decision to transfer shouldn't be termed "a good thing," it's clear watching practices that Kelly has three capable quarterbacks who perfectly fit into his spread-option system: Jeremiah Masoli, Nate Costa and Darron Thomas. All three are good runners and passers. If Roper had remained with Oregon and had been needed for whatever reason, his skill set -- he's not much of a runner -- would have required some tweaks to the game plan. Said Kelly, "That's what we're looking for -- a quarterback who can really run. Those guys are ideal for what we're looking for. I feel better about our quarterback depth this year than I did last year ... I wouldn't hesitate to play any of those three guys."
- Oregon is tall at receiver. At any given time it could split out wide Dickson (6-foot-5), Dion Jordan (6-foot-7), Rory Cavaille (6-foot-3), Lavasier Tuinei (6-foot-5) or Tyrece Gaines (6-foot-3). "That's kind of by design in recruiting," Kelly said.
- A flu bug has run through the Ducks. Kelly said that around 15 to 20 players have missed practices -- almost always two days -- including four on Wednesday.
- New defensive line coach Jerry Azzinaro isn't a huge guy but my initial impression is you'd want him on your side in a bar fight. "Our defensive line is playing great right now. They really have caused some problems in camp," Kelly said. "I think [Azzinaro] is as good as any D-line coach in the country. I think it's showing."
- The Ducks seem close to set on the offensive line with Jordan Holmes at center, Bo Thran at left tackle and C.E. Kaiser opposite him on the right side. Mark Asper is the right guard and Carson York leads at left guard. Kelly said he felt confident with Nick Cody and Darrion Weems in terms of depth.