- Kevin Gemmell, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's been a crazy week for new Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich. He took a few minutes to chat with the Pac-12 blog about his vision for Oregon, the state of recruiting and how hands-on he'll be in all three phases of the game.
What have these last four or five days been like for you?
Mark Helfrich: A whirlwind. We've been out recruiting in full force. We were joking a week ago that everything was flipped upside down. Our coaches have done an incredible job recruiting this class. The reception on the road has been great. Our players are all working hard. We're full-speed ahead.
What about you personally? What have these last few days been like?
MH: It's been great. What has transpired has been a dream come true. But at some point, you have to wake up from the dream and you have to go back to work and that's what we started to do after the press conference Sunday. We hit the road and there is just a lot of stuff going on and we're all coming together for the same goal.
I assume you've addressed the team since the transition. What's the pulse of the team right now?
MH: I had a chance to address the team on Saturday night and that's the weird part about this time of year, you don't see your players as much as you'd like with two weeks of recruiting left. But they were great. They have a lot of affection for this staff. Eight of the 10 coaches from last year are here and it shows their level of commitment and our level of commitment to each other is strong.
I know a lot has been made about the play-calling. For you, is it more important to establish the play-calling pecking order, so to speak, or is it more about the collaboration and process?
MH: It's definitely a process. That's the neat deal about all of this. Our program, whether it's the strength side of it, the academic side of it, our practices, all the way down, our guys get that it's all about our process. It's all about working hard. It's all about having fun. It's all about working with great people and they all understand that. Everything is a process from offense to defense to special teams. Our offensive staff has done a great job game-planning and preparing all the way up to game day. We have a couple of plans in place for how we're going to call plays. We'll try to get in there really fast.
How hands-on do you plan on being with the defense?
MH: To be determined; all of that stuff, as far as how much with the offense, how much with the defense, how much with the special teams. We obviously have a very veteran staff on both sides of the ball, all three phases, really, and I have a tremendous amount of trust in those guys. It's more about reaffirming that process and reaffirming how we do things and letting those guys coach and letting those guys go and me just learning about the minutia of stuff.
I'm sure during your time there you learned a million different things from Chip Kelly. Is there one thing that stands out?
MH: The biggest thing that stands out is evaluation. We don't want to compromise on character. We have such a great group of guys on our team right now. It's such a great culture. If we bring in a character guy, an attitude guy, a tough guy, he's going to push this whole thing forward. We're not a reform school. We're not in the business of rehabilitating guys. We're in the business of excellence. For our guys to move forward and for our program to move forward, we want to bring in guys that have that rock-solid foundation. And the next step is we want bigger, faster character guys and putting that all together and never compromising on that. We won't compromise on that.
How do you go about tempering expectations, which are certainly going to be high next year?
MH: We don't really talk about that. We all want to win championships. We want to lift the crystal ball. But that's a long way down the road. As long as everybody begins with the end in mind, but starts at the beginning, and then you work your tail off. You work our system academically. You work our system from a character standpoint. You work the system from a football standpoint and all of that takes care of itself.
The quicker the transition to a new head coach, the better it is. What's the response been -- without going into specifics -- from the guys you are recruiting?
MH: Our reception has been outstanding. Our staff has done a tremendous job in recruiting and getting the right type of guys for Oregon. They realize they are part of a great program that has had success for a long time. The reception has been very, very good.