The Oregon Ducks might've experienced the country's most significant offseason move when they lost Chip Kelly to the NFL. But despite the departure of the innovator, not much has actually changed in Eugene. Oregon doesn't lose many of its players, the coaching staff didn't experience dramatic upheaval, and the scheme isn't changing at all. The Ducks are ready to go offensively while continuing to speed and scorch through the rest of the Pac-12.
There are few times that a team would consider a 12-1 season disappointing, but that's how Oregon probably feels. Oregon was only a minute away from a national championship berth, but a loss to Stanford at home in Autzen ended up sending the Ducks toward the Fiesta Bowl. Oregon did beat Kansas State and finish second in the nation, but many of us are still wondering how things would've gone in a battle with Alabama in Miami.
After a weak non-conference slate in 2012, Oregon will have two solid matchups with Tennessee and Virginia in the second and third weeks of the season. With Stanford also looking complete for next season, the Ducks and the Cardinal seem destined to face off in yet another tilt for the conference in November.
Spring practice start date: April 2.
Spring game date, location, TV info: April 27, 2012, 11 a.m. PT; Autzen Stadium, Eugene, Oregon; Pac-12 Networks
Approximate returning starters: Oregon lost three members of its offense, including running back Kenjon Barner and both offensive guards, Nick Cody and Ryan Clanton. Four members of the Oregon front seven are gone, including defensive end Dion Jordan and linebackers Kiko Alonso and Michael Clay. Additionally, key contributors like Carson York and John Boyett (who missed all or most of last season) will also be moving on.
But eight players return on the offensive side of the football (including De'Anthony Thomas and quarterback Marcus Mariota). Oregon cornerbacks Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Terrance Mitchell and linebacker Boseko Lokombo also return to anchor the six remaining Duck defenders in the depth chart.
Biggest addition: Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich has taken over for Kelly, and he has been performing quite well. Helfrich managed to secure the commitments of multiple recruits (several committed to rival schools) and secure a top-25 recruiting class for the Ducks.
Biggest loss: Losing Kelly (and the many Ducks he plucked for the Eagles) is the obvious big issue for the Ducks, but the loss of Barner will be tough for the Ducks to stomach. The Ducks will have De'Anthony Thomas potentially playing in a feature role, but it's more likely that backup Byron Marshall will step into the Barner role and await the arrival of Thomas Tyner in the summer to further balance the load.
New players? The Ducks will not have any freshmen show up until the summer.
New coaches? Scott Frost has taken over Helfrich's position as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Helfrich also hired Matt Lubick from Duke to take over Frost's position as wide receivers coach. Oregon also hired Ron Aiken as defensive line coach from the NFL, where he led the Arizona Cardinals defensive line.
New schemes? Nothing should be changing in Oregon. One of the things that Kelly wanted to ensure before he left was that things would stay exactly the same in Eugene and his offensive scheme wouldn't change one bit. Helfrich is definitely the hire that will ensure the Ducks stay the Ducks.