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Chip Kelly’s Influence Continues To Fuel Oregon

Wednesday, September 16, 2015


Vernon Adams Jr. is the first Oregon starting quarterback since Kellen Clemens to never work under Chip Kelly’s tutelage.

Let that sink in. Clemens, a gutsy Ducks quarterback who played a major part in one of Oregon’s best years of the last decade in 2005, is already in his tenth NFL season. He’s been married for over a decade. He’s got two kids, and has played for five professional teams.

Clemens is old. 32. Kelly’s influence at Oregon stretched back a long time, and even stretched forward into the first few years of the Mark Helfrich era by way of a number of recruits – most notably, of course, the NFL’s best quarterback in Marcus Mariota.

Now, though, things have changed somewhat. Kelly’s last Oregon recruits are seniors. At quarterback, his presence is no longer felt.

Kelly is in his third season in Philadelphia already – though this is really the first campaign that has been Kelly’s and Kelly’s alone to run. The Eagles started with a dud, sputtering early and late and losing 26-24 to Atlanta on Monday night. They’ll turn it around soon enough.

We all know it’d be foolish to bet against Chip. This is the guy who took Dennis Dixon from a borderline incompetent stick figure who couldn’t beat out Brady Leaf for the starting quarterback job and made him Heisman contender in 2007.

Kelly didn’t just make Jeremiah Masoli palatable; he took him to a Rose Bowl. He got a 56-point bowl game performance out of Justin Roper.

The man was, and will continue to be, a football genius – a once in a lifetime character who is revolutionizing the sport. Those play cards that originated at Oregon are everywhere this season. Everyone plays with tempo now. But the Ducks are still unique. Still a step ahead.

So despite this loss to Michigan State, the Ducks will be fine this season. Even without Kelly’s fingerprints on the program, even without Mariota, and even with everything else that will come Oregon’s way.

Because of Kelly’s system, the Ducks start each season on second base while everyone else digs into the batter’s box.

You’ve watched the games. You’ve seen every team outside of an elite handful – and maybe some in that elite handful (hello, Auburn!) – struggle with new systems and first-year quarterbacks; guys who can only throw the ball ten yards down the field and coaches who are unwilling to take risks from even the most advantageous of positions.

That’s how we got Gary Andersen punting the game from inside Michigan’s forty yard-line on 4th and 3 last Saturday. Take a look around the Pac-12 North.

Oregon State just went out and scored seven points against that very mediocre Wolverines team. Stanford was held to six points in their loss at Northwestern. Washington scored thirteen and lost at Boise State.

Let’s not even get started with Washington State, who play under renowned offensive coach Mike Leach and put up a measly seventeen points in that shocking opening day defeat to Portland State. Cal hasn’t slipped up yet – or played anyone of consequence – but there’s no one who will vouch for the Golden Bears as special.

The point is this: Oregon has already lapped most of the teams it’s about to play. Kelly is gone, Kelly’s players are about to be gone, but Kelly’s system remains. That’s how the Ducks have won at least ten games in every season since 2009.

The system is king. Mariota transcended it, but he’s a once in a lifetime talent too. Vernon Adams will thrive. He’ll clean up his act, and by the time it really counts, he’ll be firing on all cylinders.

This loss to Michigan State didn’t knock Oregon out of anything. The Ducks lost later last year, to a worse team, and still made the playoff. In fact, I’d be heartened that the Ducks defense stepped up when it had to, and that this had every chance to beat a quality top-five opponent on the road.

The Ducks overachieve every year based on their recruiting rankings. The system is the king – this is true in Philly too, by the way, which is exactly what everyone who has insinuated that Kelly is racist because of the players he has let go fails to understand.

Credit goes to Mark Helfrich and Scott Frost for keeping the system going at Oregon. We’re not so much talking about the culture now as we are talking about the game plans themselves. It’s that unrivaled Ducks feel – the tempo, the reads, the precision – that at least half of the country has tried to replicate.

That’s not to say Oregon is unbeatable. Hell, they just lost. Only scored 28 points in the process. And even last year, nothing the Ducks could do on offense could keep up with the physical juggernaut that was Ohio State.

Oregon’s system doesn’t guarantee championships. But it does guarantee that the Ducks will be in the race. This offense alone will win ten games. That’s why there’s no reason to panic right now.

I don’t know where Oregon will finish. My guess is that there’s another loss lurking somewhere in this season and maybe a Rose Bowl trip coming.

But I leave the first two weeks of the college football season as impressed as ever with what the Ducks have. Oregon is still playing a different game than almost all of its peers. That’s the surest sign that Kelly’s influence is still being felt – and as long as Kelly’s influence is still being felt, the Ducks are going to be just fine.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Top Pac-12 College Football Players

Here are some of the Oregon players who have managed to make it into the 2014 Top Pac-12 Players List.

Prev Next

#22 Byron Marshall

College: University of Oregon

Position: Running Back

In 2013 he had 168 carries, 14 touchdowns, 13 catches, 155 receiving yards, and 1,038 rushing yards.  It’s no wonder he makes it as #22 on this list.  Not only do these stats make him a player to watch, but also a player with a lot of potential to climb the rankings.


Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#19 Isaac Seumalo

College: Oregon State University

Position: Offensive Lineman

This Offensive Lineman managed to block QB Sean Mannion who set the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards passing.  With his abilities to block in the manner of which he did makes him a prime candidate to possibly win the Rimington Trophy, Outland Trophy, and/or Rotary Lombardi Award.


Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#10 Hroniss Grasu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Center

As a junior in 2013 he became one of three Oregon native players to be named All-Pac-12 two seasons in a row.  He has managed to lead the offensive line to the conference’s number 1 rushing attack.  Entering his final year at U of O, Grasu has started all 40 games of his career at UO making him one of the Duck’s greatest players.


Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#6 Sean Mannion

College: Oregon State University

Position: Quarterback

Ranking here for breaking the Pac-12 single-season record with 4,662 yards thrown, 35 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions, this is a player the NFL is watching closely. Already sitting at #10 on the conference’s all-time passing list, it’s going to be a breeze for him to pass Matt Barkley’s record of 12,327 yards thrown.


Photo Credit: Karl Maasdam (Own Work) (Image Cropped) Courtesy Oregon State University

Prev Next

#4 Ifo Ekpre-Olomu

College: University of Oregon

Position: Cornerback

In 2013 he was the second Ducks player to have 84 tackles with 3 interceptions, and 9 passes defended.  He is a force to be reckoned with.  It has been unanimous that he is to be the 2014 Preseason All-American.  It’s also been hinted that he may not last too long in the 2015 NFL draft.


Photo Credit: Daniel Hartwig (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)

Prev Next

#1 Marcus Mariota

College: University of Oregon

Position: Quarterback

With stats such as completing 63.5% of his passes with 3,665 yards, 31 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, rushing a total of 715 yards with 9 touchdowns, this makes him a hot candidate for the NFL.  He has managed to make U of O one of the Pac-12 favorite college teams as well as a national title contender.  He has also set a U of O single-season record throwing 4,380 total yards and set a Pac-12 record by attempting to throw 353 consecutive passes without interception.  He is also in the running to win the Heisman Trophy as a 1A option.


Photo Credit: Scott Enyeart (Own Work) Live Link (Image Cropped)


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