Two years ago, Chip Kelly went into Southern California and took the West’s top prospect, DeAnthony Thomas, from USC.
Last year, Kelly again went into the Golden State to take the West’s top prospect, Arik Armstead out of Sacramento. This year, the Philadelphia Eagles went into Eugene and took Chip Kelly to be their next head coach, not long before Signing Day.
A 46-7 record, three Pac-12 championships and four straight BCS bowl games made Chip Kelly a wanted man in the NFL.
It also made Oregon wanted by recruits. And while Kelly is off to the City of Brotherly Love, Oregon doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.
The Oregon commitment list has 13 names on it. How many of those stick with the Ducks remains to be seen, but for now, it appears no change is being made.
Oregon was prepared for this day. Ever since Kelly flirted with the NFL a year ago, nearly leaving for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers job, it looked like Kelly wouldn’t be long for college football.
“I don’t think anyone thought that Chip was going to be a lifer,” said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Greg Biggins. “I think people knew that last year.”
Keeping his assistants in Eugene will be Oregon’s biggest challenge. Keep them on board, and the recruits likely stay on board.
Mark Helfrich, Kelly’s offensive coordinator, appears to be the front runner to take over the head coaching job.
|Expect Oregon's machine to keep rolling with presumed successor Mark Helfrich.
Biggins thinks that’s a good decision on many levels, especially recruiting.
“Helfrich is a good coach and would be a good hire,” said Biggins. “From when he was at Arizona State and Colorado, he’s done a great job.”
While no one would accuse Kelly of being friendly, Helfrich has the personality that recruits, players, coaches and families would love.
“He’s just a good guy, really personable and a regular fun guy,” said Biggins. “Kids are going to love him and parents are going to love him. He’s still a pretty young coach and has that youthful personality.”
Most committed Oregon recruits and other top targets cited their relationships with the assistant coaches as key.
“Pretty much every recruit I’ve talked with, when all the rumors first started, said that if (secondary coach) John Neal, (linebackers coach) Don Pellum, (running backs coach) Gary Campbell and Helfrich started, they’d be good,” said Biggins.
Thomas Tyner and Dontre Wilson, both top 10 running backs nationally and commits to the Ducks, said that Campbell staying is key for them.
“Coach (Gary) Campbell is a big reason why I picked them and its why I’ve stayed with Oregon all along,” said Wilson. “He’s the reason why I chose them really. Oregon is like my home away from home and he makes me feel like he’s known me forever.”
Still, schools will try to kick the tires with Oregon’s commits.
Tyner is the No. 2-ranked running back in the country and an Oregon native. But he’s an elite back, and schools will still try. Wilson is an elite back from Texas and Ohio State wants him for a visit.
Then there are the twins, Tyrell Robinson and Tyree Robinson. The San Diego (Calif.) Lincoln prospects are two of the premier two-sport stars in this class, both also stellar basketball players.
They’ve been committed to the Ducks since fall, but Ohio State offered them Wednesday morning, and schools like Notre Dame, USC, Washington and UCLA, among others, have been trying to get in on both of them.
“There will be people pursuing them, but they’re just as excited about Oregon basketball as they are football,” Biggins said.
And the Ducks hoops team is back in the AP Top 25 for the first time in six years.
Biggins doesn’t think Oregon is going anywhere anytime soon.
“They’ve definitely become a brand,” said Biggins. “They’ll be a preseason top five team and if they keep that staff together, they’re running the same system. If they win 10 games and go to a BCS bowl game, long term, they’ll be just fine.”
It’s a similar situation that Stanford faced two years ago.
First it was the questions when Jim Harbaugh left. The Cardinal still went 11-2 and went to a BCS bowl in the first year under David Shaw. Then when Andrew Luck left, the same talk occurred -- the Cardinal, critics said, would fall apart.
All they did was win 12 games and the Pac-12 and Rose Bowl crowns. Head coach David Shaw has turned out just fine. His recruiting class in his first full year after Harbaugh left was one of the best in Stanford’s history.
It would be the new coach’s first full class, the one that will sign in 2014, where it’s likely the lack-of-Chip effect will be felt, one way or the other.
“In the 2014 class it will probably have a bigger impact,” said Biggins. “Again, if they start the season 4-0, averaging 40 points a game, kids will still be excited. I don’t think much will change.”
Except the man on the sideline.