With Kelly’s departure, ‘a recruiting class hangs in the balance’

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In the immediate aftermath of Chip Kelly‘s stunning about-face departure for the Philadelphia Eagles, Oregon’s attention turned to two key questions — just who will replace the Ducks’ fourth-year head coach and what kind of impact it will have on the 2013 recruiting class.

As to the former, the answer could be relatively straightforward.  Barring an unexpected development and after the interview of a minority candidate to satisfy state law — the school has already posted the openingMark Helfrich is expected to be officially named as Kelly’s successor in short order.  Helfrich, who has served as Kelly’s offensive coordinator during all four of the now-former coach’s seasons at the helm in Eugene, has been described as a clone of his former boss when it comes to attention to detail and the like, making for a relatively seamless transition both on the field and, most importantly at the moment, on the recruiting trail.

It’s on that latter front, though, where things could get dicey for Helfrich — or, as Rivals.com breathlessly put it, “a recruiting class hangs in the balance.”

Already, two of the prized verbal pieces of UO’s 2013 recruiting class, twins Tyrell and Tyree Robinson, have announced they have reopened their recruitment while still technically remaining committed to the Ducks.  USC, in particular, has already been in touch with the players in an attempt to get both to complete the flip three weeks ahead of National Signing Day.  Additionally, Ohio State is reportedly going after that same pair of UO verbals as well, with Notre Dame also named by one of the players as a possibility.

“This is crazy. I mean, [UO assistant John Neal] was just here yesterday up at school to watch me and my brother play basketball,” Tyree Robinson told DuckSports.com. “Everything was all good. Everything was all fine. It’s crazy. Right now, I have to talk to my family. I’m going to call my mom right now to talk to her about it.

It’s not all negative recruiting-wise for Oregon, though, as DuckSports.com reports that Thomas Tyner, a five-star running back rated as the No. 21 player at any position in the country, is expected to remain committed to the Ducks and follow through with a signature on signing day.  That “good news” comes with an asterisk, however, as Tyner has already decommitted from the Ducks once last October, albeit for just one day.

There’s also positive precedent on which the football program can fall back; in 2001, Butch Davis left Miami (Fla.) for the head coaching job with the Cleveland Browns a week before signing day.  A little over 11 months later, with Davis’ replacement Larry Coker patrolling the sidelines, the Hurricanes staked their claim to the BCS title.  Coker had served as The U’s offensive coordinator the previous six seasons.

Certainly keeping Helfrich and maintaining some type of continuity on the coaching staff — how many assistants Kelly takes with him to the Eagles becomes another storm cloud looming off in the distance — will help keep intact a recruiting class that was, to be blunt, fair-to-middlin’ to begin with.

In fact, this class was shaping up to be the worst, rankings-wise, since Kelly’s first class in 2009.  The past three years, Oregon’s classes have been rated no worse than 16th (2012) by either Rivals.com or Scout.com and as high as ninth in 2011.  This year, the Ducks currently rank 44th (Rivals), 26th (Scout) and 25th (24/7Sports.com) with signing day looming the first Tuesday of next month.

“It hurts,” Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said of Kelly’s departure, “but it isn’t like they have a huge class to keep together anyways.”

That, then, would seem to make it much more imperative for Oregon to hang on to as many assistants as possible to keep an average class from slipping further.  As DuckSports.com writes, “most recruits do not build the relationship with a head coach. The head coach is not allowed the same number of contacts as his assistants so many prospective student athletes develop strong ties to assistant coaches.”

Many will ask why Kelly put Helfrich, his assistants, current/future players and the football program as a whole in such a predicament just 21 days before the college version of the NFL draft.

Some will point to looming NCAA sanctions as the impetus; if that were the case, Kelly wouldn’t have turned down both the Eagles and Cleveland Browns nearly two weeks ago, risking having that NFL door shut tight for the foreseeable future and closing his Pete Carroll-esque escape hatch.  Some will point to the opportunity for a significant increase in pay; if that were Kelly’s motive, he would’ve bailed on the Ducks for the Bucs and a boatload more money in Tampa Bay last January.

While those particular points may have played roles on some level, this appears simply to be the case of an innovator looking for a new challenge at the highest level of football and with an organization he (eventually) gained some degree of comfort.  After his flirtation last year… and after a two-pronged show of leg this year… and with a consistent itch to challenge himself, Kelly took the NFL “if” out of the equation and turned the “when” into the here and now.  In the end, that’s where most thought Kelly would be at some point in the future, especially as the NFL, thanks in large part to the out-of-the-gate successes of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, begins to absorb more of the college-level spread concepts.

Yes, it was not the optimal time for Kelly to bolt; the thing is, there almost never is.  At the very least, though, Kelly left a powerhouse football foundation on which Helfrich or anyone else could build — 46 wins, four BCS bowl games and three Pac-10/12 championships screams “reload” as opposed to “rebuild.”

“Next man up” and “next man in” have always been two of Kelly’s most identifiable mantras.  Helfrich is up, and he’ll be officially in at some point in the not-too-distant future.  Before he can get to building upon Kelly’s on-field legacy, he’ll need to fend off the pickers looking to pluck prospects from what will be his recruiting class.  Based on the number of vultures already circling, and with three weeks left in which to swoop, that might be easier said than done.

Given Scott-Frost-Nebraska chatter, UCF announces funding initiative

Associated Press
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If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do.  That, though, isn’t stopping UCF from at least trying to stave off the inevitable.

Mike Riley could very well be on the hot seat at Nebraska, leading to speculation, especially with a new athletic director, that he could be three-and-done in Lincoln.  While some chatter on any potential replacement has involved a pirate, a favorite son has significant support amongst the fan base if a change is made.

Not only is Scott Frost a former Nebraska quarterback, but, as the head coach at UCF, he has the Knights ranked 20th nationally with a 5-0 start.  And that’s coming off a six-win first season for Frost with a program that was winless the year before he arrived.

The pedigree as both a player and young head coach would make him a natural fit at a place like Nebraska, which explains why Frost’s current employer announced Tuesday an initiative to “secure commitments of over $1.5 million annually for the next five years” for the football program.  Specifically, any money raised would largely be used to enhance coaching salaries, both for the head coach and his assistants.

Called the UCF Football Excellence Fund, the program is “pursuing gift commitments ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 annually to further enhance the program’s operating resources.”  Frost himself has already committed his own money to the fund.

“I’m very excited about the success we’ve had in our time here and I’m committed to helping this program continue growing,” Frost said. “I’m happy to be part of the UCF Football Excellence Fund. We need more resources to keep taking this program where we want it to go. I’m hopeful my support will be a catalyst for others to jump on board and take part.”

According to the USA Today‘s salary database, Frost’s $1.7 million salary in 2016 was sixth among AAC head coaches, although the top two, Houston’s Tom Herman and Cincinnati’s Tommy Tuberville, are no longer with those programs.  With built-in raises, Frost will likely make in the neighborhood of $2 million for this season.

That said, we go back to what was written as the opening sentence: If a Power Five program truly wants a Group of Five head coach, there’s little the latter can do — even if it’s not the 42-year-old Frost’s alma mater that comes calling.

Three-star 2015 BYU signee added to Utah roster, immediately eligible

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Mika Tafua will begin his collegiate playing career in the state of Utah, but not at his original school.

In February of 2015, Tafua signed his Letter of Intent with BYU on National Signing Day.  The linebacker then left on a two-year LDS mission in Tacoma, Washington, with the plan initially being to head to Provo when that church work was completed.

With the church mission completed, Tafua has decided, instead of BYU, he’ll start his career with Holy War rival Utah.  The football program announced the development Tuesday.

Tafua will also be eligible to play immediately for the Utes, who have six games remaining in the 2017 season. And, apparently, the true freshman could see action sooner rather than later.

“He’s already in the mix,” defensive line coach Lewis Powell said according to the Salt Lake Tribune. “He’s lifting and running around with the fellas. We’re excited about him.”

A three-star 2015 recruit, Tafua was rated as the No. 17 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 5 player at any position in the state of Hawaii on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.

Western Michigan’s three-pronged rushing attack down one for foreseeable future

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The top-ranked rushing attack in the MAC will have one less weapon in its running-game arsenal for the foreseeable future.

LeVante Bellamy sustained an injury to his right leg in the Week 7 game against Akron that required an air cast prior to being carted off the field.  While there’s no official word on the extent of the injury, it doesn’t appear that the running back will be on the field anytime soon.

“He’s booted up right now,” head coach Tim Lester said by way of mlive.com. “He’s not going to put weight on his leg for at least a week, and we’re going to revisit it. I don’t know if it’s a season-ending injury yet, but he’s not putting weight on it right now.”

Bellamy, who played in three games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury, has 394 yards rushing this season, third on the team behind Jarvion Franklin (538) and Jamauri Bogan (462).  His eight yards per carry leads the Broncos, while he’s second with three rushing touchdowns.

Through seven games, WMU is 20th nationally and first in the MAC averaging 237.9 yards per game on the ground.

Dana Holgorsen’s son commits to North Texas

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Soon there will be another Holgorsen in major college football.

Logan Holgorsen, son of West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen, has committed to North Texas. Holgorsen the Younger made the announcement Monday on his Twitter account.

Holgorsen, a high school junior, played for Morgantown High School in West Virginia through last season before transferring to St. Frances Academy in Baltimore before recently transferring back to Morgantown.

Listed as a 6-foot-1, 185-pound pro-style quarterback, Holgorsen also held an offer from Bowling Green according to his 247Sports profile.However, choosing the Mean Green over the Falcons was an easy choice for Holgorsen as his relationship with North Texas head coach Seth Littrell and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell goes back to his childhood. His father Dana was an offensive assistant alongside Littrell on Mike Leach‘s Texas Tech teams in the mid-2000’s, which were quarterbacked by Harrell.

“North Texas is the place I always wanted to be,” Holgorsen told the Denton Record-Chronicle. “I want to play for coach Littrell and coach Harrell. Playing for my dad has been a thought. He told me that there was no better to place for me to be than at North Texas.”