With rumors swirling of Kelly’s departure, Oregon keeps its focus in Fiesta Bowl

20 Comments

The Fiesta Bowl was, in fact, treated as a party — a going away party for Oregon coach Chip Kelly.

Kelly’s name has become surgically attached to the Cleveland Browns and Philadelphia Eagles in recent weeks. Both organizations are reportedly in Glendale, Ariz., for the bowl game in an attempt to steal Kelly away from Eugene and into the NFL. They’ll have Oregon’s permission to speak to Kelly too.

From the moment Kelly turned away the Tampa Bay Buccaneers a year ago, everyone — players, Oregon’s administrators, fans and media alike — knew this time was coming again. Hot coaching commodities have windows of opportunity and Kelly’s is wide open right now. The thought of Kelly departing Oregon for the pros surely weighed on those collective minds, and perhaps on Kelly most of all.

Yet through the distractions, Kelly did the one thing for which he’s best known: keeping his focus on the task at hand. “Win the day” is not just a cliché for the Ducks’ head coach. Neither is the “next man in” philosophy.  It’s what he personally practices and asks of everyone involved with the program. As a result, Oregon’s identity has been closer to that of a machine rather than a football team over Kelly’s four years as head coach of the Ducks.

The focus was apparent Thursday night when the No. 5 Ducks knocked off No. 7 Kansas State 35-17. On the opening kickoff, De’Anthony Thomas darted around defenders for a 94-yard touchdown run. Immediately, Oregon converted a two-point conversion by catching K-State off guard.

That’s focus (or, speed).

Up 22-10 heading into halftime thanks to a more Oregon-esque 45-second drive, Kelly still wasn’t satisfied. “I have to call a faster game,” Kelly said to ESPN’s Holly Rowe. “That’s on me.”

That’s focus (or, logistics).

The Ducks then made excellent halftime adjustments along the offensive line and running back Kenjon Barner finished with 143 yards after a sluggish first two quarters.

That’s focus (or, great coaching).

These are just examples of why Oregon is going to be fine if Kelly leaves for the NFL. His players don’t fear his departure. In fact, they respect that their coach seeks to win at the highest of levels because it’s a quality they all possess as competitors. It helps that the university also has a plan. Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich is reportedly the next-in-line to grab the reins should Kelly take his final bow. Per USA Today‘s George Schroeder, Helfrich is a pure cut from Kelly’s philosophical cloth.

He can finish Chip’s sentences,” a source told Schroeder about Helfrich. “He’s been in that environment long enough (to succeed). It’s a leap of faith but it’s very similar – I’d almost argue that it was a bigger leap (promoting) Chip than with Mark.”

If it is a leap, it’s a calculated one. Oregon has a brand and an identity on and off the field matched by few in today’s college football environment. So whether it’s Kelly leading the Ducks on to the field or Helfrich, Oregon is in a position for continued success even with a hearing with the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions looming.

If it is Helfrich? Well, Chip, it’s been fun. And a little too fast in every sense of the word.

Jalen Hurts has seen Heisman odds shorten since transfer to Oklahoma

Getty Images
Leave a comment

I guess that’s what happens when the school to which you moved has produced back-to-back Heisman winners at the position you play, eh?

In mid-January, as he was in the midst of transferring from Alabama, Jalen Hurts was listed by BetOnline.ag as a 9/1 shot to stake his claim as the winner of the 2019 Heisman Trophy.  Very shortly thereafter, Hurts’ move to Oklahoma was confirmed; a month later, in the latest odds released by the same online sportsbook, Hurts now sits at 13/2 to win this year’s version of the most storied trophy in college sports.

As was the case a month ago, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is the way-too-early 2019 Heisman favorite at 7/2, although those odds have lengthened a bit from the initial 3/1.  The quarterback whose play on the field pushed Hurts out in Tuscaloosa, 2018 Heisman runnerup Tua Tagovailoa, also saw his odds lengthen a smidge from 4/1 to 5/1.

Most of the other odds remained relatively steady from that initial release, although USC quarterback JT Daniels and Clemson-to-Missouri transfer Kelly Bryant did both make a move from off the board to part of a mini-pack at 25/1.

For perspective given the fact that we’re still nearly seven months from the 2019 season kicking off, the 2018 Heisman winner, Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray, wasn’t among the two dozen or so college football players listed wagering-wise as potential winners around this time a year ago.  The top three Heisman odds at this time last year?  Stanford running back Bryce Love, Wisconsin running back Johnathan Taylor and Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate, none of whom were finalists for the trophy won by Murray.

2019 signee who left Oklahoma for the military will instead transfer to another school

Getty Images
4 Comments

Never mind, I guess.

Earlier this month, Derek Green, a member of Oklahoma’s 2019 recruiting class, revealed that he would be pursuing a career in the military instead of a career in college football.

“I don’t want to waste anybody’s time,” Green said at the time, “because Oklahoma has a great group of guys on that defense that’s there and coming in and I want them to be successful and they can spend more time developing them while I try to serve my country.”

Green also confirmed at the time that he would be placing his name into the NCAA transfer database, although “that’s just in case I want to go back to it later, but as of right now I’m going to serve my country.”

Fast-forward a few days, and Green announced via Twitter that he will be putting his military career on hold and transferring to a football program other than the one with which he signed back in December.

Green was a consensus three-star signee for the Sooners who enrolled in classes at the university earlier this month.  He was the only signee listed as a defensive tackle in OU’s class this year.

Virginia Tech transfer QB Josh Jackson tweets move to Maryland

Getty Images
1 Comment

For the third time this offseason, first-year head coach Mike Locksley has pulled in a Power Five transfer to his Maryland program.

On his personal Twitter account Monday night, Josh Jackson announced that he has committed to continuing his collegiate playing career for Locksley at Maryland.  Nearly four weeks ago, it was confirmed that Jackson would be leaving Virginia Tech as the quarterback had placed his name into the NCAA transfer database.

As Jackson is expected to graduate from Tech in May, he would be eligible to play for Maryland this coming season.  Not only that, but he will have another year of eligibility he can use in College Park in 2020 as well.

After going through a tumultuous offseason, Jackson began 2018 as the Hokies’ starting quarterback only to suffer a season-ending injury in mid-September.

As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Jackson started all 13 games for the 9-4 Hokies. He passed for 2,991 yards and ran for another 324 yards while accounting for 26 touchdowns — 20 passing, six rushing.  The passing yards were the most for an FBS freshman that season, while the touchdowns passes were the second-most at this level.

Given the fact that he’ll be immediately eligible, Jackson will head into summer camp as the favorite to lay claim to the Terrapins’ starting job under center.

In addition to Jackson, Maryland has landed transfers from wide receiver Sean Savoy and linebacker Keandre Jones.  The former comes to College Park from Virginia Tech, the latter from Ohio State.

Ex-Arizona State LB Jalen Bates announces transfer to Colorado State

Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Not long after declaring he was looking to transfer, ex-Arizona State linebacker Jalen Bates has found his landing spot. Bates is heading to Colorado State.

On Monday, Bates announced to his Twitter followers he is a Ram. The message was posted with a Photoshopped image showing him in a Colorado State football uniform. Bates started 10 games for Arizona State last season, and he has appeared in 18 games during his college career with the Sun Devils. That’s a nice addition for the Rams.

Having already earned his degree from Arizona State, Bates will be eligible to p[lay right away for the Rams this fall.