A New Era for Duck Football

By UO student Chelsea Fullmer

New coach. New complex. New season. With the season opening game against Nicholls State around the corner, the Ducks gear up in a new facility with a new head coach to uphold a No. 3 preseason ranking.

After Chip Kelly bolted for the NFL after four seasons as head coach to become the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich was named his successor. Running the notorious fast-paced, no-huddle, spread offense, Helfrich stepped up to the plate to lead the 2013 Fiesta Bowl Champions toward a BCS title. With returning star quarterback and early Heisman Trophy candidates Marcus Mariota and breakout all purpose-player De’Anthony Thomas still in his lineup, Helfrich and the Ducks look to continue the success Kelly built before his departure.

Coming off a 12-1 season, winning the Fiesta Bowl against Kansas State and finishing the season at No. 2 behind national champions Alabama, the Ducks were ranked No. 3 in three different preseason polls—the AP Top 25, USA Today Poll and ESPN.com’s Power Rankings poll. The SEC’s Alabama is ranked No. 1 and the Big Ten’s Ohio State is at No. 2.

With a No. 3 ranking, high profile returning starters and strong recruits coming into the game for the first time, the Ducks also have a brand new football facility to accommodate the growing and successful program. Nike co-founder and Duck alum Phil Knight ’59 founded an estimated $68 million football facility next to Autzen Stadium and the Casanova Center.

The Hatfield-Dowlin Complex opened to the public earlier this month, shocking fans, players, coaches and the nation with its design and modernity. Including a barber shop, a viewing theater seating more than 170 people, touch screen lockers, and a lobby with 64 TV screens, the new complex has been said to be a facility that NFL teams should be jealous of. Autzen Stadium also received a facelift with new signage on the north-side skyboxes and even a waterfall trickling down by the west-side entrance, closest to the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex.

Aside from the hype of a new head coach and a multi-million dollar facility, the team prepares for a schedule built to test. After the season opener against Nicholls State at Autzen Stadium on August 31, the Ducks travel across the country to take on an ACC conference opponent, the Virginia Cavaliers, for the first time. The Ducks then welcome an SEC opponent in the Tennessee Volunteers to Autzen Stadium on September 14. The last time these two teams met, the Ducks won at Neyland Stadium 48-13 after a thunder and lightning storm delayed the game for more than an hour.

Pac-12 play begins the weekend before school starts on September 28 against the Cal Bears. Looking to clinch the Pac-12 North and to play for the Pac-12 Championship game, the Ducks have a tough conference schedule. With away games at Stanford and Washington, the team needs big wins to claim the Pac-12 Championship title and earn a postseason BCS bowl game berth.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota also made a splash this summer on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Projected as an early Heisman trophy candidate, the breakout quarterback has strong returning starters on both sides of the ball. De’Anthony Thomas, WR Josh Huff, CB Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, TE Colt Lyerla, and OL Hroniss Grasu are just a few impact returning starters of the roster. The team also welcomes five-star prospect Thomas Tyner to the roster. From Aloha High School (Aloha, Ore.), Tyner broke a state record with 643 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns in a single game, beating Lakeridge High School 84-63.

With returning talent, new talent, new coaches and new facilities, the Oregon Ducks have a high profile season ahead of them as they look to return to a BCS bowl game for the fifth year in a row. Opponents near and far look to take down the Ducks as the Ducks look to simply “Win the Day.”

Cheer on your Ducks at a home or away game! Check ticket availability at GoDucks.com and join the Duck Alumni Tailgate at various away games.