The Chip Kelly Impact: What It Means for Ohio State
By Brandon Castel
COLUMBUS, Ohio — In what turned out to be the second biggest sports story of the day on Wednesday – and by far the less bizarre or surprising of the two – Chip Kelly changed his mind about the NFL.
We don’t exactly why he is leaving Oregon, or what the Eagles did to persuade him they had a better job waiting for him in Philadelphia. Maybe the Ducks received some unwanted news from the NCAA – isn’t there supposed to be a hammer of some sorts any moment now? – or maybe he got tired of being under Phil Knight’s thumb.
We may never know the real reason, although we should hear Kelly’s version of it very shortly, but his decision to leave Eugene sets off a tidal wave of ripple effects across the college football landscape.
Oregon was, as Urban Meyer would say, “the flavor of the week” in college football. Right up there with Ohio State, Alabama, Notre Dame and Texas A&M as far as programs at the forefront, but that all could be about to change.
Insert Mark Helfrich?
It will be interesting to see what Mike Bellotti decides to do with his new coaching vacancy. On one hand, oregon is a hot program right now and Phil Knight’s bottomless bank account would be attractive to just about anyone.
On the other hand, coaching the Ducks still doesn’t hold the same kind of panache as, say USC or Texas. More than likely, Oregon will promote offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to replace Kelly.
At least that’s what they have been telling recruits, and that’s what is being reported by USA Today.
Helfrich, 39, has been Kelly's offensive coordinator for the past four seasons, but Bellotti originally tried to hire him as his offensive coordinator back in 2007. Helfrich had just taken the offensive coordinator job at Colorado and ultimately said no to Bellotti, who then settled on a bright, young offensive coordinator at New Hampshire named Chip Kelly.
Three years later, Kelly snagged Helfrich away from Colorado to be his offensive coordinator at Oregon. It only makes sense they would go this direction, which was reportedly the plan when Kelly first interviewed for NFL jobs, but Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens has promised to conduct a national search and interview “multiple candidates.”
One name to keep an eye on here is Tom Herman. If the job doesn’t go to Helfrich, or even if it does, expect to hear Herman’s name mentioned a few times. It’s difficult to tell if Ohio State’s 37-year-old offensive coordinator would be a real candidate to replace Kelly, but you never know in this topsy-turvy college football world.
Oregon will want to bring in a splash hire in order to keep the positive momentum going, and they are going to want someone who runs a similar system if they go outside the program.
It seems doubtful Herman would be more qualified to lead the Ducks than Helfrich, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see his name pop up as a potential candidate.
Dontre Wilson Back in Play
Urban Meyer is probably pretty happy he kept that wide receiver spot open for the 2013 class now that Dontre Wilson is back in play.
The DeSoto, Tex. product has been committed to the Ducks since he received an offer back in May, but he had the Buckeyes in his final two before making up his mind to play for Chip Kelly.
Wilson recently told SportsDayHS columnist Matt Wixon he would be “back to square one” with his recruitment if Chip Kelly left Oregon, which means Ohio State could be right back in the thick of things.
Initially, Wilson claimed he would stick with his Oregon commitment so long as Helfrich was promoted to run the same offense they have had the last five years, but now it sounds like he is planning to take some visits before National Signing Day.
One of them could very well be to Columbus. Wilson had interest in the Buckeyes because of Meyer’s new offense and there’s no question Meyer has interest in him. This kid is a flat out stud, maybe the best offensive player in the state of Texas this past year.
The 5-10, 180-pound back rushed for almost 1,900 yards and 37 touchdowns as a senior. He also caught close to 40 passes for 750 yards and nine more scores, while helping DeSoto reach the Division 5A state championship game.
Don’t rule out Mack Brown and the Longhorns, who were considered to be Wilson’s third finalist behind Oregon and Ohio State, but Wilson really wants to play in a true spread offense.
Tom Herman is also a big connection here, as he is a former Mack Brown assist who is also Meyer’s primary recruiter in the state of Texas.
If we learned anything about Urban Meyer on Wednesday it’s that he wastes no time going after what he wants. Within hours of the announcement that Kelly would leave Eugene, Ohio State had already offered two other Oregon commits in Tyree and Tyrell Robinson.
They are twin brothers out of San Diego who were also planning to play basketball at Oregon, but now they are planning to re-open their recruitments to see what other options might be available.
Tyree is listed as an athlete and Tyrell is a linebacker, and they are two of the more highly-rated players in Oregon’s 2013 class. Both are listed as 4-star prospects and it’s likely they would come as a package deal. USC and Notre Dame are considered to be the two most likely landing spots for the Robinsons if they decide to duck out on Oregon, but Meyer is making a push to at least be in the conversation.
Any Other Impact?
Kelly’s departure doesn’t mean a whole lot for the Buckeyes other than the fact Ohio State should go into next year as the clear-cut favorite outside the SEC. Maybe that doesn’t mean a whole lot, especially considering the SEC has won the last seven BCS titles.
There was some concern, however, about a potential a controversy over who might play in the title game at the end of next year if it came down to undefeated Ohio State, undefeated Oregon and a one-loss Alabama team.
It’s still very possible the Ducks could run the table, but it seems far less likely they will be as highly-regarded under a new head coach as they would have been if Kelly were still in Eugene.
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