Mark Helfrich is officially out at Oregon. One of the nation’s most intriguing jobs is now available.
Oregon has the Nike connection and top-notch facilities going for it. It’s a job where you can win the national title (two title game appearances this decade). The rub is those national power expectations don’t come with the requisite recruiting footprint. The Pac 12 is deeper than it once was. Even the least traditional teams are coached by Mike Leach, Rich Rodriguez, and Gary Andersen.
The Ducks need a reboot. Expect the next coach to be an experienced head coach and offensive-minded but defense-cognizant. Oregon may opt for someone with more pizazz than Mark Helfrich. It’s the ideal position for a coach who isn’t in line for blue-chip jobs but thinks he should be.
Rule out a couple names for now. Chip Kelly is adamant he does not want to return to college coaching. He lives for drawing up plays in a film dungeon. If Kelly does return to college, it won’t be at a place requiring as much recruiting travel. Jim McElwain is a name that is out there. When there’s a rational reason his name is out there beyond raise and a contract extension leverage, we’ll consider it.
Here are five reasonable candidates.
Dan Mullen [Mississippi State] Mullen is as proven a head coach as Oregon will find. He’s finished Top 15 twice at Mississippi State, the worst SEC West job. He’s gotten the Bulldogs to No. 1 in the nation. Mullen has an extensive list of developed college quarterbacks, including Dallas Cowboys neophyte Dak Prescott. He’s brought capable defensive coordinators to Starkville and sent a bunch of defensive players to the early rounds of the NFL Draft. Mullen is a northerner. Whether it’s ambition or cultural fit, his name comes up a lot. While it feels like he’s been around forever, he’s only 44.
Dana Holgorsen [West Virginia] Holgo fits the offensive mindset. He’s used to out-of-state recruiting. He brings some fire and personality. He’s done a commendable job at West Virginia, handed a raw deal with a wonky conference move. But, that has not engendered mutual good will or a long-term contract extension. We’d love to see what his offense would do with even better skill talent and how his hair would acclimate to the Pacific Northwest.
Larry Fedora [North Carolina] Fedora’s name has come up for every job this offseason. There may be a reason for that.
Fedora did win 11 games last season, against a pitiful regular season schedule. This year, he beat FSU and Miami but lost to meh Duke and N.C. State teams to finish up 8-4. He checks off a lot of boxes: offense, recruiting Texas, decent defensive coordinator hire, sculpted abs. Though, there’s a reason he’s been everyone’s Plan C or D.
P.J. Fleck [Western Michigan] You won’t hire a more exciting coach than P.J. Fleck. The 36-year-old has the best mantra in college football (“Row the Boat”) and is fresh off a 12-0 season. His offense fits the brand. He recruits, and he gets results with those recruits. That said, Oregon is quite a jump from Western Michigan. Fleck does have family considerations that may affect his geographic range.
Bryan Harsin [Boise State] Harsin is not Chris Petersen. But, he worked with him. Harsin has also, for the most part, maintained his success at Boise State with 31 wins and counting over three years and a Fiesta Bowl win in 2014. The 40-year-old is a Northwest native, a young, charismatic recruiter, and has a rep for producing great offense. But, being the right man to keep Boise State on the track may not translate to rebuilding at Oregon.