7/24/2014

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Sports

Ducks open spring ball under Mark Helfrich

Ducks open spring ball under Mark Helfrich

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Ducks began spring practice Tuesday under new coach Mark Helfrich.

The team's former offensive coordinator, who was promoted to head coach in January after Chip Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles, called his first practice at the helm "weird, at points."

Oregon is coming off a 12-1 season that was capped with a victory over Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the season's final Associated Press poll.

It was the team's third straight appearance in a BCS bowl game under Kelly, who was credited with creating Oregon's innovative hurry-up spread offense.

Kelly went 46-7 as head coach of the Ducks before leaving for the Eagles. Helfrich had taken over as the team's offensive coordinator when Kelly succeeded Mike Bellotti.

Helfrich has said he does not plan to change Oregon's offense, except for "tweaking" it here and there. And, at least for the spring, he'll keep practices closed to fans and the media, just as Kelly did.

"There's some things we've changed a little bit — how we do some drills — but that happens every year at every school in America ... nothing drastic at all," Helfrich said.

The main thing Helfrich said he wants to see out of practice is improvement.

"We can't be in coast, we can't be in decline, we can't be in idle, we can't be in neutral," he said. "When it's time to work, we work."

The Ducks were without pads for the workout Tuesday at the Moshofsky Center. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who excelled last season as a redshirt freshman, and speedy running back De'Anthony Thomas both took part.

The annual Spring Game is set for April 27 at Autzen Stadium.
 

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