(PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Lowly Nicholls State plays the Oregon Ducks at 1 p.m. Saturday at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, entering as 59-point underdogs.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich refused to divulge whether his team would open up the playbook against the Colonels of Thibodaux, La., a Football Championship Subdivision team that lost 77-3 at Oregon State last season.
“We’re not doing anything (different) because of who we’re playing,” he says. “We’re more or less going with our strengths. We don’t know exactly what they’re going to do, they don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Let’s face the facts: It’s a glorified scrimmage.
“You’re going with what you’ve done in fall camp the best,” Helfrich says, “and what players have a ton of confidence in.”
An annihilation on the horizon?
“We don’t talk about that,” he adds, “whether we’re playing a team that’s thought to be inferior or superior. We approach it the same. We’re playing to our standard. We’re not going to coach with any different effort.”
• Helfrich says his only message to offensive coordinator Scott Frost, who is set to call plays in his first game, is “attack. Go fast.”
Along with giving Frost play-calling duties, Helfrich says he has given very little input to defensive coaches, including coordinator Nick Aliotti.
“Those guys are experts,” he says. “They’ve done a great job. I’m not in there teaching (defensive line coach) Ron Aiken how to two-gap.”
Helfrich won’t call plays or coach defense, but Helfrich has said he can override decisions. He wants to talk with players on the sidelines.
• The Ducks list De’Anthony Thomas as the No. 1 running back on the depth chart, but Helfrich says the Ducks came away from training camp plenty confident in sophomore Byron Marshall.
“He’s been outstanding,” Helfrich says. “Byron had a really good fall camp, exactly what we hoped for — playing fast, playing almost reckless how he hits it downhill. A fast physical guy who can run routes and catch.”
Prize freshman Thomas Tyner has been sidelined with an injury, and Helfrich conceded that the Aloha High product “is a little further down in terms of development.”
Helfrich adds: “Thomas is a guy who showed flashes of that guy you saw in high school. We’ll keep milking it. We hope he develops in a hurry.”
• Rodney Hardrick and Derrick Malone, former prep teammates in Colton, Calif. (along with kicker Alejandro Maldonado), have been named starters at the Mike (Hardrick) and Will (Malone) linebacker positions, alongside Sam (Boseko Lokombo).
But Helfrich made it clear that a lot of guys are still in the mix to play, including Lake Oswego’s Tyson Coleman, who has shined since taking more reps inside. And, Newport’s Oshay Dunmore has also draw some praise since moving to outside linebacker.
“We’re excited to see the sum of all those parts in action,” Helfrich says, of linebackers.
• Helfrich, on the brink of his first game as UO coach, says he never dreamed of being a big-college head coach. Rather, “I always listened to (radio announcer) Bill Schonely on the radio with the Blazers, and I remember drawing up inbounds plays. That’s about the closest I ever came to dreaming of coaching. But I think everybody’s excited, and excited for our guys, first and foremost.”
• Notes: The Ducks have won eight consecutive home openers, averaging 52.9 points per game. The last defeat: 2004 against Indiana. … Although the Ducks open against an FCS team, they and USC are the only teams ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 with at least 11 games against BCS-league schools. … Thomas needs one touchdown to break a tie with Ahmad Rashad (36) for fourth all-time at UO. … Mike Bellotti (1995) is the only head coach to win his debut since Jim Aiken in 1947. Helfrich will be the second. … It appears 2012 prize recruit Arik Armstead could be ready for a breakout year. He’s listed as a defensive tackle starter, ahead of Ricky Havili-Heimuli. … True freshman Johnny Mundt is listed as the No. 1 tight end, perhaps partly because Pharaoh Brown missed training camp time with an injury. … Mana Greig and Hamani Stevens are listed as offensive guard starters. … Maldonado and true freshman Matt Wogan are listed as co-No. 1 place-kickers on the depth chart.