It’s been a seamless transition for first-year Oregon coach Mark Helfrich so far. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
For this week’s Five Questions, Five Answers feature, we tracked down long-jump and long-form expert Andrew Greif of The Oregonian. Many thanks to Andrew. You can find him at OregonLive.com and on Twitter @AndrewGreif.
1. The results certainly look much the same on the field. Has the transition from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich been as smooth as it seems on the surface?
By every measure and attitude, the Chip Kelly-to-Mark Helfrich transition has been seamless. Even with Scott Frost calling the plays on offense, Oregon still goes for it on fourth down without hesitation (a Kelly trademark) and snaps the ball typically within 15 seconds after each play. Maybe the biggest signal it’s business as usual here? Colt Lyerla’s high-profile departure this week has been met with this refrain: Next man up at tight end.
2. Is there a kryptonite for Marcus Mariota? And how is he handling all the Heisman Trophy chatter?
Marcus Mariota is handling the Heisman talk like he’s answering questions about his daily routine. He’s very low key around the media, but teammates swear that’s his off-field demeanor, as well. His weakness right now is his slow starts — he often overthrows receivers in the first quarter — and the potential trap of not having played in a fourth quarter this season. Other than that, he’s been worth the Heisman talk.
3. What’s the buzz about De’Anthony Thomas this week? What are the odds he plays on Saturday?
De’Anthony Thomas is tricker to judge this week than last, when his position coach essentially ruled him out on a Tuesday. Thomas said Wednesday he only wants to play if he’s 100 percent but against a team like Washington, I’d expect him to play no matter what. He has walked without a limp this week after practices.
4. If Thomas doesn’t go, who steps up? How have the younger backs, Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner, fared so far?
Byron Marshall and Thomas Tyner are the next options should DAT not play again. What you get from Marshall is a tough runner UO has used primarily on inside runs. He hasn’t found much room there, but he’s shifty and has good speed if he can reach the level of a linebacker. Tyner is the changeup back who has vision even Gary Campbell — a running backs coach for 30-plus years — says he can’t teach. A weakness for both has been holding onto the ball.
5. The Oregon defense leads the Pac-12 in allowing just 11.8 points per game so far, this despite losing the No. 3 overall draft pick in Dion Jordan. What have been the keys so far on that side of the ball?
The only real question about Oregon’s defense entering the season regarded its linebackers, where UO needed to replace three starters. Now, however, Derrick Malone leads the team in tackles at middle linebacker and Jordan’s replacement at OLB, Tony Washington, is one of the defensive MVPs so far. UO’s already loaded secondary and defensive line — the latter is good at plugging running lanes but doesn’t get pressure in the backfield often — have performed as well as expected entering this season, led by tackle Taylor Hart and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu.