EUGENE — Mark Helfrich didn’t take the bait.
After Monday’s practice Oregon’s first-year head coach was asked several times, in several different ways, about making sure the No. 3 Ducks don’t overlook Nicholls in Saturday’s opener at Autzen Stadium.
The Colonels have struggled against FCS competition the past two seasons and were drubbed 77-3 by Oregon State in Corvallis last year.
Even after a reporter joked that “I thought you were in Philadelphia” — a reference to Chip Kelly’s cliche-filled press conferences — the affable Helfrich stuck to the script.
“I have no preference,” Helfrich said when asked if he would rather start the season against a top-25 opponent. “I like playing football. It doesn’t matter.“
The Ducks started putting in the game plan last Saturday and will talked about Nicholls’ strengths and weaknesses during position meetings on Monday night.
“Then it’s all about us,” Helfrich said. “That’s how we approach everybody.“
Offensive coordinator Scott Frost said if the players aren’t motivated for the first game of the season, no matter the opponent, then the coaches have recruited the wrong players.
“We go out and try to set our own personal standard and play as good as we can and be the best version of ourselves as we can be,” Frost said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing a high school team or an NFL team, we just have to go out and execute as best as we can. The rest usually takes care of itself.”
Depth chart released
UO released its first official depth chart of the 2013 season on Monday. There were no real surprises with so many experienced returners this season.
As Helfrich indicated after Saturday’s practice, Hamani Stevens (right) and Mana Greig (left) will be the new starting guards. Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardick will be the new starting outside linebackers in positions where the Ducks lose leading tacklers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso from last season.
Marcus’ Mariota’s backup is listed as Jeff Lockie or Jake Rodrigues. Helfrich said Lockie will be the first reserve signal caller to enter the game against Nicholls should the situation arise where Mariota is pulled with a big lead.
De’Anthony Thomas will start at running back with Byron Marshall behind him. Freshman Johnny Mundt is Colt Lyerla’s backup at tight end after a great camp.
Defensively, Arik Armstead has won a starting job at defensive tackle over Ricky Havili-Heimuli. The Ducks are expected to rotate heavily on the line.
Freshman Matt Wogan or Alejandro Maldonado will handle place-kicking duties, likely based on the distance of each field goal attempt. Maldonado is the starting punter, and Wogan will handle the kickoffs.
The only difficult decisions remaining would be whether to burn the redshirts of freshmen if there is a rash of injuries.
“I think we’re in a good place,” Helfrich said. “There are a few guys that are kind of on the bubble that we’re going to work with and try to preserve their redshirt year. If that doesn’t happen down the road, those are the really tough ones when you get midway through the season and circumstances lend themselves to plugging a guy in there.”