The former Coos Bay, Ore., resident who was born in Medford(10/28/73) and former Oregon graduate assistant coach (1997) brings with him 11 years of experience coaching quarterbacks at the NCAA Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I) level at Boise State (1998-2000), Arizona State (2001-05) and Colorado (2006-08), and will concentrate his efforts on the Ducks’ passing attack.
In addition, Kelly announced that 24-year Oregon assistant coach Steve Greatwood has been given the additional title of running game coordinator.
Helfrich’s pupils gained their greatest acclaim during his tenure at Arizona State under former Oregon offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, who elevated Helfrich to passing game coordinator in 2003. During his five-year stint in Tempe, Arizona State blossomed into one of the top passing teams in the country. In his final season there, the Sun Devils finished third in the NCAA and led the Pac-10 in passing yards per game (373.9 avg.). ASU posted a school-record 4,481 yards passing that season to elevate its five-year total to 18,686 yards (306.3 avg.) during his stay.
His quarterbacks put up numbers that ranked in the top three of the Pac-10 all five years he was there, leading the league twice (2004, 2005) and finishing second in 2001. His units also finished among the top 10 in the NCAA on three different occasions, as ASU was ranked fifth nationally in 2004 and ninth in 2002 before the school’s highest ever finish with the third place effort in 2005.
“Mark not only impressed me as a very intelligent individual but as someone who utilized that knowledge to coach quarterbacks at both Boise State and Arizona State,” Kelly said. “He has earned a national reputation for developing quarterbacks and played a key role in the emergence of Andrew Walter and Rudy Carpenter at Arizona State. He was highly recommended by everyone he has ever worked with and I view him as one of the rising offensive minds in this game.
“I credit much of our success running the football the last two seasons to Steve Greatwood, which is why I feel he has earned the opportunity to expand his role with the Oregon offense,” Kelly added. “There is no doubt we benefitted from outstanding players at key positions that contributed to our unprecedented success on the ground, but Steve’s ability to develop some of the best offensive linemen in school history cannot be overlooked.”
Ranking as the third-youngest offensive coordinator in the nation a year ago (and the youngest at a BCS school), Helfrich’s offense’s were marked by improvement each of his first two seasons at Colorado, with the Buffaloes’ 5-7 record highlighted by a 17-14 overtime win over West Virginia a year ago.
His first Colorado offense was plagued by inconsistency yet demonstrated explosiveness. CU averaged 4.5 yards per carry and featured three different players rushing for 500 yards or more for just the 10th time in school history. His 2007 team was just the third in school history to gain 1,000 yards on offense more than the previous season in the same number of games, and scored 30 or more points five times in a season for the first time since 2002.
Last season, the Buffaloes finished at the bottom of the Big XIII Conference in total offense (318.5 avg.) and scoring offense (20.2 ppg). Hampering their efforts was the loss of two starting offensive linemen in the first four games of the year as well as a receiving corps that resorted to starting three walk-ons in the season finale in a 40-31 loss at Nebraska.
At Arizona State, he played a significant role in the development of quarterback Andrew Walter, who set school records for both career (85) and single-season touchdowns (30) in addition to shattering the previous Pac-10 record for career touchdown passes, previously set by Stanford’s John Elway at (77). One of only two players in ASU history to tally 3,000 passing yards in a season, Walter did it for a third time in 2004 with a best of 3,150 yards.
Walter, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in 2005, finished his collegiate career as the Sun Devils’ career record holder in nearly every passing category, including yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns, interception percentage, and total offense. When Walter missed the 2004 Sun Bowl against Purdue with an injury, Helfrich tutored sophomore understudy Sam Keller to the game’s MVP honors.
“Growing up in this state and as a long-time Duck fan makes this opportunity a dream come true,” Helfrich admitted. “I have a lot of respect for the guys who have helped build Oregon football into what it is today, which makes this a very attractive place to be.
“I have a good sense for what the University of Oregon stands for nationally, and the reputation that Oregon football and the university have created carries a lot of weight when it comes to convincing recruits to consider their options against the likes of the USCs of the world. I believe I can take advantage of those assets to not only help the players at Oregon now but capture the interests of those across the country.”
Working three years as the quarterback coach at Boise State, he tutored one of school’s all-time greats in Bart Hendricks, the 1999 and 2000 Big West Conference Player of the Year. In 2000, he guided the Broncos to the country's fourth-best passing offense with 321.5 yards per game.
Helfrich graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Southern Oregon University in 1996, where he lettered four years at quarterback. He was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete as a sophomore in 1993, leading the nation in total offense while earning NAIA honorable mention All-America accolades and first-team Columbia Football Association honors in the process. That season, he accumulated 3,196 yards of total offense, including 2,712 passing (23 touchdowns) and 484 rushing (three scores), and topped the 400-yard mark in single-game total offense three times.
He began his coaching career as running backs coach at his alma mater in 1996 before playing and coaching (offensive coordinator) in Europe with the Vienna (Austria) Vikings in the winter of 1997.
The Marshfield High School graduate (1991) and his wife Megan are the parents of one son, Max (1/1/07).