Who will replace Chip Kelly as the ‘next man in’?

Posted by Isaac Rosenthal on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 2:41 pm.

Chip Kelly is now the former head football coach at the University of Oregon.

The “next man in” mantra that defined the Ducks this year as they battled injury problems and relied on the depth of their bench to not lose a step now applies to the coaching staff. Who that next man is for the Ducks though, isn’t entirely clear, though many have rumored current offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich to be the heir apparent.

Helfrich has not been a head coach, but has been the offensive coordinator at Oregon throughout Kelly’s time as head coach and has worked on the staff at several other major college programs, including serving as the offensive coordinator at Colorado, a job that made him the youngest offensive coordinator at a BCS school.

But while Helfrich is expected by many to follow Kelly, becoming the third-straight offensive coordinator to be promoted to head coach at Oregon, the athletic department hasn’t confirmed this and says they will be conducting a full search. As he addressed the media today, athletic director Rob Mullens said that nobody is “a leader in the clubhouse,” but speculation remains that Helfrich will be the Ducks’ next coach.

Even if that is the plan, the Ducks are required by state law to interview at least one minority candidate, which may be as simple as interviewing current running backs coach Gary Campbell. Campbell has been on the Ducks staff for three decades and has coached LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner, but also greats of the 1980s and ’90s such as Derek Loville and Reuben Droughns, but there’s no indication that he wants the head coaching job.

While he isn’t considered a frontrunner, some have connected Boise State head coach Chris Petersen to the job. When his name was briefly tied to the Wisconsin vacancy earlier this offseason, Petersen seemed to indicate he had no interest in leaving Boise, but the Broncos head coach does have ties to Oregon — he was a wide receivers coach in the Bellotti era — and as the past 24 hours have indicated, what is true one week in the world of college football may not be true the next week.

Whoever Mullens taps to take over the Ducks, they’ll inherit a mixed bag. The Ducks have De’Anthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota returning, but also are dealing with an ongoing conflict with the NCAA that could result in some sort of sanction against the Ducks.