Kelly eager to see how Ducks measure up to LSU
'The plan is to win,' Oregon coach says
EUGENE - Through the long hot days of summer, the start of the college football season can seem an eternity away. But time has passed, as it always does. Now, Oregon is just days away from its opener on Saturday against LSU at Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
This will be the third season opener for Ducks coach Chip Kelly since he took over the program. His first go at it was a debacle at Boise State in 2009. His second chance was a godlike blowout of New Mexico last season.
Kelly was not interested Tuesday in answering questions about how ready the 2011 squad is to begin the season compared to past teams.
'I'll find out when you find out,' Kelly said. 'I'm not a guy that's making predictions that we feel good or we don't feel good. Today is still Tuesday. We're not playing the game until Saturday.'
What is undeniable is the magnitude of the game between the No. 3 Ducks and the No. 4 Tigers. The Cowboys Classic will have huge national title implications and will force both teams to hit the ground running.
'It's the challenge of going against one of the best teams in the country,' Kelly said. 'If you want to be the best, you have to measure yourself against the best. We love playing in games like this. This university and this football team specifically will not back down to anybody.'
The last SEC team the Ducks faced was Auburn in the national championship game. That day ended with Auburn kicking a last minute game winning field goal that left the Duck players in tears. But, just because Auburn and LSU hail from the same conference does not mean they will present the same challenges.
'Everybody wants to paint that brush because both teams are from the SEC,' Kelly said. 'It's no different than when you watch Washington and Oregon play. We're both in the same conference, but we're not similar, scheme-wise. There are some things that LSU does on defense that are really good that Auburn hadn't done. There's some things that Auburn does that LSU doesn't do.
'People try to say they're both SEC teams, so this is going to be the deal. But we approach every opponent as its own entity and we're not comparing LSU to Auburn at all.'
The Tigers figure to give Oregon enough to worry about on their own. When asked about which Tiger players have impressed him, Kelly smiled a little.
'Take your pen out, because it's a long list,' Kelly said. 'Their offensive line is outstanding. There's really not many holes from an athletic standpoint or just a football player standpoint in LSU's lineup.'
One player the Ducks will not have to worry about is LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who will miss the game after being arrested last week following a bar fight. Still, Kelly insists that backup QB Jarrett Lee will be dangerous.
'I've been really impressed with him since he played as a redshirt freshman for them,' Kelly says of Lee. 'He's the son of a coach. Watch what he did at the end of the Tennessee game last year, what he did at the end of the Florida game last year. He's got a lot of experience.
'He's got a live arm, he can throw the ball. You can tell that he's got some real field intelligence out there in terms of running the show. We know that Jordan was a tremendous football player. But I don't think there's going to be a real drop-off of quarterback play, because I'm really impressed with what I've seen out of Jarrett so far.'
Lee is heralded as a drop-back passer, while Jefferson was a running quarterback. But, LSU's switch of quarterbacks apparently has caused very little change in the Ducks' preparations this week.
'Obviously, your preparation has to change slightly, because they're a little bit different players,' Kelly says. 'But LSU is not going to change their entire offense. Jarrett's been in that offense since he's been there.'
LSU's offensive coordinator situation going into this season is a bit convoluted. Steve Kragthorpe, who the Tigers hired as their offensive coordinator in January, stepped down at the beginning of fall camp because of Parkinson's disease. He has remained on as the quarterbacks coach. Greg Studrawa, LSU's offensive line coach since 2007, was promoted to offensive coordinator.
Whoever is up in the booth, Kelly says, the Tigers' offensive attack will be masterminded by head coach Les Miles.
'It's going to be a compilation of what Les has done,' Kelly says. 'As we look at it, it's still Coach Miles' offense. He's been an offensive guy everywhere he's been, and been really successful everywhere he's been. It's going to be a lot of what LSU has done in the past. Obviously, when you add new coaches to your staff, they'll bring in a few new wrinkles, so we have studied what Kragthorpe has done when he was at Louisville.'
With all the hype around the season opener, the strategy and storylines can, will and have been explored in minutia. No one would accuse Kelly of walking into any game without preparing for every conceivable scenario. But at the end of the day, what Kelly wants the Ducks to do is very simple.
'The plan is to win,' he says. 'Flat out win.'