Helfrich Ready to Start the Season

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -- Oregon Head Football Coach Mark Helfrich took center stage on Wednesday during the Pac-12 Football Media Day and was a bit surprised that he had to give an opening statement.

Not sure why there should be a surprise, after all his team is favored to win the conference title by first winning the North Division and then take the conference title in the championship game that will be held at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. However being picked to win and winning are two different things so the coach keeps some things in mind as he prepares his team for the season

I think our constant deal in our program is getting better," said Helfrich of what his team is focusing on. "The one thing we talked about constantly is getting better, and that certainly doesn't end."

The Ducks was the overwhelming choice of media voters to snag the title this year, which is no surprise for anyone closely following college football. The Ducks after all return the most exciting quarterback in the country, Marcus Mariota, who passed on the 2014 NFL Draft where he was a certain first rounder. Helfrich is well aware of what Mariota's decision to stay in school meant and what effect the decision has on teammates.

"He’s one hundred percent dedicated to the team, and one hundred percent credible," related Helfrich about Mariota. "A lot of guys talk a good game. Everything that guy (Mariota) does is gospel."

Mariota along with linebacker Derrick Malone accompanied Helfrich to Tinsel Town for the media gala that was held at Paramount Studios.

Mariota, who will be the subject of a Pac-12 Networks feature, which is sponsored by Chevron, on the academic side of Mariota's college life. The red-shirt junior is actually ready to walk the walk to pick up his Bachelor's Degree in General Science.

"One of the profiled student-athletes is here today," said conference commissioner Larry Scott of Mariota. "Not just because of his skill at quarterback, but we also want to celebrate his academic achievements in the field of science."

Helfrich had praise too for Malone, one of the guys who saved the day at the Alamo Bowl last December by picking off a pass and returning it for a touchdown against Texas.

"Derrick's a guy that kind of along the lines of Don Pellum (Oregon's defensive coordinator)," said Helfrich of Malone. "He can walk into every position meeting room and have instant credibility. He can talk to anybody on offense too and throughout our team. He's a guy that kind of walks a walk and always talks the talk."

The Ducks finished 11-2 last year in a season that despite the flashy record was somewhat disappointing for some fans. The Ducks were favored to win the Pac-12 last season and spent much of the season as a co-favorite with Alabama to reach the BCS championship. As it turned out, nether teams made it to the final BCS Championship game but again whether you ask the bookmakers in Las Vegas or the fans on the street, the Ducks and Tide will be two of team to make the four-team playoff.

It's a while between now and when those playoff games are played to determine the national championship, but for sure it isn't likely Helfrich will be taken by surprise when the time comes.

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