Oregon East? With Frost at UCF, we’ll see how far Ducks’ system can fly
For the past seven years, Oregon has been shredding defenses and piling up victories with the unique offensive system former coach Chip Kelly installed and Mark Helfrich expanded. Strangely, though, no other FBS program had tried to emulate it — until now.
On Wednesday, UCF introduced Ducks offensive coordinator Scott Frost as its new head coach, replacing the retired George O’Leary. The 40-year-old becomes the first coach from the Kelly/Oregon tree to take over a different program, and he intends to install "the whole playbook" under which stars Marcus Mariota, Vernon Adams, LaMichael James and many others have thrived.
"I believe in our system — it’s been the most consistent one out there over the past decade," Frost told FOX Sports from Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday. "This place has such a high ceiling, there’s so many players in this state that can run and play. We need the type of players you could plug into our system and play."
It should be fascinating to watch.
At this point a small army of FBS programs — including half the Big 12 — runs some variation of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense. Bowling Green’s Dino Babers and Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery, both former assistants under Art Briles, have exported Baylor’s prolific offense to other locales.
But Frost — who in three seasons as Helfrich’s coordinator produced offenses ranked No. 2 (2013), No. 2 (’14) and No. 4 (’15) in yards per play — will be the first to set up what is essentially "Oregon East." And he’ll do it at a school just two years removed from a 12-win, Fiesta Bowl championship season.
Frost faces a seemingly daunting rebuild first, what with UCF plummeting to an 0-12 season in 2015. But the "cool factor" attached to Oregon’s offense should attract recruits. Presumably he’ll be making a lot of living room pitches the next few months that involve some variation of "come be the next De’Anthony Thomas."
And it’s a plausible sell in a fertile recruiting state that’s known in particular for speed.
"The recruiting base right around here is going to be perfect," Frost said. "There’s all sorts of kids around here that can run. If there’s a kid who wants to play in a fast-paced, exciting offense, this is the program he’ll want to look at."
Frost, a member of Kelly’s original 2009 Oregon staff, has been bandied about as a candidate over the past several coaching-change cycles, so it came as a surprise to some that when he finally left, it was for a non-Power 5 program.
The former Nebraska quarterback had other opportunities, but either the timing wasn’t right (he said Wednesday he did not want to leave before Mariota’s eventual Heisman season) or the jobs weren’t attractive enough. UCF, with its fairly recent success (it shared an American title just last year), proved a more enticing opportunity than a long-struggling Power 5 school.
"I’ve seen coaches that are desperate to get Power 5 jobs that go to the bottom of the conference, they coach three years and they’re done. That doesn’t sound fun to me," he said. "This place has a better recruiting base, good support compared to those schools. I like to win too much to go somewhere where I don’t think we can get it done like this place has done."
It also goes without saying that if Frost does win at UCF he’ll likely have better Power 5 opportunities down the road. Fellow American school Memphis just sent Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech, while Houston’s Tom Herman and Temple’s Matt Rhule have become hot commodities themselves.
First, though, we get to find out for the first time whether the Oregon system can travel.
"I feel like I’d be doing a great disservice to the other guys at Oregon, if the first guy to leave doesn’t work out," Frost said. "I wouldn’t have gone somewhere if I didn’t think we could win."
Stewart Mandel is a senior college sports columnist for FOXSports.com. He covered college football and basketball for 15 years at Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter @slmandel and Facebook. Send emails and Mailbag questions to Stewart.Mandel@fox.com.