By Sam Finley

There’s no question that Will Stein made an immediate impact as Oregon football’s offensive coordinator last season. The Ducks were second only to Louisiana State University in the following offensive categories: total yards, yards per game, and points per game. Moreover, the UO football team won 12 games and finished ranked seventh in the country. But it’s a whole new season in September, and with it comes a new set of challenges. Gone are Heisman finalist Bo Nix at quarterback, Bucky Irving at running back, and Troy Franklin at receiver. Nonetheless, Stein is confident that there’s plenty of young talent coming in. The new guys simply need to learn the playbook. 

 “It’s all about learning our system,” he says. “Being a master of the little things like knowing the formations, understanding protections, and time on tasks. The more we do it, the better these guys will get. We’ve got a lot of great players and it’s all about getting them the ball, so we can get up early. I really like where we’re at. We’re not quite where we want to be, but we are on schedule.” 

This time around, however, the Ducks won’t just have the welcome problem of figuring out which five-star athletes get playing time and when. They’ll also be shifting from the high-flying Pac-12 conference to the more rugged Big Ten. With that comes the expectation that every yard will have to be earned through pounding punishment.

“Our ability to run the ball without RPOs (run-pass-options) is where we must be better,” Stein explains. “We’re going to a league that is notorious for a physical style of football, and we believe we have that going into this conference. But we’re going to have to be able to run the football in the fourth quarter to win.”

The Oregon coaching staff is more than confident that Stein can have the offense ready for what must come. Considered a great collaborator, he’s well-respected by his peers.

“He does a great job working with other coaches,” says UO head football coach Dan Lanning. “Will has brought some terrific ideas and is always studying things to see what else is possible. And he doesn’t have an ego, which is important in this profession. He’s done an outstanding job in figuring out how he can improve and grow as a coach.”

Stein also has much love for the UO and its community. The former Louisville quarterback has a lot to say about the unique qualities this area has to offer.

“The people in Eugene are great,” he says. “I think it all boils down to that. Fantastic people that have been loving and welcoming since I set foot on this campus last year. The leadership at this university is top-notch, with a direct vision and alignment that doesn’t veer. I’ve been at other schools where I don’t feel that type of vibe. There’s no place like Oregon. I’ve never seen it done like this, and it goes back to the great people and the way they treat you.”

And that’s what makes the 34-year-old offensive coordinator even more excited for what’s ahead. Not only do his Ducks want to win the conference in their first Big Ten season, they want to win that elusive national championship once and for all. For his part, he’s optimistic about the team’s potential.

“Again, we’ve got a lot of talented players on our roster,” Stein says. “Now it’s about coaching them up and setting them free on Saturdays.”