Mark Helfrich is in his third year as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado, joining the Buffalo staff assembled by new head coach Dan Hawkins when he accepted the Colorado position in December 2005.
Helfrich, 34, is the third youngest offensive coordinator in the nation (120 Division I-A schools), the youngest at a BCS school.
He came to CU from the Arizona State University, where he coached the quarterbacks for five seasons (2001-05), also serving as the Sun Devils’ passing game coordinator the last three of those years under head coach Dirk Koetter.
His first Colorado offense had its struggles, but showed explosiveness at times. CU averaged 4.5 yards per rush and marked just the 10th time in school history that three different players ran for 500 or more yards. His second team in 2007 was just the third in school history to gain 1,000 or more yards on offense than the previous season in the same number of games, and scored 30 or more points five times in a season for the first time since 2002.
Under the guidance of Helfrich, Arizona State blossomed into one of the top passing teams in the country during his tenure in Tempe. In 2005, his final season there, the Sun Devils finished third in the NCAA and easily led the Pac-10 with 373.9 passing yards per game (over 50 better than runner-up USC). The school record 4,481 yards passing put the total number for Helfrich’s time as quarterbacks coach at ASU at 18,686 in 61 games, or an average of 306.3 yards per game. And that number increased to 321.7 in his 36 games as passing coordinator.
His quarterbacks put up numbers that ranked in the top three of the Pac-10 all five years he was there, leading the league twice (2004, 2005) and finishing second in 2001. His units also finished among the top 10 in the NCAA on three different occasions, as ASU was ranked fifth nationally in 2004 and ninth in 2002 before the school’s highest ever finish with the third place effort in ’05.
He developed quarterback Andrew Walter, the key player in ASU’s maturation as a passing team, as he set school records for both career (85) and single-season touchdowns (30) in addition to shattering the previous Pac-10 record for career touchdown passes, set by John Elway at Stanford (77). The only player in ASU history to tally 3,000 passing yards in a season, Walter did it for a third time in 2004 with a season total of 3,150 yards.
Coached by Helfrich for all three years as ASU's starter, Walter was selected in the third round of the NFL draft by the Oakland Raiders. A second-team All-Pac-10 selection and a nominee for both the Johnny Unitas and Davey O'Brien Awards, Walter finished his Sun Devil career as ASU's career record holder in nearly every passing category, including yards, completions, attempts, touchdowns, interception percentage, and total offense. And when Walter missed the Sun Bowl against Purdue with an injury, Helfrich coached sophomore understudy Sam Keller to MVP honors. Finishing with 370 yards and three touchdowns on 25-of-45 passing, Keller directed the ASU offense to a fourth-quarter comeback in his first career start. Responsible for the entire passing game, Helfrich also saw freshman Zach Miller and junior Derek Hagan set school receiving marks in 2004.
In 2002, ASU's passing game finished as one of the most prolific offensive units in school history, demolishing school and conference records along the way. That was evidenced by the Sun Devil record for season passing yards being utterly destroyed by Helfrich's quarterbacks, as they totaled 4,254 yards to better the previous mark by over 1,000 yards. Four other school records fell by the wayside as well. That followed a tremendous beginning in 2001, as the Sun Devils finished second in the Pac-10 in passing offense with an average of 259.3 yards per game, the second-best season passing average in school history at the time.
Helfrich first teamed with Koetter in 1997 at the University of Oregon, where he was an offensive graduate assistant when Koetter was the offensive coordinator for the Ducks. When Koetter was named head coach at Boise State in 1998, he made the transition with him to the Idaho state capital. Working three years as the quarterback coach, he tutored one of BSU’s all-time bests in Bart Hendricks, the 1999 and 2000 Big West Player of the Year. His last year there, 2000, he guided the Broncos to the country's fourth-best passing offense with 321.5 yards per game.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Southern Oregon University in 1996, where he lettered four years at quarterback. He was an NAIA Scholar-Athlete in 1993, his sophomore season. When he led the nation in total offense, earning NAIA honorable mention All-America accolades and first-team Columbia Football Association honors in the process. That season, he had 3,196 yards of total offense, including 2,712 passing (23 touchdowns) and 484 rushing (three scores), topping the 400-yard mark in single-game total offense three times. It was that same year that Helfrich would first catch the eye of Hawkins, who was in his first year as head coach at Willamette; he watched as Helfrich had 410 yards of offense and a school record six touchdowns to lead SOU to a 61-48 win.
Helfrich began his coaching career as running backs coach at his alma mater for the 1996 season, and then both played and coached (offensive coordinator) in Europe for a year with the Vienna (Austria) Vikings, in 1997, before landing his first position at a Division I-A school.
He was born October 28, 1973 in Medford, Ore., and graduated from Marshfield High School in Coos Bay (Ore.), where he lettered in football under coach Kent Wigle, as well as in basketball, track and golf. He is married to the former Megan Kelly, and the couple has a son Max (1).
TOP PLAYERS COACHED—All-Pacific 10 Performers (1): Andrew Walter (second-team). NFL Players/Draft Picks (3): Ryan Dinwiddie, Bart Hendricks, Walter.
RECORD—He has coached in 122 Division I-A games as a full-time coach, owning a record of 67-55 (8-17 at Colorado, 26-10 at Boise State, 33-28 at Arizona State); he has coached in seven bowl games (on the winning end five times).