Chantel Jennings, ESPN Staff Writer

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  • Covers the Pac-12
  • Joined ESPN in 2011
  • Graduate of the University of Michigan

Graduate transfers have gained plenty of public attention this offseason. Between Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson heading to Florida State or Iowa QB Jake Rudock leaving Iowa for Michigan or Cal defensive end Brennan Scarlett transferring to bitter rival Stanford, the storylines have been rich.

But no school has benefited from graduate transfers quite as much as Oregon, who welcomed two transfers ready to help fill the shoes of Marcus Mariota and Hroniss Grasu.

Because while it was fantastic for the Ducks to have a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback and his faithful workhorse at center, their presence and skill level meant that those behind them really didn’t get much work. And so when it came to the transition process, the main knock against everyone trying to step into those roles was, “Well, they don’t have any game experience.”

Enter former Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams and former Notre Dame center Matt Hegarty, who don’t have that knock against them because they came from schools where they were the all-everything quarterback and the workhorse center.

At Helfrich’s news conference on Tuesday, he couldn’t explicitly discuss Adams because he technically hasn’t joined the program yet as a few things need to be taken care of at Eastern Washington. However, Adams has moved to Eugene.

But in definitive terms, Helfrich said that he doesn’t “anticipate any hiccups” with the process of getting Adams fully enrolled in school.

Hegarty, who’s already on campus and doesn’t have any classes to finish at Notre Dame, was a player whom Helfrich willingly discussed. And though the depth on the offensive line is less a worry than at quarterback (just because of the amount of rotation that happened last season because of injury), Helfrich was happy about the leadership that Hegarty would bring to the group.

“That infusion of leadership, just playing that position for any period of time, you’re going to have a natural way about you,” Helfrich said. “And we would anticipate that to be the case.”

Hegarty started 11 games last season for the Fighting Irish at guard and center. That kind of versatility should serve him well at Oregon as offensive line coach Steve Greatwood likes to have his players prepared to play several positions on the line.

But neither Greatwood nor Helfrich will actually get to work with either of these graduate transfers until fall camp. Until then, coaches are relying on the players to indoctrinate the graduate transfers into the program so that by the time camp rolls around, it’s not just football experience that will help them fight for positions, but Oregon football experience.

“For all newcomers, those guys are kind of thrown into the fire as far as how they do the player-run practices and all those things,” Helfrich said. “We have complete confidence in that process.”

It will be an interesting process for the Ducks as quarterbacks Jeff Lockie and Morgan Mahalak and the entire offensive line will basically be grooming the players with whom they’ll compete for playing time. But, chances are, the better the competition this fall, the fuller Mariota and Grasu’s shoes will look this fall.

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