In my last article I discussed all that Gary Campbell has done for the Oregon Duck program and his impressive collection of game-day suits. Even though his collection of suits is impressive, he may not even be the best dressed coach at Oregon. There is one man who can challenge him for college football’s best dressed coach and that is Don Pellum. Pellum, like Campbell, is much more than just an impressive collection of suits. Pellum isn’t just a position coach turned coordinator — he played, began coaching and worked his way up the coaching ladder at Oregon.
Pellum began his tenure at Oregon playing linebacker under legendary coach Rich Brooks from 1980 through the 1984 season. However, graduating didn’t stop him from moving forward with the program. The following season he became a graduate assistant working with tight ends. Pellum coached various positions at Oregon while working on his master’s degree.
He did have a short period from 1987, when he coached at Willamette University, but he returned to Oregon a year later. Pellum again left Oregon in 1990 to go to Cal. However, this was only a phase that Pellum was going through, as his heart belonged to Oregon and he returned once again in 1993. This time Pellum was here to stay as he became a staple on the defensive coaching staff.
During his time in Eugene, he has gone from coaching outside linebackers to safeties, back to linebackers again, and then the defensive line, finally settling with linebackers once more in 2000. During his tenure at Oregon the defense has never been a focus of the team. The defense has had a rather thankless job as the fans and the media usually focus on the offensive exploits.
While it’s fun to watch the offense score 50 points a game, as well as draw ratings on ESPN, casual fans have often viewed the defense as the team’s weakness. However, a closer look at the defense shows that it has been solid during Pellum’s time with Oregon. As an example, Auburn held the Oregon offense to 19 points in the 2011 National Championship Game, and it was the Oregon defense that kept the game close. To see just how solid the defense has been during the time Pellum has been coaching, and what’s more, to see Pellum during his days as a player, watch the Mighty Oregon DVD. Follow the rise of the program and the defense that has supported this warp-speed offense for years.
Pellum has also embraced the Oregon coaching philosophy and belief that Oregon is a family. With this in mind, Oregon does not often hire outsiders to join the coaching staff. Just a brief look at the past few hires at Oregon makes this abundantly clear.
Following Mike Bellotti was Bellotti’s offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, with Mark Helfrich — Kelly’s OC — following when Chip bolted for the NFL. The trend of hiring within the coaching staff is not limited to promoting offensive coordinators, though. Following the promotion of Helfrich, Scott Frost was promoted from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator.
Pellum, much like Helfrich, was a graduate assistant at Oregon, and both of them embraced the sense of continuity when they were asked to fill the shoes of great coaches. Last season, Pellum was promoted to defensive coordinator following the retirement of Nick Aliotti. Not just anyone can maintain a position like Aliotti did for 14 consecutive seasons. To succeed at that level is no small task.
While some thought that Pellum was not up to the task of leading the defense of a national championship contender, he has proven to be the right man for the job. Promoting from within the program, maintains its continuity and atmosphere.
While many coaches would love an opportunity to be a part of this program, those who haven’t been part of it already are not fully aware of what it took to build it up to where it is today. Pellum has coached during the down years and played during the even lower years, so he knows how special this run of success has been. With him at the helm of our defense, I do not see this run ending any time soon.
Article Inspiration from the Mighty Oregon DVD
Feature photo by Kevin Cline