If you don’t think winning is expensive, just ask Alabama.
Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban is the second-highest paid head coach at $8.9 million, behind Clemson’s Dabo Sweeney ($9.3 million). The Crimson Tide also has three of the highest paid assistant coaches in college football, including defensive coordinator Pete Golding, who receives a $1.1 million annual salary, according to AL.com.
Big money keeps the wheels of the coaching carousel spinning round and round, enticing talented coaches to bounce around the country in pursuit of the biggest payout (see Willie Taggart).
So, it came as a pleasant surprise when Oregon’s defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos, decided to stay another year in Eugene. The Ducks first lured Avalos from Boise State with a three-year, $2.445 million contract, with $815,000 in 2020 and $865,000 in 2021.
But for a few agonizing moments in February, the former Boise State star linebacker was considered a candidate for the Colorado Buffaloes’ head coach position following Mel Tucker‘s departure to Michigan State.
Duck fans flocked to message boards across the internet, lamenting the grim reality of potentially losing a brilliant coach to Colorado. Thankfully, the Buffs decided on former Miami Dolphins assistant coach Karl Dorrell, which bought the Ducks another season with Avalos.
As Oregon fans breathed a collective sigh of relief, one thing became extremely clear: Mario Cristobal needs to keep Avalos at whatever the cost.
Avalos, who inherited a defense still traumatized from Brady Hoke’s house of horrors, led the Ducks to finish 22nd in the NCAA in total defense, up 24 spots from the previous year. In 2019, Avalos’ defense held opponents to an average of less than five yards per play, allowing roughly 329 yards of total offense per game. The same year, Oregon also led the Pac-12 in interceptions and forced turnovers.
And things are only looking better. According to ESPN’s 2020 preseason SP+ rankings, Oregon is projected to have the second-best defense in 2020 behind Georgia.
The Ducks are returning a formidable defensive front with the return of starting nose tackle Jordon Scott, and defensive ends Austin Faoliu and Kayvon Thibodeaux. Thibodeaux, who finished with 35 tackles and 9 sacks as a true freshman, looks primed for an explosive sophomore effort. Senior cornerbacks Thomas Graham and Deommodore Lenoir also recently announced their return for the 2020 season.
Several exciting defensive playmakers, including safeties Brady Breeze and Jevon Holland, and linebackers Mase Funa and Isaac Matautia, are joined by incoming five-star freshman linebackers Noah Sewell and Justin Flowe.
Is Oregon’s defense worth a million dollars?
Well, how many times did the defense bail out the offense when it sputtered on the 30-yard line? Following a heartbreaking season-opening loss to Auburn, Oregon’s defense held its next five opponents to no more than seven points per game, three of which were against conference teams (Stanford, California, and Colorado).
It’s hard to lose a game when you hold the opposing offense to single digits.
A good defense can save a struggling offense. And there are a few question marks regarding the Ducks’ offense next season, despite the addition of offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead.
Regardless of the unknowns, fans can rest a little easier knowing Oregon’s defense is legit. But if the Ducks want to keep their million-dollar defense, they may have to pay Avalos accordingly.
San Diego, CA Top photo by: Kevin Cline
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