Now that it’s official, and Coach Andy Avalos is set to become the new head coach of Boise State, I first want to thank him for his two seasons as the Oregon Ducks’ defensive coordinator. Coach Avalos took the Oregon defense to heights that it had not seen in quite some time, all within a couple years. Congratulations, Coach Avalos. It was well-earned.
With that being said, the Ducks are now in search of a new defensive coordinator. Previously, I compiled a list of 10 candidates that could fill the likely opening at defensive coordinator. Now, I would like to refine that list, and even make a tweak. It was difficult to narrow down my choices, but with Coach Derek Mason and Coach Marcus Freeman off the board, this is what I’ve come to.
Coach Muschamp is the biggest name on the board of possible defensive coordinator candidates. At different times throughout his career, Coach Muschamp has been the DC for both the Auburn Tigers and the Texas Longhorns. My favorite thing about him is his style of defense. As his base, Coach Muschamp likes to use a 4-3, but that’s not the part that excites me. I am all for staying with the 4-2-5 type scheme that the Ducks currently use, but the part of Coach Muschamp’s defense that really gets me is having four true defensive linemen.
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That’s in no way a criticism of the stud position in Coach Avalos’ scheme. I think that the stud is a really cool position that gives the defense a lot of flexibility, and it is manned by some really skillful players. However, my personal preference, in an even front, is to have four down linemen that specialize in wreaking absolute havoc in the backfield.
We’ve also talked about the recruiting ability of Coach Muschamp. He’s a huge name that can recruit any defender from anywhere in the nation. He’s that well-known. He’s also very passionate: willing to bring the “juice” and light a fire under his players when need be (see above).
Coach Lupoi is the current defensive line coach for the Atlanta Falcons and the former defensive coordinator for the Alabama Crimson Tide, where he worked with Coach Mario Cristobal. He runs an attacking 3-4 defense, and though I hold a special place for even fronts, I do like the unpredictability that comes from odd ones. Because there are only three down linemen, additional pressure can come from a number of different places, and this makes blocking assignments a little more difficult for the offense.
Not only is Coach Lupoi an effective coach, but he is an excellent recruiter. The ability to recruit at a high level is something that Coach Cristobal puts a tremendous amount of stock in. During his time at Alabama, Coach Lupoi was not only the team’s best recruiter, but one of the best in the nation.
Coach Kevin Steele was most recently the defensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers, and he’s one of the best at that position in the SEC. In fact, during their historic national title run in 2019, the LSU Tigers scored its fewest points of the year against Coach Steele’s Auburn squad. His unit was able to hold LSU’s vaunted offense to just 23 points. That’s two touchdowns less than the next closest team.
Like Coach Muschamp, Coach Steele has automatic name recognition on the recruiting trail. He’s built that recognition through years of shaping some of the nation’s best defenses. Another aspect that’ll help with Oregon’s current recruits and players is that his 4-2-5 system is closest to what is already installed in Eugene.
This is a name that I didn’t originally include on my list, though I should have after watching the Fiesta Bowl. Coach Heacock is the current defensive coordinator for the Iowa State Cyclones. His ISU squad uses a unique 3-3-5 defense. It’s a defense that brings pressure from a lot of different spots on the field. It can be pretty difficult for defenses to ID this pressure and pick it up.
Not only did Coach Heacock’s defensive unit give Oregon problems, but it routinely disrupts offenses in the Big 12, including the offensive juggernaut Oklahoma Sooners. It had been said that one of the reason’s that Coach Cristobal hired Coach Avalos was because of the game Oregon played against his defense in 2017. Could that be a factor again?
Of all of the names on this list, this one may be the most difficult one to pull off. Coach Leonhard has been the defensive coordinator for the Wisconsin Badgers for the last four seasons. During that time, his defensive unit has ranked no lower than fourth nationally in yards per game. His squad also recorded four shutouts in 2019. This is all accomplished through the aggressive style of 3-4 defense that Coach Leonhard favors.
The reason it would be difficult to pull him from Wisconsin, in my opinion, is because he played for the Badgers. Being his alma mater, on top of being near the top of a power five conference makes Wisconsin a home that Coach Leonhard may not be willing to leave. But if anyone can make a convincing pitch for joining his staff, it’s Coach Cristobal.
There it is — my refined list of possible DC candidates. I would be excited for any one of these coaches to join the staff. Each of them have their own qualities that would make them great fits with the Ducks, and that’s good news for us.
Coach Eric Boles
Top Photo Credit: Kevin Cline
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