Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is as bubbly as ever. Even after three weeks this spring of coaching what was one of the worst defenses in the nation last season hasn't appeared to kill his buzz.
Maybe it's the soft drinks he consumes early in the morning. Or, maybe it's because he has taken on reclamation projects before and says he is pleased with what he's seen from the Ducks so far during this latest endeavor. According to Leavitt, UO's defense is getting better each day, grasping fundamentals and progressing. While he admits that is all coach speak, he also stated that at the end of the day, all spring ball is about is making daily progress.
“It’s not all about winning the spring, to me, it’s about winning in the fall," he said following Friday's practice. "So we’re looking at the big picture on everything. I’m proud of the guys. I think they are working very, very hard.”
Oregon's spring game will be held at 11:30 a.m., April 29 at Autzen Stadium.
Oregon ranked 128th in the nation in total defense last season while allowing 41.5 points per game. At Leavitt's previous job, he took over a Colorado team that had allowed 39 points per game the year before his arrival in 2015. Leavitt coached up that defense to the point where it allowed just 27.5 points per game in 2015 and then 21.7 last year.
Now he's trying to do the same at Oregon, which is paying him $1.1 million per season to build a dominant defense. Leavitt said that moving form being the linebackers coach with the San Francisco 49ers in 2014 to coaching at Colorado led him to enter this job with higher expectations. The move from the 49ers to Colorado involved steps to figure out what to use and what not to use at the college level. Figuring that out may have slowed down the rebuilding process a tad at Colorado. Having gone through that before, he said, should lead to a smoother rebuild this time around.
“We’ve pushed a lot more on them then I ever did at the last job,” Leavitt said. “I think they’ve handled it fairly well. They’ll drive me nuts at times, but that’s just because the expectations are very, very high. We want to knock that ceiling out.”
Should that happen next season, Leavitt would have to be considered a miracle worker. It's going to take time for the defense to get to where Leavitt wants it to be. But he's not necessarily in a rush.
“What’s really important is that you don’t’ want guys to be thinking about a scrimmage tomorrow or a spring game,” Leavitt said. “You want them thinking about today.”