EUGENE, Ore. – Jim Leavitt, who dramatically turned around Colorado's defense in just two years with the Buffaloes, will be tasked with a similar job at Oregon after being hired this week as defensive coordinator under new UO head coach Willie Taggart.
Leavitt was one of five finalists for the Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach this season. Entering the postseason, Colorado is eighth nationally in yards per play allowed (4.69) and No. 18 in scoring defense (20.5). The year before Leavitt arrived, 2014, the Buffs allowed 6.55 yards per play and 39.0 points per game.
Oregon's defense in 2016 allowed 6.41 yards per play and 41.4 points per game. Taggart said upon being hired that adding a top-flight defensive coordinator was among his first priorities.
Like Taggart, Leavitt is a former head coach at South Florida. He went 95-57 there from 1997-2009, including a loss to Oregon in the 2007 Sun Bowl. Leavitt then spent four seasons coaching linebackers with the San Francisco 49ers before returning to the collegiate ranks with Colorado.
At Oregon, Leavitt will take over a defense that was rebuilt around several new starters this past season. The Ducks have an emerging star in freshman all-American Troy Dye, the team's defensive MVP, and could return 12 of their top 13 tacklers from 2016.
Leavitt, 60, played safety at Missouri before beginning his coaching career there as a graduate assistant in 1978-79. He worked under Bill Snyder at Kansas State from 1990 to 1995, first as linebackers coach and then as co-defensive coordinator with current Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.