Oregon Ducks

Oregon Ducks

EUGENE - Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt is clearly growing tired of being reminded about just how bad the Ducks' defense was the previous two seasons. 

"I don't think about the past," he said. "I'm just trying to get through the day."

Each time the subject of the recent past is brought up, Leavitt reminds anyone within earshot that he doesn't concern himself with what happened before his arrival. He also doesn't want to judge this year's defense by how it compares statistically to the debacles of 2015 (115th in the nation) and 2016 (128th in the nation). 

"Wins," Leavitt said when asked how he would measure his first season with Oregon. "If we play good enough defense to win, get the ball back to our offense. Our offense has a lot of weapons. We need to keep getting the ball back to those guys and let them perform magic."

It's a nice sentiment, but Leavitt's incorrect. He will most certainly be judged by the statistical improvement of the defense, and nothing else. He is being paid $1.125 million per year not to simply help Oregon win games but to build a monster on defense so the Ducks and new coach Willie Taggart can win a national title. 

Don Pellum's defense helped UO win a ton of games in 2014 when Oregon went 13-2 and reached the national title game with quarterback Marcus Mariota and a defense that allowed 23.6 points per game. Leavitt's Colorado defense allowed 21.7 points per game last season, leading to his fat contract with Oregon. 

 

Oregon won nine games in 2015 - the Ducks would have won at least two more had quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. not been injured - and Pellum got demoted. Why? Because the defense allowed 37.5 points per game. 

The entire coaching staff got fired after last year's 4-8 season, which would have been 8-4 if not for a defense that allowed 41.4 points per game under defensive coordinator Brady Hoke, who wasn't to blame for a unit void of impact talent.

Now, here we are. 

Leavitt took Colorado's defense - loaded mostly with already developing talent he didn't recruit - and got them to improve tremendously in his two seasons there. He should be given ample time to do the same with Oregon, but he most certainly will be judged by his side of the ball's statistical growth. There's no way around that. 

The hype surrounding Leavitt, and the disrespect shown Hoke by many Oregon fans, members of the media covering the team and indirectly by university president Michael H. Schill during Taggart's introduction, mean that the energetic 59-year-old is expected to work miracles. 

If Oregon goes 10-2 but can't get over the hump nationally because the defense is allowing 37 points per game, that will fall on Leavitt while the 10 wins won't matter much. 

It's tough to put a number on what exactly Oregon's defense should look like in Leavitt's first season. But it's fair to expect no more than 33 points allowed per game and a total defensive ranking south of 85. 

If not, Leavitt owes Oregon a partial refund.