Andy Avalos

Oregon Ducks thankful for: Pumpkin pie, ham and a big rivalry game

Oregon Ducks thankful for: Pumpkin pie, ham and a big rivalry game

A meaningful Civil War game is on the horizon, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who is thankful for the rivalry matchup. It appears the weather will be cold, but not wet, another reason to give thanks. It’ll be a momentous senior day, when fans in Autzen Stadium can show their gratitude and say farewell to a special senior class that has been toughened by a tumultuous career at Oregon.

[RELATED: Oregon drops out of CFP top 10: So, Rose Bowl?]

Oregon is one win away from its first 10-win season since 2014 with a chance to be crowned Pac-12 Champions. Now that the College Football Playoff is out of the picture, senior quarterback Justin Herbert said, “It means everything,” to learn from the Arizona State loss and refocus on finishing the season strong.

This Thanksgiving, Herbert would be grateful for an upcoming win against the Oregon State Beavers. 

But, what are the other Ducks thankful for? I asked them:

Coach Mario Cristobal

“I think my favorite part about Thanksgiving is that we’re practicing and getting ready for a game. What am I, 49? I can’t remember the last time Thanksgiving was here and we weren’t practicing. I wouldn’t know what to do with myself, I really wouldn’t. Thank God for that, I think that’s the greatest thing in the world, and we will practice. We will practice and give thanks for all our many blessings and instead of our lunch meal it will be a Thanksgiving spread. It’s a business week. I think we all know this football life as a player, as a coach, as an AD, a president, this is your work time. Our guys understand that and I think it makes you appreciate everything that much more when you do so. It will be all about business and to have the best week of prep we can possibly have.”

Junior wide receiver Johnny Johnson

“The food, for sure. Candied yams! That’s one of my favorites… I eat ham instead of turkey. I’m a ham guy.”

Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos

“Pumpkin pie, with whipped cream. Without question.”

This season’s Civil War is “everything you could want in a college football game,” according to Cristobal. Today, I’m thankful for pecan pie and an exciting rivalry game with bragging rights on the line.

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Legacy of a Leader: Troy Dye's intensity guiding Oregon to a season worth coming back for

Flashback to a beautifully crisp winter day and Oregon’s win over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Junior Troy Dye hoisted his defensive MVP trophy in the air as fans congratulated Oregon’s leading tackler for three-straight seasons on possibly his last victory in a Ducks uniform.

It wasn’t. Despite gaining traction as a “freak athlete” in NFL circles with an opportunity to make major money in the 2019 NFL draft, Dye chose to stay at Oregon for his senior season. 

317 days later, Dye is still leading No. 6 Oregon in tackles, has jumped up to a projected first round 2020 NFL draft selection and has the opportunity to be hoisting a more prestigious trophy in the air in his actual final season.

Through eight games, Dye’s senior tour has featured 42 tackles with 6.5 for a loss including a sack, three pass breakups and an interception on one of Oregon’s strongest defenses in program history.

His highlights are stunning:

  • In his final home opener, the smiling linebacker danced alone to the familiar tune of “Shout” letting loose and pumping up the rowdy crowd in a moment that will go down in history.
  • Dye recorded a career-high 15 tackles and the most in a season opener in Oregon history vs. Auburn.
  • Dye performed a snow angel in the middle of the W at Husky Stadium after overcoming the largest second-half deficit since 2008.
  • Back in his home of southern California, Dye jumped into the stands after handing USC its worst home loss since 2009.

The Ducks are undefeated in Pac-12 Conference play, one win from claiming the North Division and contenders for a spot in the College Football Playoff.

On a scale from 1-10, how much fun is Dye having?

“I’m at a 12. I’m having a blast. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, I come here (to practice) with a smile on my face and I’m going to leave with a smile on my face.”

The most telling moment of his season may have come from suffering a broken thumb and gutting it out at Washington. The injury kept him on the sideline against Washington State, snapping his consecutive start streak at 40 games and bringing a reality that it takes only one snap for a football season, or career, to be over. In a cast the size of a club, Dye returned one game later to beat up on the Trojans and show the truth of his character.

“That’s a significant injury that a lot of people would have probably waited to be fully healed and then go and play,” Oregon Coach Mario Cristobal said. “But what he chose to do is different. When guys like Troy speak, those are strong, powerful and impactful words. This (season) means a lot to him and it shows in the way he approaches practice and everything he does. I can’t say enough great things about him, I think he’s as good as it gets in the country.”

His words impacted Oregon's home opener, in which the Ducks trailed Cal 7-0 at halftime. Dye’s halftime speech eloquently made it clear the Ducks needed to play to their standard. The sentiment was echoed and the Ducks overcame their slow start to beat the Bears 17-7.

His actions speak louder than his words. Since returning and still in a cast for his thumb, the linebacker has hit a new level with three conference games left to play.

“He’s done a tremendous job over the course of the season but you really see it now, down the stretch,” Oregon Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos said. “In my opinion, I think he’s turned it up in practice, since the injury. It made him want it even more.”

Troy Dye agrees that he has hit a new intensity.

“I realized that it can be taken from you. Within a snap, it can be gone,” Dye said. “I’m super fortunate to be able to come back and play with my brothers and end the season how I want to end it. I’m happy, I’m having fun with it and enjoying my time here.”

His teammates couldn’t be happier for him, either. True freshman Mase Funa beams when he details all the tips he’s learned from Dye. Junior Thomas Graham loves to see Dye prosper after witnessing him help change the program from a 4-8 team (2016) to a team on an eight-game winning streak with the biggest goals, a conference title and playoff berth, still possible.

What’s it like for Cristobal to witness Dye live his best life this season?

“I’m jealous. I want to go back to college and do it like he’s doing it,” Cristobal said.

In his final season, the future opportunities are ever-present for Dye. Every Oregon game, more and more NFL scouts grace the media press box. Dye accepted a Senior Bowl invite, where he can show off his elite agility and lateral quickness.

But before all of that, the Ducks need their leader to finish a potentially history-making season, which is exactly the kind of season a junior hopes to return for.

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Why a healthy Deommodore Lenoir is crucial for Oregon vs. Washington State

Oregon starting cornerback Deommodore Lenoir is on this week's depth chart and has been cleared to play against Washington State on Saturday, according to Mario Cristobal.

“(Lenoir) looks good,” Cristobal said. “We feel like he’s ready to go and will be ready to go (against Washington State)."

Lenoir, who has started 20 straight games, suffered an injury in the Ducks’ comeback win at Washington while making a tackle with teammate Nick Pickett. Lenoir left for the locker room, did not return to the game and true freshman DJ James filled in.

Cristobal also added that senior linebacker Troy Dye, who broke his thumb vs. the Huskies, will be monitored, but he already played through the injury on Saturday and is expected to play against the Cougars.

With zero conferences losses, No. 11 Oregon (6-1, 4-0 Pac-12) has control atop the Pac-12 North Division. While the Cougars (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) are coming off their first conference win on Saturday, defeating Colorado 41-10 in a strong offensive showing.

Coach Mike Leach’s air raid offense is different than anything UO Defensive Coordinator Andy Avalos and the Ducks have competed against thus far this season.

However, Lenoir knows the Cougars all too well and has never beaten them in his Oregon career. WSU has beaten Oregon four-consecutive times. The health of the upperclassman is vital to stopping WSU.

Lenoir, who was recently named a mid-season All-American by Pro Football Focus, is allowing less than half the balls targeted in his direction to be caught, the best coverage grade in the Pac-12 and one of the best percentages in the nation.

That excellent coverage will be needed against WSU who spreads the field with their receivers. WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon threw four touchdown passes against Colorado, his fourth game with four or more touchdowns in a game this season.

“We have not done a good enough job against Washington State for the past four years,” Crisotbal said.
The Duck defense has dominated at home so far this season, giving up just 19 points in four home games this season while forcing 19 three-and-outs in 53 drives. The Ducks have nine different players with an interception, led by sophomore safety Jevon Holland who leads the nation with three picks.

Off to a 4-0 start in Pac-12 play for the first time since 2013, Lenoir and the Ducks look to avoid a letdown game and snap the four-game losing streak against Washington State on Saturday, October 26 at 7:30 p.m.

The Andy Avalos effect: Why Oregon's defense is wreaking havoc

The Andy Avalos effect: Why Oregon's defense is wreaking havoc

A major theme of the 2019 Oregon football season: first-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is delivering. The Ducks defense is posting eye-popping numbers accompanied by game-saving performances.

It’s exactly the change Oregon desired when hiring Avalos and his “multiple” scheme. In the first five games of the Avalos-era, the most asked question is, how can Oregon keep him?

A look into the bottom line… His three-year $2.445 million dollar contract shows that he’s earning more than double than what he was earning as defensive coordinator at Boise State with an added title of assistant head coach. He has $125,000 worth of performances bonuses.

If Avalos were to leave Oregon before Jan. 31, 2022 he would owe Oregon 20 percent of his guaranteed salary, unless he did so to become an FBS head coach.

Money aside, internal incentive exudes from the 36-year-old coach. He is connecting with the Ducks in a unique way, partly because of his youth, partly because of his communication tactic, but definitely because his philosophy is generating victories.

“He’s very receptive, he’s not just trying to jump down your throat. He’s going to talk to you and try to communicate with you to figure out what you were thinking about and why you were thinking that way or did something,” senior linebacker Troy Dye said. “He’s easy to relate to as a player so that’s what makes it easier to go to him and talk to him about different things.”

The offense has been able to depend on the defense while trying to establish a consistent run game. The Duck defense is leading the Pac-12 Conference in every major category and then some. The multiple and disguising fronts have led to confusion of opponents, holding four-straight teams to single-digit scoring for the first time since 1960.

Almost half way through his first regular season as a Duck, Avalos hasn’t had much time to reflect on his team that ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (9.8 points per game) yet.

“It all kind of runs together,” Avalos said with a chuckle. “For me, I think the biggest thing that stands out is how we are learning to stay in the fight as a team and as a defense. Over the course of a game, no matter the situations that pop up, we are learning to fight together, work together as a coaching staff and that pays off because then the players do so.”

This isn't Avalos’ first rodeo. He helped the Boise State defense hold 20 opponents from 2016-18 to 20 points or less, while the Broncos tied for sixth nationally with 10 defensive touchdowns over that span.

It’s not easy to describe someone in one word, but that’s exactly what I asked of Oregon football players in regards to Avalos.

Dye’s chosen adjective was “relatable” as his hometown of Norco, Calif. neighbors Corona, Calif., where Avalos grew up.

Also a southern California-native, junior cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. fondly remembers his first impression of Avalos. Avalos was the first coach to offer a scholarship to Graham, who picked the Ducks over offers from Boise State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Nebraska, among others. Graham appreciates how “energetic” Avalos is and is passionate about how perfect his scheme is for the team.

True freshman defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux credits Avalos'’ “accountability,” as a factor to his improvement since stepping on campus as ESPN’s No. 1 prospect in the nation.

“I feel like he is one of the smartest coaches that I’ve had coach me,” Thibodeaux said. “He tells us stuff and he goes over hours of film. He’s a stickler. He looks at everything, which is for the greater good. Whether our shoe laces are tied or our hip pads are in, he’s all over everything.”

Thibodeaux will see an increased role with a season ending injury to starting defensive end Gus Cumberlander on Friday vs. the visiting Colorado Buffaloes. Thibodeaux is coming off his best performance yet as a Duck, which earned him Pac-12 Defensive Lineman of the Week honors. Oregon needs the 6-foot-5, 242-pound defensive end to unleash his ability sooner rather than later.

Avalos and the defense will face likely their toughest test this season in Colorado and veteran quarterback Steven Montez. While the Duck defense has dominated through five games, it’s important to note they did play the 11th-ranked Pac-12 offense (Stanford) and 12th-ranked offense (Cal).  Their biggest challenges are ahead of them in the next seven games.

Like Dye, three different defensive coordinators have coached senior La’Mar Winston Jr. during his Duck career. So, it’s not surprising that Avalos’ stability stood out to the outside linebacker.

“Consistent,” said Winston Jr. “He’s very consistent in his approach, in his energy, his mentality, across the board. And that’s our goal, to be consistent. “

Will the consistency sustain the toughest part of Oregon’s schedule? One thing is for sure, Avalos is ready for the fight.

Oregon vs. Montana: 10 numbers to know

Oregon vs. Montana: 10 numbers to know

Pac-12 after dark could get ugly this week in No. 15 Oregon’s matchup against Montana. The Ducks’ massively overmatch the Griz in their final non-conference game, which kicks off at 7:45 pm in Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Montana has won four of their last five road games and look to improve to 3-0 with a monster road upset over Oregon (1-1).

The Ducks and coach Mario Cristobal aren’t looking past Montana to their Pac-12 Conference opener at Stanford and neither should you. Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

1. INJURY UPDATES

Oregon has yet to see two of its largest offensive weapons play this season and the wait may continue. Cristobal gave an injury update on senior wide receiver Juwan Johnson and junior tight end Cam McCormick.

Johnson’s (leg) availability is likely a Friday or Saturday decision. "It’s a soft tissue thing, so we expect progress and it’s going to be close," Cristobal said. "I think now we’re coming around to this thing could actually be a go.” McCormick (ankle) is unlikely to play this week and is eyeing a return for Oregon's Pac-12 opener at Stanford. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass catcher went through pregame warm-ups prior to the season opener against Auburn but not before last week’s game against Nevada.

2. EAGER PITTMAN

True freshman receiver Mycah Pittman, who was expected to contribute or possibly start this season, suffered a shoulder injury in a fall scrimmage that was supposed to sideline him for six to eight weeks. Pittman tweeted, "2 more weekkksss!" on Sunday, implying a quicker than expected return.

Cristobal addressed the tweet that excited fans who are anxious to watch one of the most praised incoming freshman from teammates and coaches.

“I know everyone is excited about Mycah’s tweet," Cristobal said. "He’s pretty ambitious. We’ve still got to wait a little bit, but he’s getting better. We hope to have him with us in a couple of weeks practicing again."

The initial 6-8 weeks projection would mark Pittman healthy as early as Oregon’s game against Cal on Oct. 5.

3. CRISTOBAL ON FIRE AT HOME

Oregon is looking to improve to 8-1 at home under coach Cristobal.

4. THE SHOUGH SHOW

Back-up quarterback has been a point of contention for Oregon in the last five seasons. The Ducks have seen countless quarterbacks transfer away, leaving a void: Bryan Bennett, Terry Wilson, Travis Jonsen, Braxton Burmeister, etc.

This season, four-star quarterback Tyler Shough has earned the back-up role behind senior Justin Herbert. Shough found success in the home opener and gave fans a little insight into the future as Herbert’s heir. In the most substantial playing time of his career, Shough threw his first college pass and finished 8-of-9 for 92 yards and two touchdowns.

His performance wasn’t the type of awe-inspiring play that causes someone to bet Oregon will win the national championship next season. However, Shough made solid decisions, showed his accurate arm and toughness under pressure. He also used his legs to rush for 11 yards and made a couple heads up plays including one flick to tight end Spencer Webb while getting blitzed on third and nine.

“He was accurate and made a play with his feet as well, got outside the pocket, got tripped up or he would have gone for a little bit more,” Cristobal said. “We felt that since spring, his progress has been great. We trust him to go in there and make plays.”

5. HELLO, FUNA!

The highest ranked linebacker recruit in school history, Mase Funa, is already making an impact for Oregon. The Mater Dei High School alum is the only freshman to have two sacks in a game this season in the FBS. Funa’s four tackles for loss currently lead the Pac-12.

6. DEFENSE TURNING HEADS UNDER ANDY AVALOS

Oregon’s defense has dominated through the first two games of the season under defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. Opponents have reached Oregon territory just 10 times in 30 drives. Oregon’s defense has not allowed a first half touchdown in four consecutive games (28 drives). Also, the Ducks forced four turnovers against Nevada that resulted in 28 points.

7. A DUCK WIN WOULD…

Mark Oregon's 25th consecutive nonconference home win.

Improve Oregon to 8-0-1 against Montana.

Be Oregon's 11th win in the last 12 games at Autzen Stadium.

8. “MR. ELECTRICITY”

Montana senior punt returner Jerry Louie-McGee or “Mr. Electricity” earned ROOT Sports Big Sky Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after juking his way to a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown. Louie-McGee is the Griz’s special teams star and speed threat at wide receiver. In Saturday’s victory, he averaged 30 yards per kick on five returns for a total of 150 yards - the most in a game of any player in FCS football so far this season by a nearly 40-yards.

9. GRIZ QUARTERBACK IS “HEART AND SOUL OF THE TEAM”

Quarterback Dalton Sneed a fifth-year senior that has impressed Cristobal.

“(Sneed is) very tough, will throw his body around, there’s no hesitation in his game whatsoever,” Cristobal said. “The ball is out quick and it’s accurate. I think he’s a special player.”

Sneed has completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 696 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

10. HIGH-FLYIN’ GRIZ

Montana totaled 520 yards of offense in their victory over North Alabama last Saturday. The Grizzlies have the No. 7 passing and total offense in the FCS.

BONUS

The Ducks opened as five-touchdown favorites over Montana. Currently, the Ducks are 36.5 point favorites. 

Oregon vs. Nevada: 10 numbers to know

Oregon vs. Nevada: 10 numbers to know

No. 16 Oregon hosts Nevada in its home opener for the 2019 season. The Ducks (0-1) look to bounce back and get their first win after a last-minute defeat to No. 10 Auburn. Can UO stop a hangover loss or will the Ducks allow the Tigers to beat them twice?

Nevada (1-0) has nothing to lose, everything to gain and intense momentum coming into Autzen Stadium. The Wolf Pack mounted a stunning comeback win over Purdue on Friday night. Oregon can still win the Pac-12 North and contend for a conference title but the Ducks need to bounce back sooner rather than later.

Here are 10 stats and numbers you need to know to be the fan dropping knowledge at the tailgate:

1. INJURY UPDATES

Two Ducks will miss the entire 2019 football season: Sophomore linebacker Adrian Jackson and true freshman wide receiver J.R. Waters both suffered season ending foot injuries.

The loss of Waters is another hit to Oregon’s wide receiving corps. The Ducks are coping with injuries to Brenden Schooler (right foot)Mycah Pittman (shoulder) and most recently Juwan Johnson, who is day-to-day with a foot injury.

Tight end Cam McCormick is also day-to-day.

2. VEGAS, BABY

Oregon is a three-touchdown home favorite over Nevada. The Ducks opened as 21.5 point favorites over the Wolf Pack, currently the Ducks are 23 point favorites. The over-under is 62 total points.

3. SEWELL VS. SEWELL

Ducks starting left tackle Penei Sewell graded out as the third-best offensive lineman and second best tackle in the Pac-12 in week one according to Pro Football Focus. The sophomore has not committed a penalty in 521 snaps in his career.

Against Nevada, Penei Sewell will face a new challenge: his brother, senior linebacker Gabriel Sewell. Gabriel Sewell led the Nevada defense in 2018 with 92 total tackles and is on watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik Award and Polynesian Player of the Year.

"I'm sure when that number is called and he has to block him, and Gabe has to take on a block, they're not going to play patty cake," Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said.

4. POSITION MOVES

As a result of the depleted wide receiving unit, Oregon has switched up its week two depth chart.

-Redshirt freshman Spencer Webb has been moved from tight end to wide receiver.

According to Cristobal, Webb’s role will be “expanded.” With Juwan Johnson out, the 6-foot-6 246-pound Webb was the large target that Herbert desperately needed against Auburn, scoring his first career touchdown -- an impressive 20-yard grab over the back of a defensive back.

-Sophomore Daewood Davis has been moved from cornerback to wide receiver.

As a redshirt freshman, Davis played receiver in seven games and had a 13-yard reception against San Jose State. He moved from wide receiver to cornerback after the season.

5. RED HOT DYE

In his 34th consecutive start, Dye recorded a game-high 15 tackles against Auburn. After a stellar 115-tackle junior season, Dye needs 106 tackles in 2019 to become Oregon’s all-time leader.

Currently, Dye leads all active Power 5 players with 328 career tackles and has 18 games with 10 or more tackles.

6. STREAKING HERBERT

Herbert has a streak of 29 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest in the country. He has led Oregon to an average of 37.7 points per game over his 29 career starts, and ranks sixth among active FBS leaders in passing touchdowns (64) and eighth in passing yards (7,312).

7. HISTORY

Oregon is 6-1 all-time against Nevada, winning the last six straight. The last matchup was in 2011 when Darron Thomas matched a school record with six touchdown passes and the 13th-ranked Ducks dominated Nevada, 69-20. Last time Nevada beat Oregon was in 1947.

8. HOME OPENER DOMINANCE

Oregon owns a 14-game win streak in home openers heading into Saturday's showdown with Nevada. The streak has been fueled by an offense that has averaged 57.1 points per game over that span, outscoring their opponents by an 800-285 margin.

Also, a win would extend Oregon’s streak of consecutive wins over non-conference opponents at home to 24 that dates back to 2008.

9. THE AVALOS FACTOR

Oregon’s X-Factor in preparing for Nevada’s offense may be new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos. Avalos spent the last seven seasons at Boise State, were he gained lots of experienced facing the Wolf Pack.

10. ANOTHER FRESHMAN QB1

After facing Auburn freshman Bo Nix in his first college start, the Ducks will face another freshman quarterback in Nevada’s Carson Strong. Strong is the first Wolf Pack starting freshman since 1998.

Strong earned the starting nod midway through fall camp and had a debut. In Nevada’s win over Purdue, Strong completed 30- of-51 passes for 295 yards and three touchdowns, including commanding a game-tying and game-winning drive in a come-from-behind victory.

MORE DUCKS:

Mario Cristobal's ear-catching comments about Jevon Holland

Oregon Ducks fall five spots in Top 25 after loss to Auburn

5 changes to Oregon's week two depth chart, following the loss to Auburn

Ducks started and ended their playoff run on the same night

 

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Oregon spring game: Be the fan in the know

Do you want to be the Duck football fan in the know for the Oregon spring football game? I've got you covered. 

Saturday will be a great opportunity to see ten early enrollees from Oregon’s highest-ever rated recruiting class, plus fresh face Penn State graduate transfer wide receiver Juwan Johnson! Watch the video about for what you should be watching for. 

The roster will be split into two teams instead of the offense vs. defense format from a year ago. Rosters for the “Mighty Oregon” squad and the “Fighting Ducks” team will be unveiled soon. 

More details:

  • Admission is free.
  • Fans are asked to bring three non-perishable food items for donation to Food for Lane County. 
  • Oregon legends and Pro Football Hall of Fame members Gary Zimmerman (OL, 1980-83) and Dan Fouts (QB, 1970-72) will represent the two teams during the coin toss.
  • Fans are encouraged to arrive early and carpool as much as possible. The Autzen Stadium East parking lot will open to the public at 11:30 a.m. at a cost of $5 per vehicle.
  • Starting at 1 p.m. there will be an Easter egg hunt for children on the HDC practice fields. Fans should enter through the north gate that is closest to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
  • The men’s basketball program will be signing autographs inside Autzen Stadium on the concourse starting at 1 p.m. Commemorative autograph cards will be provided.
  • Flyover by F-15s from Oregon National Guard during the national anthem.

Oregon Spring Football PT. 2: Ducks to improve dropped passes and defense

Oregon Spring Football PT. 2: Ducks to improve dropped passes and defense

The day after I wrote how I could feel spring in the air, the snow began to fall in Portland. Regardless of the weather, Oregon spring football practices are about to begin! If you haven’t yet read the latest Duck injury updates, coaching changes and true freshmen who enrolled early, better catch up! Caution, the list of early enrollees from Oregon's historic 2019 recruiting class may make you count down the days until opening kickoff. 

The first of Oregon’s 15 spring practices will begin this Saturday. Two main focuses of spring will be; Cutting down dropped passes and shifting into new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos’ defense. Here is an update on how Oregon plans to do that.

How Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem

Oregon’s 2018 pass catchers had an inconsistent season as a group, aside from Dillon Mitchell. Letting catchable balls hit the turf was one of the main problems for Oregon’s offense, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight will be tasked with fixing.

How can the Ducks get the most out of quarterback Justin Herbert in his final season at UO?

Oregon coach Cristobal called it “no secret” that drops must improve. 

Cristobal intends to add up the number of drops and the yards lost in 2018 to provide a “teaching moment.” Then, he’ll calculate the significance of those drops and yards in terms of third downs and moving the chains.

Sounds like a fun meeting, huh? 

[READ: It’s Juwan Johnson’s opportunity to grasp or waste]

“It’s pretty significant," Cristobal said. "It’s no secret, it’s an issue. But it’s not an issue from a determination or work ethic standpoint. We’ve got to technically teach our guys how to be efficient and precise in catching the football, putting it away and doing something with it.”

Cristobal states the problem does not stem from a lack of work ethic but highlighted areas where the position group needs to improve most; discipline in aligning perfectly before each play and nailing the details of each route.

Passing game efficiency is the goal and according to Cristobal, Bouknight has already "made a strong statement" since joining the staff two weeks ago. 

"You don’t point a finger at anybody whether it be the tight end, receiver or quarterback. You coach it better. You teach it better. You get in there and you work harder."

 

How the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos

Over a year later, the Ducks took something positive from the Las Vegas Bowl loss… Boise State’s defensive coordinator, Andy Avalos.

“When coach Cristobal reached out to me about this opportunity, I’m not going to lie to you, I was really, really excited,” Oregon’s new defensive coordinator said. 

Avalos said Oregon' tradition, brand and fresh excitement that Cristobal is bringing to the program is why he chose to leave his alma mater, where he coached for seven seasons, three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Avalos’ scheme, which Cristobal described as complex for the opponent and simple for Oregon, was a main reason Oregon hired the former Bronco star linebacker.

Avalos runs the same 3-4 base that former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt did in 2018, but it differs with a variety of switches based on personnel packages.

The multiplicity of Avalos’ scheme appealed to Cristobal. The word “multiple” was probably used 20 times in his introductory press conference.

Avalos switches between three and four-man and “Bear” fronts and one and two-down linemen packages. He utilizes and will coach the STUD position; hybrid edge players with a pass rushing priority but also can drop into coverage and stop the run.

This could be a huge opportunity for outside linebackers La’Mar Winston Jr., Adrian Jackson and incoming freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux.

The goal will be to force identification issues, movement issues and structural issues to the opposing offense. No doubt Avalos’ past defenses have been versatile and disruptive. In the Las Vegas Bowl, Herbert was sacked four times, Oregon’s offense totaled 280 total yards and Boise State scored on a pick-six.

[READ: Leavitt didn’t fit Cristobal’s vision; A decade in the making]

Last season, Avalos coached a unit that ranked 10th nationally in sacks (3.0 per game) and 20th nationally in turnovers forced (24) with 17 fumble recoveries, the most in the country. He will be taking over a UO unit that finished 42nd in the nation in yards allowed per play. The Duck defense returns eight starters led by star linebacker Troy Dye and adds some of the nation’s top talent, Thibodeaux and linebacker Mase Funa, who could make an impact right away. 

Oregon Spring Football PT. 1: Injury updates, coaching changes & true freshmen

Oregon Spring Football PT. 1: Injury updates, coaching changes & true freshmen

Can you feel spring creeping in? To me, crisp air, flowers blooming and birds chirping means one thing… Oregon football spring practices are about to begin. The first of Oregon’s 15 spring practices will begin this Saturday. Oregon coach Mario Cristobal divulged injury updates, coaching changes and true freshmen who have enrolled early. Caution, the list of early enrollees from Oregon's historic 2019 recruiting class may make you count down the days until opening kickoff. 

(Part two; How Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem and how the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos)

 

INJURY UPDATE FOR SPRING PRACTICES

The good news: Tight end Cam McCormick, who suffered a broken bone in his left foot last season, will be a full participant and is expected to be a breakout star this season.
The bad news: Three offensive linemen will be out or limited; senior Calvin Throckmorton (recovering from Red Box Bowl ankle injury), junior Sam Poutasi (recovering from offseason right knee surgery), redshirt freshman Justin Johnson (recovering from left shoulder surgery).

Two starting defensive ends; Austin Faoliu will be out for a week (recovering from minor knee injury) and Cristobal expects Gary Baker to miss “about half” of spring practices (recovering from ankle injury).

Quarterback Cale Millen, a highly anticipated true freshman who enrolled in January, will be "eased in" over the course of the first week of practice due to a foot injury.

Kicker Adam Stack “had some issues with a hernia," according to Cristobal and is recovering.

 

COACHING CHANGES

New additions: Jovon Bouknight as wide receivers coach, Ken Wilson as linebackers coach and Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator. Avalos will also coach the STUD ends, which is an edge rusher with a similar role to a standup defensive end/outside linebacker. 

New roles for existing coaches: Special teams coordinator Bobby Williams will take over coaching the tight ends (previously coached by offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo).
Subtractions: Former Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Oregon parted ways, agreeing on a separation package that will pay him up to $2.5 million.

 

TRUE FRESHMAN WHO ENROLLED EARLY

Oregon’s 2019 highest-rated recruiting class didn’t just make history; it filled position needs with top talent that could make an impact as early as the 2019 season.

In January, six true freshmen enrolled early in classes to jumpstart their academic and football careers at Oregon. Four more Ducks will enroll in April to be able join the last 10 spring football practices. Cristobal said those 10 early enrollees are in the mix for playing time. "It’s going to show in the rep count that they have," Cristobal said. 

January enrollees, already on campus:

  • Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux; top-rated high school player in the country, the highest ranked commitment in UO program history
  • Quarterback Cale Millen; the No. 2 player in the state of Washington who competed in the Elite-11, a quarterback-focused camp held by Nike
  • Wide receiver Josh Delgado; top five wide receiver in the state of Florida
  • Offensive lineman Malaesala Aumavae-Laulu; Top-ranked junior college player in the country by JCGridiron.com
  • Linebacker Ge'Mon Eaford; Rated the No. 10 outside linebacker
  • Linebacker Dru Mathis; Rated the top linebacker and the No. 12 overall junior college prospect by JCGridiron.com

April enrollees:

 

Oregon spring football part 2 is on how Cristobal plans on fixing UO’s dropped passes problem and how the defense will change under new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos.

Oregon, Cristobal hires Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator

Oregon, Cristobal hires Andy Avalos as defensive coordinator

Oregon has has reportedly found its new defensive coordinator. According to multiple reports, after eight seasons coaching at Boise State, defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is expected to leave for Oregon. 

Avalos was promoted to defensive coordinator with the Broncos in 2016. Last season, he coached a unit that ranked 10th nationally in sacks (3.0 per game) and 20th nationally in turnovers forced (24) with 17 fumble recoveries, the most in the country.

Previously, Mario Cristobal was expected to promote safeties coach Keith Heyward to defensive coordinator

Avalos made $355,000 as Boise State’s defensive coordinator in 2018.

The former Boise State star linebacker is replacing the Pac-12 conference's highest paid assistant ($1.7 million) Jim Leavitt, who parted ways with Oregon earlier this month.

[READ: Leavitt didn’t fit Cristobal’s vision; A decade in the making]

Avalos is one of the best linebackers in Bronco history, playing from 2001-04 and leading the team in every statistical category in each of his final three seasons. Avalos completed his career ranked fourth all-time with 365 tackles and earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors at outside linebacker in each of his final two seasons. 

Avalos takes over an Oregon defense that finished 42nd in the nation in yards allowed per play. The Duck defense returns eight starters led by star linebacker Troy Dye and adds some of the nation’s top talent, including defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and linebacker Mase Funa, who could make an impact right away.