Troy Dye

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

Oregon running back Travis Dye’s spin move isn’t his only weapon

As a freshman, Oregon running back Travis Dye quite literally flew onto the scene with his ferocious jump cuts and spin moves. His breakaway speed and agility amounted to 739 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 140 carries.

The 5-foot-10, 192-pound sophomore may be the hardest worker on the team based on the stories his teammates disclose about him.

Wide receiver Jaylon Redd smiled wide when talking about determined Dye. Redd detailed that on multiple occasions, when the defense gets an interception in practice, Dye will be the Duck to sprint all the way down the sideline to keep them from the end zone.

“His effort is there, his heart is there,” Redd said.

Fellow running back Cyrus Habibi-Likio complimented Dye’s integrity. Habibi-Likio was impressed with Dye after he missed a block and linebacker La’Mar Winston Jr. got around him. Later that day in film session, coaches missed the play and instead of dodging the error, Dye brought it back up so that the position room could go over it, correct it and learn from it.

His character earned A+ remarks from his team… And so did his on-field development and refined skills.

“He is a lot more physical this year,” Habibi-Likio said. “He’s able to run in between the tackles a lot more… He’s not afraid to put his head down and if there is someone in the way, he’s going to try to get through them instead of get around them.”
Over the past year, the game has slowed down for Dye, he knows the playbook like the back of his hand, his blocking has improved and he’s playing more physically. He’s ready to one-up himself, specifically when it comes to breaking runs of 10-plus yards and 20-plus yards.

“When I get the ball I’m always trying to shoot for touchdowns, not first downs,” Dye said.

The competition with the defense has been no laughing matter during fall camp. As it’s extremely difficult for any defensive Ducks to compliment their offensive teammates, including Travis’ brother, star linebacker Troy Dye.

“Iron sharpens iron, as everyone says,” Troy Dye said of his brother, Travis. “It’s always fun to compete against anybody and it’s a little more fun when it’s Travis.”

The shifty Dye is also an enticing option for the Ducks at punt and kick returner. He’s been one of a few contenders who have been taking reps and getting a shot during fall camp.

Special teams need aside, the Ducks desperately need Dye to help UO’s transition to Cristobal’s hard-pounding vision. The Ducks struggled with the physical, between the tackles rushing attack in 2018, finishing the season with the 191 rushing yards per game, the least amount for this program since 2006.

The good news? The Ducks return the entire starting offensive line and both leading rushers in CJ Verdell and Dye. Better news? Dye is trending upwards, improving rapidly towards the latter half of the season. Dye had 507 rushing yards after mid point of the season. To close out Pac-12 play, he rushed for 100-plus yards in back-to-back games, including his record setting Civil War performance.

This season, Dye is adding physicality to his determination and naturally agility… Which is just what the Ducks need for a reliable run game and success in 2019.

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

Oregon Duck x-factor Isaac Slade-Matautia is emulating Marcus Mariota

A lot has happened in a year for Oregon inside linebacker Isaac Slade-Matautia. He experienced his first live college football game, broke his collarbone to halt his strong freshman season, rehabbed and added almost 20 pounds.

Now, the healthy and respected MIKE linebacker is majorly contributing and the front-runner to start alongside senior Troy Dye. Slade-Matautia could be Oregon’s x-factor, yet he’s flying relatively under the radar… And he likes it that way.

A former four-star prospect and a top two player from the state of Hawaii, Slade-Matautia attended St. Louis High School, the same school quarterback Marcus Mariota attended. The two have clear similarities in their soft-spoken nature and intense work ethic; Slade-Matautia emulates the Heisman Trophy winner and aims to follow in Mariota’s footsteps.

“I talk to his brother (Matt Mariota) a lot,” Slade-Matautia said. “I ask his brother, ‘What did Marcus Mariota do when he was in college? Did he go out? Did he have social media?’ The answers are no… I want to do what he did and hopefully get the same result.”

[READ: Mykael Wright: "Silent assassin" true freshman pushing Oregon's secondary]

No Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or burner accounts for 6-foot-1 235-pound linebacker, just like Mariota. The sophomore stays in, studies film, arrives early to practice, leads by example and demands the most from his teammates in a positive way. He’s earned the respect from his teammates by his calm command of the defense. Oregon senior offensive lineman Shane Lemiuex picked Slade-Matautia as ‘Best in Fall Camp’.

“He’s quiet but has become a very vocal guy on the defense and a great pass rusher,” Lemieux said. “He’s not afraid to come down the A-gap and smack someone.”

With Kaulana Apelu’s departure, the starting role is Slade-Matautia’s to take. Lack of size was a slight on Slade-Matautia last season. Not only does he feel more comfortable at 235 pounds, it’ll help with the adjustment for more reps and he has been able to maintain his speed.

His accountability helps the Ducks trust him to make the calls on the field, set the front and get the coverage correct.

“I think he runs the defense really well, he has good control, guys trust him,” Dye said. “We all buy into backing him and believing in him… I know he’s going to have a breakout year this year.”

In Oregon’s latest scrimmage, Slade-Matautia made an impressive interception that displayed his knack for running to the ball and showcasing his strong hands.

“It was a man-to-man coverage. The ball came my way and I was there to jump the route,” Slade-Matautia said. “Knowing everything I was able to overcome, being injured and all that, getting that pick helped other players be confident in my plays.”

Slot wide receiver Jaylon Redd said he’s always aware of the physical presence of Slade-Matautia has in practice.

“You always gotta keep your eye on him,” Redd said. “He might catch you slipping a little bit. He’s focused, a quiet guy. He knows what he is doing.”

Last season, Slade-Matautia saw action in seven games before missing the last six games due to injury. He made 20 tackles, including 13 solo and two for loss.

Fair warning for Pac-12 offenses, it is Slade-Matautia's season and he’s looking to take advantage of slip-ups.

Oregon football predictions: Ducks beat Auburn, Dye smashes record, McCormick back with vengeance

Oregon football predictions: Ducks beat Auburn, Dye smashes record, McCormick back with vengeance

Optimism is high for Oregon football’s 2019 season. 

The anticipation is palpable. The Ducks are trying to make the most of Heisman hopeful quarterback Justin Herbert’s senior year and Cristobal’s second season at the top. UO returns a combined 17 positional starters; a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, an influx of new talent at receiver, projected first round draft pick linebacker Troy Dye and a few extraordinary freshman who could make instant impacts.

Before the action begins, here are six predictions for Oregon's season. Let me know if you agree or disagree on Twitter

1. Underdog Ducks will beat Auburn

Oregon football grasps the chance to upset Auburn in prime time and become the Pac-12’s best chance for a spot in the playoff. It’s hard to count out a determined Gus Malzahn, who has been featured on every ‘hot seat’ list in the country, and a resilient Auburn team, but the Ducks have the star power, size and experience to beat the Tigers.

2. Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dye will undoubtedly be the leader of Oregon’s 2019 defense and he’s already etched his name in UO history books: leading the team in tackles for three straight seasons, only the third Duck to do so since 1970.

The “freak athlete” as NFL scouting reports often refer to Dye, finished the 2018 season with 115 total tackles totaling 313 in his collegiate career. He needs 121 tackles, six more than he had last season, to set the record.

3. Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert; will set new record for career pass completions

Herbert’s teammates gush that he has never been better. His leadership skills have grown immensely, altering the perception of his shy personality. He is receiving instruction from legends at his position. He is utilizing the summer break to better connect with his receivers. Long story short, Herbert is putting it all together for an epic senior season that I predict will be record shattering.

The senior will break Oregon’s record for career pass completions, set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with 779 completions.

4. Cam McCormick back with a vengeance

The Ducks have six options at tight end but I predict you will be hearing Cam McCormick’s name ringing through Autzen Stadium a lot this season.

McCormick won the starting spot last year but suffered a season-ending left leg injury in the first game of the season. The Bend, Oregon. native is back in action and poised to have a breakout junior season. He returned for Oregon’s spring football and practiced with the first team. 

Expect the 6-foot-5, 260-pound pass catcher to be a big (literally) weapon for Herbert. As the Ducks’ largest tight end, McCormick has NFL size and tools to make an impact this season.

5. "Dangerous" running back Sean Dollars to have a money freshman season

Hype surrounds the star-powered 2019 class looking to make an instant impact, including Sean Dollars, who has all the tools to have a stand out freshman season and develop into a starting running back before his time is up at Oregon. He’s also caught the eye of former Duck running back star and Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James who believes Dollars is already “college ready.” Should Dollars enter Oregon’s fall camp in peak physical and mental shape, he could be an elite addition to the backfield. 

6. True freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux poised to lead Oregon football in sacks

Cristobal named Kayvon Thibodeaux a “game changer” from the moment he committed to the Ducks. Undoubtedly, ESPN's No. 1 recruit in the 2019 class is competing for a starting job and I predict the defensive end will lead UO in sacks this season. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, he’s an elite pass rusher with explosiveness, scary speed and agility that creates major issues for offensive lines.

Do you have any predictions of your own?

Justin Herbert: the player opponents hate to love

Justin Herbert: the player opponents hate to love

LOS ANGELES— Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert has been creating problems for Pac-12 Conference defenses for three seasons. His junior campaign flashed brilliance that caused NFL scouts to project him as a top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft had he chosen to leave school. Herbert’s decision to stay surprised many, except those who know him, and caused opposing Pac-12 coaches to sigh.

“Seems like Herbert has been there forever,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said of the four-year starter. “Somehow they granted him 10 years of eligibility.”

The hot commodity quarterback certainly has an NFL future but the pros will have to wait one more season before the Eugene-native plays on Sundays. The Ducks and coach Mario Cristobal are grateful for the opportunity for another season with the senior and recognize the opportunity to make the most of his finale.

“It’s really rare… I think what’s really neat about it is that he’s just as grateful for the opportunity. There was no hesitation and no flinching in his decision,” Cristobal said. “He knows what he wants for Justin Herbert and is not going to let anyone talk him out of what he knows is the best thing for him. He has taken another giant step in terms of his development. He is a guy that- who doesn’t love him?”

Herbert, who is on most short lists for this season’s Heisman Trophy, was named first-team quarterback in landslide fashion at Pac-12 Media Day. The senior received a first-team nod on 31 of 33 media members ballots.

Yes, the media is all aboard the Herbert train and so are opposing Pac-12 coaches. While coaches raved about Herbert’s talent, they also reeled for an answer on how to defend the 6-foot-6, 240-pound passer with the powerful right arm and sneaky fast wheels. Herbert has become the most hated to love player in the conference.

“He’s such a fantastic player, arguably the best quarterback in the country,” said Cal second-year head coach Justin Wilcox. “He really doesn’t have a weakness in his game. It’s exciting to play against guys like that. We know it will take our best.”

Wilcox has known Herbert and his family his entire life. The two families are tied with a bond to UO through Josh Wilcox, who played tight end at Oregon in the mid-1990s. Wilcox and Herbert played backyard football after holiday meals. If he was home, Justin Wilcox was often the quarterback for Justin Herbert’s team.

21 years apart, Wilcox “thinks the world” of Herbert and his family until game day when Wilcox separates from their history for work. Wilcox was not surprised that Herbert returned for his senior season because “he’s wired the right way.”

36 miles north in Corvallis, second year head coach Jonathan Smith is proud of Herbert’s representation of the state.

“To be able to watch him over the last couple years turn into the player that he is, he’s just impressive, on and off the field,” Smith said. “I’m really happy for him and the future that he has ahead of him. He represents that school and this state in a great way.”

In Hollywood at Pac-12 Media Day, Herbert oozed confidence and comfort. Sitting next to him, teammate Troy Dye gushed about the respect Herbert has earned from the entire team, top to bottom.

“He can make any throw in the world. I swear, I’ve seen him make every throw and it pisses me off every day,” linebacker Dye said. “It’s super cool to have a quarterback like that because he’s a great leader, a great person and a great friend.”

Herbert enters his final season as a Duck with a streak of 28 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, the longest in the nation. His veteran offensive line is projected to be the best in the country and he utilized the summer break to better connect with his receivers. His leadership skills have grown immensely, altering the perception of his shy personality. He is receiving instruction from legends at his position.

Long story short, Herbert is putting it all together for an epic senior season that could be record shattering.

“He’s exactly what you want on your football team,” Cristobal said. “He acts like he’s a freshman that just got here and is trying to prove something.  He lives each day as if he’s the guy who’s trying to prove that he belongs here. When your best players are doing that, you’ve got a chance to be a good football team.”

Herbert's work ethic-- you gotta love it. That is, unless your are playing against him. 

Oregon football's "senior retreat" a wild and chemistry building experience

Oregon football's "senior retreat" a wild and chemistry building experience

Los Angeles- One glance at Pac-12 Media day and it was easy to tell the Ducks had a great summer: coach Mario Cristobal sported the type of tan not from Oregon; linebacker Troy Dye “still had dirt in his hair” from riding ATVs at a senior retreat; and quarterback Justin Herbert eased a smile from ear to ear, beaming in confidence.

Cristobal’s offseason was split between work (traveling around the nation to recruit while preparing for the 2019 football season) and family time. The Miami-native took his family to visit his mother, who still lives in the house he was raised in. Upon arrival to his old-stomping grounds, UO’s second-year head coach had a serious chat with his mom when he realized a few things had changed around the house.

“It’s gone. All of my awards have been eliminated,” Cristobal said with a sigh. “My Jack Lambert hall of fame wall, my Pittsburg Steelers stuff has all been taken down.”

There are no “Age 8 Mario” height measurements on the wall but there are plenty of photo albums that Cristobal enjoyed sharing with his children and wife. The family fished in Key Largo and circled the games that Cristobal’s mother would come to Eugene for.

Aside from family time, another offseason priority was a huge success for the former Miami offensive lineman and two-time national champion: Organize a senior class bonding trip.

Seniors Herbert and Dye both pegged the senior retreat as the most fun experience of their summer.

“It was a cool bonding moment, we got to ride ATV cars,” Dye said. “It was an experience that I never had at the University and I was super excited that we were able to do that and build a better relationship among the seniors.”

“’Was I wild?’ Yes, exclamation point!”

Due to the antics of Oregon’s leading tackler in each of the last three seasons, it may be the first and only bonding trip that he will organize, Cristobal joked.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the old cartoon Mr. Magoo, the guy who couldn’t drive because he couldn’t see… He reminds me a lot of Troy and the way he drives.” Cristobal said.

According to Dye, Herbert was less crazy on the ATV and one car did flip, driven by cornerback Charles Sudduth.

Breaking bread, riding around, getting dirty, investing time with one another... That’s what Cristobal had hoped for in their final summer before their last Duck season.

[RELATED: Hot Hollywood scene and instant Pac-12 Media Day takeaways]

The 2019 class and Cristobal have a special bond and connection. As freshmen in 2016, they played on a team that finished 4-8 and left out of a bowl game. In 2017, Cristobal joined the coaching staff and brought discipline with him. Later that season, more than 70 Duck players signed a petition to UO Athletic Director Rob Mullens, lobbying for Cristobal to take over the program when former coach Willie Taggart departed for Florida State. Oregon’s current seniors and a few juniors are the only remaining players who signed that petition.

For that, Cristobal is deeply thankful.

“We wanted to make sure this was a summer that they grew, not only from a football stand point and academic stand point,” Cristobal said. “We wanted them to develop personally as well.”

The senior retreat is the tip of the iceberg of UO bonding activities. Any Ducks that aren’t overseas in study abroad programs have enjoyed invites to bowling tournaments, paintballing brawls, go-cart racing and a Timbers soccer game.

If there was a grade for best “work hard, play hard” mentality, it’d go to the 2019 Oregon football team. Now, to see how the off-field chemistry translates in between the lines.

Hot Hollywood scene and instant Pac-12 Media Day takeaways

Hot Hollywood scene and instant Pac-12 Media Day takeaways

Los Angeles- It was 100 degrees in Hollywood and the Pac-12 Conference is heating up ahead of the 2019 football season.

THE SCENE

Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, linebacker Troy Dye and coach Mario Cristobal oozed confidence and comfort with the media at the annual Pac-12 Media Day. Pac-12 North coaches raved about Herbert’s talent while reeling for an answer on how to defend the possible 2020 NFL Draft top quarterback selection.

“Seems like Herbert has been there forever,” said Washington State coach Mike Leach of the four-year starter. “Somehow they granted him 10 years of eligibility.”

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith, running back Jermar Jefferson and wide receiver Isaiah Hodgins wore the word “urgency” printed on their wristbands, while preaching improvement and a mentality shift.

TAKEAWAYS

Border War heat

I’d argue the rivalry between Oregon and Washington has never been hotter and Herbert agrees with me. The Ducks narrowly edged the Huskies to win the North Division among 35 voting media members (who picked the Utes to win the South and the conference). I asked Herbert and Dye, “Does it feel good to top their rival in the media poll?” Refreshingly, the Eugene-native Herbert grabbed the mic, smiled and said yes, it confirmed and recognized much of the hard work that UO has been putting in.

After being upset in overtime in Eugene, Washington coach Chris Peterson downplayed this season’s October 19th game at Husky Stadium, urging the “one game at a time” mindset.

You don’t want to see Mario Cristobal when he’s angry

Hollywood equals Blockbuster movies, so which Superhero movie would Ducks star in? Herbert would be Iron Man, Dye loves Captain America and both Ducks said Cristobal would be Hulk, because they are afraid of him when he’s angry.

Justin Herbert, most interesting person at media day

Herbert, who is on most short lists for this season’s Heisman Trophy, was named first-team quarterback in landslide fashion. The senior received a first-team nod on 31 of 33 media members ballots. Herbert’s decision to return for his senior season surprised everyone, except those who know him, Cristobal mentioned that it was a less difficult decision than it may have seemed.

Teammate Dye called Herbert a “clown” and admitted that Herbert is much funnier than his serious disposition suggests. Herbert, Dye and the entire senior class went on a bonding retreat to Sunriver, Oregon this summer to ride ATVs. 

Pac-12 opponents praised his off-field poise, but also explained that Herbert is the athlete that everyone hates to love, because of the problems his talent creates for defenses.

Terror Troy Dye

Dye is “stronger and smarter than he looks,” says Herbert. After forgoing the 2019 NFL Draft, Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and I predict the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971.

The linebacker, who was named to first-team defense, is undoubtedly he leader of Oregon’s 2019 defense. At media day, he divulged that he revels in competing with Herbert. His favorite thing to do is try to intercept Herbert’s passes.

Wake surfing, so hot right now

It’s always fun to see how coaches spend their offseason when they aren’t recruiting or preparing. Peterson and Smith like to go boating and both coaches enjoy to wake surfing, which is basically wake board without being strapped into a board. This summer was the first time Smith has ever successfully surfed and Cal coach Justin Wilcox said he needed photo proof. Wilcox is more of a paddleboard guy.

OSU defense making strides

Oregon State’s defense has to be better than last season, right? The Beavers could not stop anyone. Outside of a 48-25 home win over Southern Utah, Oregon State allowed at least 34 points in every other game last season.

In Smith’s second year as head coach, he specified the outside linebackers as the defensive position group that has seen the most growth. He also mentioned the new additions are extremely important for their depth and competition in the position rooms.

Versatile Jermar Johnson

Following a sensational freshman season, Johnson has benefitted from an offseason of weight-lifting and conditioning at the college level. He gained muscle, set new max’s and lowered his body fat. His versatility will be a major strength for OSU’s offense this season, as the sophomore has been working on catching passes out of the backfield.

Troy Dye named to Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year

Troy Dye named to Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year

The Oregon football faithful let out a deep sigh of relief the day news broke of Troy Dye forgoing the 2019 NFL Draft and returning for one more season in green and yellow. 

The senior linebacker, who has lead the Ducks in tackles for the third consecutive year, has been named to the Bednarik Award watch list for the College Defensive Player of the Year, and rightfully so. 

Dye became the first Oregon player with 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons since Michael Clay (2011-12) and the 15th player in program history to reach 300 career tackles. Dye will be one of just two FBS players, and the only Power 5 player, returning in 2019 to lead his team in tackles each of the last three seasons (91 in 2016, 107 in 2017 and 115 in 2018).

Our Oregon Insider Bri Amarathus says, "In 2019, I predict Oregon inside linebacker Troy Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971." 

Fun Fact: In three career season openers, Dye has totaled 29 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, two sacks and two interceptions.

Career Notables:
- Enters senior season third among current FBS players with 313 tackles.
- Needs 121 tackles to become Oregon’s all-time career leader.
- Has led the team in tackles 19 of 37 career games.
- Ranks second in program history with double-digit tackles in 17 games.
- One of three FBS players with at least 100 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in 2017.

Preseason Honors: 
- Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List
- Lott IMPACT Trophy Watch List 
- Athlon Sports All-America second team
- Phil Steele All-America second team 
- Athlon Sports Pac-12 first team
- Phil Steele Pac-12 first team 
- No. 85 on Sports Illustrated Top 100 Players 

Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

Troy Dye, projected first round 2020 NFL draft pick, will smash Oregon record

In 2019, I predict Oregon inside linebacker Troy Dye’s reign of terror on Pac-12 offenses will continue and the senior will take down the Oregon record for career tackles, set in 1971.

The 6-foot-4, 225-pound Dye will undoubtedly be the leader of Oregon’s 2019 defense and he’s already etched his name in UO history books: leading the team in tackles for three straight seasons, only the third Duck to do so since 1970.

The “freak athlete” as NFL scouting reports often refer to Dye, finished the 2018 season with 115 total tackles totaling 313 in his collegiate career. He needs 121 tackles, six more than he had last season, to set the record.

[READ: Justin Herbert gearing up for final Duck season, invited to Manning Passing Academy]

The career record for tackles by a Duck was set by Tom Graham with 433 from 1969 to 1971, with an insane 206 tackles in 1969.

Dye, whose 313 tackles rank third among current FBS players, elected to return for his senior season after being projected as a mid-round 2019 NFL draft selection.

The linebacker has jumped up in 2020 NFL Draft projections to the first round. Rotoworld’s 2020 Mock Draft has the Los Angeles Rams selecting Dye at No. 32 overall. The Rams, who failed to address their linebacking need until the seventh round of the 2019 draft, have their eye on the speedy and versatile Dye.

Dye is in a position to become the first Duck to tally three straight 100 tackle seasons. Yes, he has more defensive talent around him this season (cough, Kayvon Thibodeaux, cough) but Dye’s elite agility and lateral quickness gives him the ability to power through linemen and can get skinny to shoot multiple gaps.

His slighter frame was Dye’s biggest weakness, but he intends to add muscle this offseason with the goal of playing next season around 235-240 pounds.

“Troy impacts our program in so many ways with his passion, leadership and love for the game,” Oregon coach Mario Cristobal said. “He leads by example and is someone his teammates look up to. Troy is a difference-maker every snap that he is on the field, and his desire to be great helps elevate our culture to the next level.”

A stronger Dye could very well lead the Pac-12 Conference in tackles next season. In which case, he’d likely earn his first All-Pac-12 first team defensive honors.


On a personal level, Dye’s decision to stay for his senior season opened up the opportunity to make Oregon history, add to his resume and his growing NFL stock.

As far as the team goes, the Ducks are probable favorites in the north division and the conference for 2019. Entering year two under Cristobal with a veteran offensive line, running back weapons CJ Verdell and Travis Dye, an influx of young talent at receivereight returning starters on defense and a few extraordinary freshman who could make instant impacts… 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting season for Oregon football.

Next man up? With Jim Leavitt out, who will run Oregon's defense

Next man up? With Jim Leavitt out, who will run Oregon's defense

Oregon is parting ways with defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt. All Pepsi jokes aside, Leavitt stabilized the Ducks’ defense over the past two seasons, helping improve Oregon's 126th ranked defense in 2016 to 67th in the nation in 2018.

As the sixth-highest paid assistant in the nation, Leavitt was earning $1.7 million annually and under contract for two more years. The amount for his remaining buyout would have been $3.4 million, less anything he earns in the next two years.

The athletic department announced Thursday the “mutually reached agreement to part ways” will be funded from private sources over multiple years. Oregon will pay him a maximum amount of $2.5 million, subject to reduction based on future employment.

This news begs the question, with star linebacker Troy Dye returning to lead the 2019 defense and the some of the nation’s top talent signing with Oregon, including incoming freshmen defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, who will be in charge of Oregon’s defense?

The official release from Oregon states 'a national search for a new UO defensive coordinator is underway'. However according to sources within NBC Sports NW and multiple reports, Cristobal is expected to promote safeties coach Keith Heyward to defensive coordinator. Heyward was hired as the Ducks’ safeties coach in January 2017. Here is what you need to know about the Oregon State alumnus:

Entering the 2018 season, Cristobal added co-defensive coordinator duties to his role and earns $450,000 annually at Oregon.

“Keith is a rising star in this industry and played an instrumental role in our remarkable improvement defensively across all metrics,” Mario Cristobal said after extending Heyward’s contract in 2017 after former head coach Willie Taggart departed for Florida State. “We look forward to his continued impact in the development of our players.”

Prior to Oregon, he was the secondary coach at Louisville in 2016. In one season as Louisville’s defensive backs coach the Cardinals racked up 15 interceptions.

Heyward is a veteran of the Pac-12 Conference as both coach and player. The leader of the Oregon safeties room has coached defensive backs at four different Pac-12 schools (Oregon, Washington, USC, Oregon State) and was an All-Pac-10 cornerback at Oregon State, ending his career with 35 consecutive starts.

While coaching defensive backs at USC in 2014-15, he also served as passing game coordinator. He helped the Trojans to the Pac-12 Championship game and a trip to the Holiday Bowl in 2015.

Can he help Oregon win its first Pac-12 title since 2014?

The defense loses key components including safety Ugo Amadi, linebacker Justin Hollins and defensive end Jalen Jelks. However, after starting six sophomores in 2018, the 2019 defense could make an improvement. Not to be overlooked, the Ducks add Thibodeaux and linebacker Mase Funa, who could make an impact right away.

By the way, don’t worry about Thibodeaux transferring away from Oregon. The nation’s No. 1 recruit tweeted this after the Leavitt news broke.

Here are more reactions from the Duck defense.

Players reactions: Ducks defense is shook over Leavitt news

Players reactions: Ducks defense is shook over Leavitt news

If you are shocked to hear that defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt and Oregon are parting ways, you aren't alone.

In the few minutes since the story broke, many Oregon defensive players took to Twitter to share their reactions about Leavitt leaving, one can assume. It appears the Ducks were not aware that Leavitt would not be back for a third season. Very notable is linebacker Troy Dye's response, who made the decision to forgo the 2019 NFL Draft to return for his senior season. Also, is the nation's No. 1 recruit, Kayvon Thibodeaux, HAPPY that Leavitt is gone? The good news is he does not plan on transferring. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little background on Leavitt: Leavitt is the highest paid coordinator in the Pac-12 conference. Over the span of two years as Oregon's defensive coordinator, he has improved the Ducks' 126th ranked defense in 2016 to 67th in 2018 in the nation. Oregon's scoring defense has also improved from 41.4 points per game to 28 points per game.