Andy Avalos didn’t have to learn all the names and faces on defense when he arrived at Oregon.
“We kind of know each other from recruiting,” Oregon’s new defensive coordinator said. “A lot of guys, I’d say half on defense, I am familiar with because of the recruiting process.”
Avalos recruited some guys who picked Oregon over Boise State and watched others at camps and on film while recruiting the past couple years as defensive coordinator for the Broncos. Now that he is Oregon’s defensive coordinator, Avalos had a couple of weeks after being hired last month to be around his new players before the Ducks began spring practices on Saturday.
‘They really did a good job preparing even before we got on the field,” Avalos said following Oregon’s second practice of the spring on Tuesday. “Football is football, so it is about learning a new language. There are some similar things so a lot of times it is that little extra study prep to help them learn the language so that when we get on the field, we can fly around. I have been real happy with the things we’ve been stressing, the discipline and toughness, effort and communication from one through eleven pre-snap.”
One of the new terms for the Ducks is “STUD”, the position Avalos uses as an edge rusher. He said Oregon has about six guys who can fill that slot, including senior La’Mar Winston, sophomores Adrian Jackson and D.J. Johnson plus freshman Kayvon Thibodeaux.
“Guys who have that rush, drop capability, the length to handle themselves and set the edges in the running game,” Avalos explained. “Guys that can open and close their hips and move in space, that is what we look for. By watching the film from last year, there are guys who have done similar things before like the outside linebackers who played to the boundary last year.”
Avalos is sticking to the basics during the first five spring practices that continue on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday before the Ducks take a spring break that brings them back to the football field on April 2 for the first of nine practices remaining before the spring game on April 20.
“In the first quarter here, what we really want to get a hold of is No. 1, our fundamentals and technique and have consistency within those on all levels of the defense,” he explained. “Then it is how we operate pre-snap and how we finish plays. That is a huge deal right now. That will make the scheme because what happens from pre-snap to finish, everything in between is fundamentals and technique so we have got to break it up like that. That is what we are hoping for in the next week.”
Linebackers coach Ken Wilson is the other new addition to the staff on defense while Joe Salave’a, Keith Heyward, and Donte Williams return to their roles. Oregon brings seven starters on defense and 14 players who had a tackle in the Redbox Bowl.
“I’ve got to get to know how they learn and how they prepare so you can make them comfortable on the field,” Avalos said. “Figure out where guys do well on the field and put them in those positions. With the coaches who have been here, obviously I am relying on them to have knowledge of what our guys do best and put them in different positions where they can succeed or keep them in the same positions where they already succeeded. So as we get on the field, it is about watching the film and seeing who is playing fast, who feels comfortable and things like that.”
Avalos moved into the Hatfield-Dowlin Complex as the Ducks were finishing up their “4th Quarter” winter conditioning program.
“I got to see the runs and things like that, agilities, so I have a good idea of how guys move,” Avalos said. “Obviously I will be able to watch film from last year, but to be on the field with them is a whole different deal.”
Avalos said he would like to get comfortable going three deep on the depth chart by the time the season starts on Aug. 31 against Auburn in Arlington, Texas.
“That way guys are able to play 100 percent on each snap and handle their primary responsibilities and get to the ball because we have plenty of depth where we can rotate guys in and out,” he said.
Avalos has 13 more spring workouts to spend on the field with his players.
“One thing I am grateful and blessed for is the guys have opened up their hearts,” Avalos said. “They want to win a championship and just like coach (Mario) Cristobal raised the standard in everything we are doing, we all have to open up our hearts and be coachable and work every day to see that standard. All the new little things, and there are not a lot, there is a base here already to build off, so the guys have been awesome.”