Mario Cristobal put some expectations on one of his most experienced defenders.
“For us to be great, I’m going to put it on him now so you can print it, La’Mar Winston has to be a great, great, great player and he’s shown a lot of that out there,” the Oregon football coach said following Saturday’s scrimmage in Hillsboro. “I can’t say enough about his last couple practices, he has really turned it up and he has to continue to do that.”
Winston has started 16 games during the past two seasons at outside linebacker, but must adjust as a senior to new defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, who has mentioned Winston as a candidate to be the stand-up defensive end in his system.
“Coach Avalos has been great, you’ve got to love him,” said Winston, who had 40 tackles last year to rank seventh among the returning players on defense. “He has great energy and is a great technician. I love having conversations with him and coming to him because he’s always an open book. That is all I can ask from a coach. … I believe I will be part of that rush end, but anywhere I can get in, I want to get in. Anywhere I can make a contribution, I will and that is why I love special teams too.”
Winston played his freshman season for defensive coordinator Brady Hoke before Jim Leavitt held that job the past two seasons until he was let go following last year. Avalos was the defensive coordinator at Boise State for the past three seasons.
“We still have a lot to learn because there are a lot of little things we miss and technique things we miss,” Winston said. “It is a new defense, so that is to be expected, but it can’t be that way once we get to fall.”
Junior safety Brady Breeze, who played with Winston at Central Catholic, said the Ducks have installed most of their new defense.
“Now we are going into details and techniques of coverages,” Breeze said. “There are a few new things, but not much different. I think it is going to be good for us this year, especially in the Pac-12 with the way it is run. Coach Avalos is incredible.”
Defensive tackle Jordon Scott said moving away from the 3-4 look under Leavitt will give him more chances to make tackles.
“It has been a change in style and scheme, but for the better,” he said. “Now that we have four defensive linemen on the field, I won’t get double- and triple-teamed every time. I look for more one-one-one opportunities.”
Scott had 29 tackles after getting 34 as a freshman.
“Jordon has stood out as a guy who is disruptive on the line of scrimmage and knocks people back,” Cristobal said. “With what we are doing now schematically, that gets guys a bit more one-one-one matchups.”