Oregon was able to delay the start of spring practice to give Andy Avalos a couple of extra days to get ready for his new job.
Fall camp does not provide similar flexibility as the Ducks returned to the field Friday along with just about every other college football team set to open the season Aug. 31.
Avalos is now five months on the job as Oregon’s defensive coordinator after being lured from Boise State to replace Jim Leavitt.
“Having a little more than 10 days is very beneficial,” joked Avalos, whose hire was officially announced by Oregon on March 1 before spring practice opened March 9.
“The players have done a good job from the spring time until now to continue to improve and get themselves comfortable with the operation of the defense, communication and alignments and assignments. On Day One, it was very clear we were way more comfortable getting aligned and way more efficient between the snaps. We’ve got to continue to build on that. We are not at the point we need to be, but it is a huge improvement and now we have to keep cleaning up our fundamentals and techniques.”
The Ducks invited fans to watch the second fall practice Saturday, but Avalos warned any observers to beware of drawing up a depth chart four weeks before Oregon opens up against Auburn. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux was again getting some work at the STUD linebacker spot, but Avalos echoed Mario Cristobal’s comments from Friday about switching ends and STUDs at times in practice.
“We are using guys at different spots and that is what fall camp is for, making sure we create depth,” Avalos said. “Throughout camp, players will play different positions because this is a long season. We’ve got a lot of guys on the roster and so what we want to do is create dependable depth. Guys that can execute the fundamentals and techniques play after play.”
The first, second and third units will come more into focus during the final week or two before the season begins.
“We are in practice No. 2 today and before you know it, you will blink and look up and it will be No. 13 or No. 14 and we are moving on,” Avalos said. “Between now and then, the more guys that can be consistent and make plays and line up and do the right thing, we want to create a role for as many guys as we can. It is not determined if you are a senior or a freshman. If you are a freshman who can handle the process and are ready to go, we’ll find a role for you.”
Troy Dye’s role is set as he prepares for a fourth season starting at linebacker, but the senior has worked to help his teammates get up to speed with a new defensive scheme.
“Not only has Troy elevated himself with the process, but he is bringing guys along with him,” Avalos said. “Troy is a fast learner, he gets football. This makes sense to him. So the more guys he can bring along, the better they get at leading on the field and communicating.”
Avalos went to Corona (Calif.) High School, but his wife, Summer, went to nearby Norco (Calif.) High School, which is also the alma mater for Dye.
“I went to the rival school, so naturally there is a bit of trash talking going on through that,” Avalos said. “Just respecting him and his family, his brothers including one on this team and one that played (at UCLA). Getting to know the family, admiring them from afar and now getting to work with those guys, it’s awesome. Especially having a close relationship with Troy.”
Dye joked that Avalos looks like an “AAU baseball coach from Inland Empire” because he often wears a baseball cap and sleeveless windbreaker. Following the first practice, Dye told Avalos that he looked like he was just off a yacht.
“It helps a lot to break down barriers,” Dye said. “You don’t have to go through that murky phase of wondering where is this guy from and how does he feel. … It is nice to crack jokes and talk about guys from our area. He cares about all the players on defense as human beings so it was big for him to come in and establish that.”