Andy Avalos wants practice to feel less like practice.
“We are going to try and make practice more physically and mentally, especially mentally, demanding to get it to the point where it is like a game,” Oregon’s first-year defensive coordinator explained following practice on Wednesday. “So when you get into a game, you have an understanding already of what it is going to be like. We make it very hard on our guys.”
Each week presents a new mental checklist for Oregon’s defenders based on the opponent.
“He is throwing different formations that Stanford runs at us,” UO safety Nick Pickett said as the Ducks (2-1) prepare to visit the Cardinal (1-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday. “We have new checks and new calls so we need to stay on point from what we talk about in the meeting room to how we translate it onto the field.”
Avalos is hands-on when he takes the field with his team each morning.
“The formations, adjustments, the sets they get, we are back there working them through it,” he said. “We love them up when they do it right and if it’s not done to the standard, we are going to let them know immediately because it is of the utmost importance.”
Oregon coach Mario Cristobal credited a “high level of communication” on defense for holding the past two opponents, Nevada and Montana, without a touchdown.
“(Avalos) breaks everything down so we know what the play is supposed to look like in practice,” Oregon senior linebacker Troy Dye said. “So if anything looks wrong, he slows it down and we run it again. We walk through it to make sure all 11 guys understand what they have to do.”
Oregon is allowing 12 points per game against a schedule that featured a top-10 opponent, a Group of Five foe and a FCS school. Auburn had 383 yards in a 27-21 win over Oregon before the Wolf Pack and Grizzlies combined for 434.
“There are so many different areas we are growing, especially in the run game and becoming more familiar with our techniques and fits,” said Avalos, whose unit is giving up an average of 99 yards on the ground. “Every single day, the consistency to continue to grow is a challenge for anybody. We are trying to keep our guys consistent with growth in all phases. The communication and operation of it and how we play with our fundamentals and our finish.”
Avalos emphasized that “every day is urgent” for game preparation.
“There is no time to waste,” he said. “Every single minute has to be used efficiently whether it is in meetings, preparing themselves for meetings, and obviously when we get on the practice field, we only have so much time.”