Oregon has had some notable assistant coaches over the years, including offensive coordinators turned head coaches Chip Kelly and Scott Frost.
The program has never had a Broyles Award winner.
First-year defensive coordinator Andy Avalos is a strong candidate for the hardware handed out since 1996 to the nation’s top assistant coach.
Entering No. 12 Oregon’s game at No. 25 Washington on Saturday at Husky Stadium (12:30 p.m., ABC), the Ducks lead the FBS in touchdowns allowed (four), are third in points allowed (8.7 per game) and eighth in yards allowed (267.7 per game).
Coach Mario Cristobal’s decision to part ways with Jim Leavitt and hire Avalos away from Boise State has led to Oregon having the Pac-12’s best defense through the first half of the regular season.
“We felt coming out of fall camp that this could be a really special defense,” Cristobal said. “If you talk to all the guys on that defense and the coaches, they’ll tell you we can and need to get a whole lot better. It’s exciting.”
Oregon has allowed 52 points, including only 25 over the last five games, during a 5-1 start. That’s the fewest allowed by the Ducks through six games since 1964.
Avalos’ crew is the program’s first defense since 1933 to not allow a touchdown over a three-game stretch (Nevada, Montana, Stanford) and to hold its first three conference opponents under 10 points (Stanford, California, Colorado).
Chris Petersen coached Avalos at Boise State and then hired the standout linebacker to the Broncos’ staff in 2012 before leaving for Washington in 2013.
“You’re not going to get them or trick them,” Petersen said of Oregon’s defense under Avalos. “Wideouts have to go makes plays, running backs have to break tackles and have great ball security, O-line is going to have to do a great job.
“They just play well as a unit.”
Some of the other leading candidates for the Broyles Award are LSU passing game coordinator Joe Brady, Oklahoma defensive coordinator Alex Grinch and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard.
Depth showing up on D
Oregon’s defense is tied for 12th nationally with 50 tackles for loss. A total of 24 players have made tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The list includes backup defensive back Haki Woods and backup nose tackle Popo Aumavae, who both made their presence felt during the 45-3 domination of Colorado.
“It was his turn,” Cristobal said of Woods, who had two pass breakups and affected passes that were intercepted by Verone McKinley and Nick Pickett. “It was his opportunity and he was very physical right from the get-go. …
“He played with some pretty good technique and he’s excited to have his role increased overall.”
Aumavae, who has trimmed down from 365 to about 303 pounds since arriving on campus, is emerging as a trustworthy backup to Jordon Scott after overcoming significant injuries early in his collegiate career.
“Everyone’s really proud of him because we were hard on him, we were rough on him,” Cristobal said. “He’s a guy that has a world of potential and ability, and we need him to come out and perform. We’re counting on him to continue to get better to help this football team.”
McKinley earned Pac-12 defensive player of the week honors after finishing with two interceptions against Colorado with injured starter Jevon Holland cheering him on from the sideline.
The redshirt freshman said Ugo Amadi, now an NFL rookie with the Seattle Seahawks, graciously served as his mentor last season.
“From getting off of blocks, technique stuff, even some stuff off of the field,” McKinley said of what he learned from Amadi. “Just how to carry yourself, how to kind of work your way through college football.
“When I came in early, he kind of took me under his wing.”
• Washington has outscored opponents 90-6 in the fist quarter but has been outscored 60-50 in the second quarter. The Huskies have had the advantage in the third (66-48) and fourth (49-23) quarters.
• Oregon outscored its first six foes 49-19 in the first quarter but has been better in the second (59-6) and third (66-10) quarters. The Ducks have also outscored the opposition 42-17 in the fourth quarter.
• The Huskies lead the series 60-46-5, including a 32-21-4 edge in Seattle. Oregon has won 13 of the previous 15 meetings, including last year’s 30-27 overtime win at Autzen Stadium.
“A true doctor because he is. They call him Doc Throck,” Cristobal said of senior right tackle Calvin Throckmorton, a human physiology graduate who plans to attend medical school and become an orthopedic surgeon when his NFL career ends. “Every time you feel like you’re pretty smart or you’re trying to get smarter, he’s already read five books on that subject and he can tell you all about it.
“Special guy. He’s one of a kind, he really is.”
Follow Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @RGDuckFootball and email podcast mailbag questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Oregon sports coverage, visit DuckSports.com.