Back by overwhelming demand, FootballScoop will once again examine the assistant coaching hires that will have the biggest impact on the college football season and the coaching job market in the 2019 season and beyond.
Who: Andy Avalos
Title: Defensive coordinator
Previous stop: Boise State linebackers coach (2012-15), defensive coordinator (2016-18)
Why he's important: We all know the phrase, "If you can't beat them, join them." Avalos proved the inverse is true, "If you want to join them, beat them."
To be fair, Avalos, one of the best defensive players in Boise State history, wasn't actively looking to leave when his alma mater faced Oregon in the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl. But a game in which his Broncos defense limited Oregon to 280 total yards while registering four sacks, three turnovers, a pick-six and winning 10-of-14 third downs in a 38-28 Boise win.
Fast forward a year and change later, and now Avalos is Oregon's defensive coordinator. At a press conference in March, Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal said the 2017 Las Vegas Bowl didn't hurt, but that wasn't what got him the job. “His presence as a teacher, his ability to articulate the defense, the answers that go with it from the front to the back really stick out,” Cristobal said.
Cristobal was especially impressed at Avalos's ability to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit.
"The thing that really got us fired up about Coach Avalos and their scheme is that they're so multiple. They can go from the odd front to the 4-down to the bear front, a lot of movement, a lot of pressure, very aggressive. The back end is very tied into what you do up front, the disguises as well as its coverages.
"His ability to dissect and match personnel was really impressive to us. When we played Boise, it was as diverse as being in an odd front pre-snap, a quick spin and all of a sudden they're in 4-down."
"His coaching is energizing, it gives you fuel," outside linebacker Lamar Winston said in April. "You want to play good for him, you want to make him proud."
Cristobal sighted the 37-year-old Avalos's penchant for forcing turnovers, pressuring the quarterback and winning third down as areas in which Oregon can improve, and Avalos indeed excelled in all three categories last season. Boise State was one of just five teams in 2018 to register at least three sacks per game and force at least 24 turnovers and limit opponents to a 33.3 percent or lower rate of third down conversions. Oregon didn't meet one of those benchmarks last fall.
Quarterback Justin Herbert turned down a chance to be a first-round millionaire, opting instead to run it back one more time. And it's just not Herbert, either. The Ducks retain 10 offensive starters from a year ago and seven on the defense, while adding defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux, the highest-rated recruit Oregon has ever signed. The potential to return to Pac-12 glory is there, evidenced by Wednesday's news that the Ducks enter the year as the (ever so slight) favorites to win the North Division.
To take his program back to the mountaintop, Mario Cristobal will first need to climb over defending Pac-12 champion Washington, helmed by his new defensive coordinator's former player and assistant. What's that they say again, If you want to beat 'em, hire one of their former assistants?
Yeah, I think it goes something like that.