Jim Leavitt – University of Colorado

FootballScoop is proud to announce that Jim Leavitt is the 2016 FootballScoop Defensive Coordinator of the Year presented by ProGrass as selected by prior winners.

To truly understand the job done by Jim Leavitt at Colorado, one must go back to the year before he was hired, in 2014. Miracles do not happen overnight in college football, after all.

And in the year prior to Leavitt’s arrival, the Buffaloes were one of the worst defenses in the Power 5. CU ranked 103rd or worse in total defense, yards per play allowed, rushing defense, pass efficiency defense, scoring defense and takeaways, stumbling their way to a 2-10 season.

Just two short years later, Colorado ranked eighth nationally in yards per play allowed and takeaways, in or around the top 20 in scoring and total defense and third in pass efficiency defense. That turnaround helped Colorado pull one of the most improbable worst-to-first seasons in recent memory, rocketing from a 5-40 all-time record in Pac-12 games to a 10-3 season with a Pac-12 South Division championship.

As is critical for any modern defense, Colorado was especially tough to throw the ball against this fall. Opponents completed just 48.3 percent of their passes (fourth worst nationally) for 5.4 yards per attempt (tied for first) while tossing 15 touchdowns against 15 interceptions. Only two teams in college football defended as many passes as CU did (439) while allowing fewer than 15 touchdown grabs.

Colorado also recorded 35 sacks on the year while limiting opponents to 31.6 percent of their third down chances and scoring touchdowns on only 50 percent of their red zone trips, both of which ranked in the top quartile in FBS.

The mark of a true team effort, Colorado managed to win the South Division while placing just four players on the All-Pac-12 first- and second-teams. Linebacker Jimmie Gilbert was the lone Buff to earn first-team honors, while defensive backs Chidobe Awuzie, Tedric Thompson and Ahkello Witherspoon netted second-team nods.

Leavitt himself was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given to the top assistant in college football.

A 38-year veteran of the coaching profession, Leavitt jumped into the game as a safety and later a graduate assistant at Missouri. He worked at the University of Dubuque (Iowa) and Morningside College (Iowa) before joining the Hayden Fry coaching tree at Iowa and then as linebackers coach and later defensive coordinator for Bill Snyder at Kansas State. Leavitt compiled a 95-57 record as South Florida’s first head coach from 1995-07 and served as the San Francisco 49ers’ linebackers coach for three seasons under Jim Harbaugh before MacIntyre brought him to Boulder.

Leavitt was hired as Oregon’s defensive coordinator on Dec. 16.

“Jim and our defensive staff did an excellent job with our defense the last two years,” Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre said upon Leavitt’s departure. “Jim brought a lot of expertise and energy to our defense. I wish him the best in his move to the University of Oregon and thank him for all the hard work, time and energy he gave to the Colorado Buffaloes.”

The FootballScoop Coaches of the Year awards presented by ProGrass are the only set of awards that recognize the most outstanding position coaches in college football. The finalists (Dave Aranda [LSU], Don Brown [Michigan], Manny Diaz [Miami], Luke Fickell/Greg Schiano [Ohio State], Pete Kwiatkowski/Jimmy Lake [Washington], Jeremy Pruitt [Alabama], Phil Snow [Temple], Kevin Steele [Auburn], Brent Venables [Clemson], Nate Woody [Appalachian State] and Leavitt) were selected based off of nominations by coaches, athletic directors, and athletic department personnel. The prior winners selected this year’s winner.

Leavitt will receive his award and be recognized at an event at the AFCA Convention in January.

Previous winners of the Defensive Coordinator of the Year award are Nick Holt (USC, 2008), Kirby Smart (Alabama, 2009), Vic Fangio (Stanford, 2010), John Chavis (LSU, 2011), Bob Diaco (Notre Dame, 2012), Pat Narduzzi (Michigan State, 2013), Venables (Clemson, 2014) and Brown (Boston College, 2015).

keystats

8th Nationally – Yards/Play Allowed           1st Nationally – Yards/Attempt Allowed
19th Nationally – Scoring Defense           8th Nationally – Takeaways
3rd Nationally – Pass Efficiency D           11th Nationally – 3rd Down Defense

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.