When Jim Leavitt suddenly left the Oregon program back in mid-February, leaving Oregon with a prime defensive coordinator opening, there was going to be no shortage of interested candidates for Mario Cristobal to choose from.
Among those guys, one option was already on staff in Ducks in Keith Heyward, who held the co-defensive coordinator title last season while working with the safeties. With past stops coaching the secondary at Louisville, Washington, and Oregon State, as well as a stint holding the defensive backs / passing game coordinator title at USC from 2014-15. On paper, and with continuity in mind, a bump to coordinator was certainly logical for the relatively young coach who got his career started as a graduate assistant at Oregon State in 2005.
However, that’s ultimately not the direction that Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal decided to take. Instead, he brought in Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos, who Cristobal had become pretty familiar with after facing off against Boise State last year in the Las Vegas Bowl. While game planning, Cristobal’s admiration for the multiple nature of Avalos’ defensive scheme grew, and when the defensive coordinator post opened up on staff, adding Avalos seemed like a great potential candidate.
Asked earlier this week why things didn’t work out with Leavitt, and if he considered Heyward for the position, Cristobal shared an interesting analogy after heaping some praise on coach Heyward.
While most coaches would try to make a splash hire, or perhaps focus on continuity, Cristobal kept his entire defensive staff at the forefront of his decision.
“I need to start by saying that Keith is an unbelievable coach and person, and these things are always hard, but the decision comes down to how can we get the best five guys together.”
“You almost look at it like when you’re putting together your offensive line, okay? How are you going to get your five best players together? Gosh, all these guys are really, really good, but how does that fit?”
That’s an interesting way to think about a coordinator hire.
While officially announcing the addition of Avalos to the staff last week, Cristobal also shared that Heyward earned a promotion to assistant head coach on top of his co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach role.
Hear more from Cristobal in the clip.