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Ducks' buzz all about Nick Aliotti

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti says he wants all the Oregon Ducks to have a smile on their face after Monday's Alamo Bowl, which will be his final game as a UO coach.SAN ANTONIO, Texas — The buzz around the Oregon Ducks football team this weekend continued to be Friday's retirement announcement by defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti.

Could Oregon's situation be a poor man's Texas situation? Could the Ducks be rallying around their outgoing D-coordinator the way the Longhorns will be rallying around departing head coach Mack Brown?

Suggested one media member: "Win one for the 'Nicker.' "

UO offensive coordinator Scott Frost says he has learned much from Aliotti, 59 and a 24-year member of the Oregon staff among his 38 years in coaching.

"Nick has been a great coach at Oregon for a long time," he says. "Nick is one of several guys on our staff that work hard every single day and have worked for a long time at the University of Oregon to make us great. I've learned a lot from all of them.

"We're sorry to see Nick go. He's been a big part of our family. But we're happy for him in retirement."

Aliotti, who has strong ties in the Bay Area, helped recruit running back Byron Marshall from San Jose, Calif.

"He's always going to keep it real," Marshall says. "If you're playing bad, he'll tell ya. And, he's not going to give you overconfidence, so your head gets big. He'll keep it real with you. It's sad to see a coach like him go and retire."

"He's hard on us when we're not doing things right," linebacker Derrick Malone says. "He expects a lot from us. But he's also there to nurture us and show us love when it's needed. He's not going to let us fall short of our potential."

"Coach Al, he's like a second father to me," defensive tackle Taylor Hart says. "He always comes with the attitude that he's just got the energy, we're always going to find a way to win. I can't say anything bad at all about Coach Aliotti."

Cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu says Aliotti's work ethic stands out.

"He comes with that relentless passion every day to get the best out of each player," he says. "Even when players might not take it for what it's worth, he's made everybody better at this program, and he's done it day in and day out. I thank him for that."

One longtime UO assistant, linebackers coach Don Pellum, says Aliotti's decision surprised him. Aliotti says that he thought about retiring after last season's Fiesta Bowl win, but stuck around to help the transition from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich.

The UO defense was on a record pace for fewest points allowed since 1980 until the Ducks lost 42-16 at Arizona, as running back Ka'Deem Carey ran roughshod and quarterback B.J. Denker made key plays with his legs and arm.

Then Oregon State pounded UO for 231 rushing yards and 545 yards total offense.

But Aliotti gladly accepted the one more point than the Beavers, as UO won 36-35.

In other words, the UO defense hasn't exactly performed well since being run over by Stanford on Nov. 7. So, it's a curious timing for the announcement, which both Aliotti and Helfrich agreed on.

"I'm at a good place," Aliotti says.

"I respect him. I'm glad he made this decision," safety Brian Jackson says. "Like he said, we need to get out there and play some football. ... I feel if we wanted to make this about coaches, we wouldn't be doing any game-planning."

Adds Malone: "We're here to win this game, no matter what happens. No matter what happens, who is staying, from coaches to players, we know we have one common goal."

Aliotti says that he hasn't changed this year.

"I did enjoy this group of kids. This is a good group of young men," he says. "I know we're going to put our best foot forward to try to beat a very good Texas football team.

"This is not, 'Win one for the Gipper.' I want to make that perfectly clear. This is about trying to win the Alamo Bowl."

Aliotti says he'll want to bond with players after the game, for one last time.

"The bottom line is I want to make sure I touch every one of my guys when the game is over and tell them thanks," he says. "I hope they all have a smile on their face when the game is over. That's what's important to me."