New coordinator pushes Ducks to be intense on defense

EUGENE — Don Pellum, the Oregon Ducks’ new defensive coordinator, says he had opportunities years ago to take on that role at other schools.

Pellum, a UO linebacker from 1982-84, loved being in Eugene, though, so he stayed as the Ducks’ inside linebacker coach for 20 years.

“I was not going to take off and chase jobs, trying to become a coordinator, when I had a great job,” he says. “The people I worked with were friends. It wasn’t like I had co-workers. The coaches were buddies.”

Longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti retired last season, and Pellum was named to succeed him.

“They’re very similar,” defensive back Erick Dargan says. “They’ve been around each other for a long time, and they’ve rubbed off on each other. They’re firm, strict and mean what they say.”

While the Ducks will play the same basic defense, Pellum is adding a few wrinkles.

“There’s going to be some different types of blitzes and things we do,” Pellum says.

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich left Aliotti pretty much on his own to run the defense last season, and he plans to do the same with Pellum.

“From a schematic standpoint, he’s an expert, and he’s there for a reason,” Helfrich says.

Helfrich says he has been impressed so far during spring ball.

“It’s a fresh situation for everybody,” he says. “They’ve been running around with excitement and an edge of intensity and discipline and rage that you want on defense.”

Aliotti also coached the outside linebackers, and Pellum will continue to coach the inside linebackers. New assistant Erik Chinander will take over the outside linebackers.

Adding the responsibility of looking at the defense as a whole has been a challenge for Pellum, but one he has accepted with vigor.

“As a position coach, all I was looking at was the inside of the defense and the run game,” Pellum says. “Now I’m looking at the whole structure. The extra time I’m spending is by myself, studying.”

Dargan says Pellum hasn’t changed much.

“He’s hard, he’s tough and he’s going to drill preparation into you,” Dargan says. “He’s a captain, he’s a leader. And when he’s leading us, we’re following him.”

Linebacker Rodney Hardrick describes Pellum as a coach who is both firm and caring.

“He’s a really good guy,” Hardrick says. “He cares about you as a person and on the field. He’s going to be hard on you on the little things. But it’s for a good reason, and we appreciate that.”

Pellum says “the accountability of the defense has improved dramatically. Guys were studying in the offseason. On the first day of (spring) practice, our communication was at a level we’ve never achieved in the first two weeks of practice.

“The beauty of the kids is they want to do well. But they’re kids, and we’ve got to keep pushing them. But they’re at a good spot right now.”

Pellum describes the swagger he wants to see in the Oregon defense.

“We’re not talking about being idiots and being bad people,” he says. “We’re talking about playing with confidence and a chip. In football, you’ve got to walk out there with attitude. The kids are embracing that. They’re juiced.

“It’s going to be a process. But in the end, we should have an identity formed on our confidence and our swagger.”

Pellum is excited for the 2014 season, which begins Aug. 30 at home against South Dakota.

“It’s unreal,” Pellum says. “This job is truly a blessing. I didn’t know how long Coach Aliotti would go, but I wasn’t anticipating this opportunity coming. I’m fired up, man.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine