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UCLA Football Preview: Ducks Coaching Staff Looks to Continue Progress

The theme of this year’s Ducks coaching staff is clearly continuity after the departure of Willie Taggart.

NCAA Football: Stanford at Oregon
Ducks head coach Mario Cristobal
Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s finish up our Oregon football previews with a look this morning at the Ducks’ coaching staff and special teams.

Oregon Coaching Staff

It’s been a tumultuous few years for the Ducks. After Mark Helfrich was fired following a 4-8 campaign in 2016, the Ducks brought in South Florida head coach Willie Taggart as their new head coach. Taggart led the Ducks to a 7-5 record last year before he opted to return to the State of Florida to fill the vacancy left by Jimbo Fisher’s departure for Texas A&M.

With Taggart gone, the Ducks turned to Mario Cristobal as the team’s next head coach. Cristobal, who had been the Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Line Coach at Alabama from 2013 to 2016, had joined Taggart’s staff as Co-Offensive Coordinator and Offensive Line Coach.

So far this year, Cristobal has the Ducks at 5-3. Under Cristobal, the Ducks started this season out by winning five of their first six games, but they’ve struggled the past two weeks against Washington State and Arizona.

One of the things which has certainly led to Cristobal’s success so far this season was the fact that he was able to retain Taggart’s coordinators, ensuring a large degree of continuity and allowing the Ducks to build on last year’s accomplishments.

Cristobal’s offensive coordinator is Marcus Arroyo, who’s in his second year at Oregon. Arroyo shared offensive coordinator duties with Cristobal last season, prior to Cristobal’s promotion to head coach. Oregon is not Arroyo’s first stop in the Pac-12. He was the quarterbacks coach for UC Berkeley for the final two years that Jeff Tedford was head coach. Since then, Arroyo has coached for Southern Miss, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oklahoma State.

Arroyo likes to run a tempo-based offense and even brought in Jim Mastro who pioneered the pistol as the running backs coach at Nevada. But don’t call the Pistol an offense. It isn’t. It’s merely a formation. Arroyo told ScoopDuck.com:

The pistol is great because it gives a zone-read look but changes the balance of the defense. I really believe in multiple formations. It forces the defense to think which slows them down giving us an edge.

Defensively, the Ducks are led by Jim Leavitt. Like Cristobal and Arroyo, Leavitt joined the Ducks’ coaching staff last year under Taggart. In 2015 and 2016, Leavitt was the defensive coordinator at Colorado where he revitalized the Buffaloes’ defense.

After Oregon hired Cristobal as Taggart’s replacement, the first order of business was retaining Leavitt, who turned around the Ducks’ defense in just one season. They went from 126th in yards allowed in 2016 to 42nd in 2017 under Leavitt. It was a performance that earned Leavitt a raise to $1.7 million this season.

Look for the Ducks to plays a combination 3-4/3-3-5 defense today under Leavitt.

Special Teams

On special teams, the Ducks will split the punting duties between junior Blake Maimone and freshman Tom Snee, but expect to see more of Maimone than Snee. Maimone has kicked four more punts than Snee, but is averaging more than 10 yards per punt more than Snee. That doesn’t mean Snee won’t be lined up to punt today as he’s generally been getting a few punts per game.

Sophomore Adam Stack will handle the placekicking for the Ducks. Stack has been perfect on PATs so far this season while making 4 of his 6 field goal attempts. Stack looks to be a typical college kicker. He’s been perfect inside the 40-yard line, but, so far this season, he’s missed both of his attempts that were longer than 40 yards.

Look for senior running back Tony Brooks-James to take most of the kickoff returns. So far this year, he’s returned 11 kickoffs and is averaging 26.09 yards per return. His long this year is 56 yards, making him the so-called “dangerous return man”, even if he hasn’t scored a touchdown yet. No one else on Oregon has returned more than three kickoffs this year.

When it comes to punt returns, expect senior safety Ugochukwu Amadi to handle most punts. He’s the only guy on the Ducks to have returned more than 3 punts this year and his punt return average of 19.57 yards is more than 13.5 yards better than anyone else on the Ducks. His longest punt return so far this year is 57 yards.

And, that will wrap up the coaching and special teams preview for today’s opponent, the Oregon Ducks.


Go Bruins!!!