Replacing Aliotti: The Candidates For Oregon's Next Defensive Coordinator

Ronald Martinez

Nick Aliotti won't be sipping water bottles by the case in the press box next season. Who will Oregon look to as a replacement?

Since Nick Aliotti announced his retirement on Dec. 27, speculation has run rampant over who his replacement will be at defensive coordinator. Aliotti spent three separate stints as Oregon's DC--the most recent since 1999. Oregon is rare in that they aren't in position to make any kind of coaching hires very often. That is likely to change, as the lifers (Aliotti, Pellum, Greatwood, Campbell) start to phase into retirement over the next several years. College football has changed, and replacing them with such long term solutions is unlikely. Fan speculation immediately focused on for Oregon safety Justin Wilcox, who had been the DC at Washington. Former Ducks TE Josh Wilcox, Justin's brother and a Portland radio host, immediately took to the airwaves to reiterate that Justin would join Steve Sarkisan's staff at USC, and that is indeed what has happened. This leaves Oregon fans without the feel-good homecoming story, but there are still a lot of great candidates out there. Let's have a look:

The Favorites:

John Neal -- Defensive Backs Coach (Oregon)

Neal has over 30 years of coaching experience, including the last ten as Oregon's secondary coach. Under his tutelage, the Oregon secondary went from laughing-stock to an NFL factory. Within two years of Neal's arrival, Oregon shaved 80 ypg off their passing defense. Neal would be a continuity pick for a school that likes continuity hires. He is familiar with the personnel and system. Also, despite serving as DB coach for the past ten years, he has DC experience, serving as the DC and recruiting coordinator at UAB in 2000 and 2001, where his defenses ranked in the top ten in the country both years.

Clancy Pendergast -- Defensive Coordinator (USC)

Pendergast is a veteran of the Pac-12, serving as USC's defensive coordinator last year, and as Cal's defensive coordinator from 2010-2012. Pendergast has a knowledge of the conference and has been very successful--his USC defense ranking 13th nationally last season, while his defense at Cal ranked in the top 25 two seasons in a row. Fans remember his holding Oregon to 15 points during their national championship game run in 2010. Pendergast also has extensive NFL experience, having served as DC of the Arizona Cardinals for four years, including their Super Bowl run, and as DC of the Kansas City Chiefs. Pendergast may want to return to the NFL, but he needs a new job, and if he wants to stay in the college game, it's hard to find a better situation for him.

Randy Shannon -- Linebackers Coach (Arkansas)

Shannon was a minor disaster as Miami's head coach--but experienced amazing success as their defensive coordinator, fielding a top ten defense five of six years. Shannon spent his whole career in Miami before becoming LB coach at Arkansas, so he's not the most natural fit on the West Coast, but Shannon is young and an excellent recruiter, and this is a high-ceiling hire.

Todd Orlando -- Defensive Coordinator (Utah State)

Orlando seems to be this season's hot mid-major coodinator, and finished as a Broyles finalist for top assistant coach in America. Before Utah State, he was the DC at both FIU and UConn, and his resume is littered with top-15 defenses at every stop. A Wisconsin graduate, he has recruiting ties all over the country. He would likely look to parlay a coordinator position at Oregon into a head coaching job, but that's simply the reality of college football these days. If you get 2-3 years of stellar defense out of the deal, it's worth it.

The Darkhorses:

Don Pellum -- Linebackers Coach (Oregon)

Like Neal, Pellum would be a continuity pick. He has been Oregon's longtime linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator, and will know the personnel very well. Pellum has never coached anywhere else and has never been a defensive coordinator, and there are many who believe that Neal is the more qualified candidate, but this is the only step up for Pellum at the school he's devoted his life to.

Ed Orgeron -- Interim Head Coach (USC)

This is a supremely intriguing pick, mainly because Orgeron is one of the best recruiters in the entire country. Orgeron to Oregon would take the talent pipeline on defense and make it overflow. He turned USC around this year after Lane Kiffin's firing, and a significant segment of that fanbase backed Coach O for their head gig. Orgeron has never been a DC on any level, so there is some risk. And many believe that he should be in line for a head gig somewhere after what he did at SC. But if he is interested in returing to an assistant gig, and might like a chance to stick it into SC's craw to boot, this could be a really nice fit.

The Pipe Dream:

Tony Dungy -- Former Head Coach (Indianapolis Colts)

Dungy has been rumored to Oregon in some capacity ever since his son, Eric, signed his LOI with Oregon. It's not going to happen. Period.

Who should Oregon look to at defensive coordinator? Discuss in the comments.

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