EUGENE, Oregon — As we draw closer to the start of the 2017 season, players yearn to hit someone besides their own teammates. This Oregon defense is ready to get after it, especially their excitable defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
We are in the middle of the dog days of training camp. Just 17 days from Oregon’s first game against Southern Utah, the defensive coordinator has concerns of his own.
“Did I get all the lotion on me okay?” Leavitt asked the media contingent with a large laugh. “My biggest concern is making sure I get a good night’s sleep and that I make it to the practice field. I don’t even think about anything else, all these questions. And that my lotion’s on me so I don’t get a sunburn in this hot Oregon Heat. Direct sunlight.”
Clearly, Leavitt has his priorities in order. However, he understands this waiting game is difficult for everyone, not just the players.
“Coaches are so boring when you talk to them,” said Leavitt. “There are some good things, there are some bad things. Are we ready to play a game today? No. We need this time. I hope we’ll be ready in a few weeks. We’re going to play, whether you’re ready or not.”
The players are ready to take their aggression out on an opponent. They’re tired of hitting their teammates and the sled. Especially after last season, this Oregon team wants to get back onto the field already.
The former NFL coach understands this better than anyone.
I’ve been in this for awhile. This part of the year, guys don’t want to keep hitting each other. They want to go play games. Same with me! As a coach, I don’t want to practice all the time. I want to play. That’s why I coach.
Every day the defense is a major topic of conversation. Over the last few days, the rise of Troy Dye on the inside has begun to make some noise.
Following a storied high school career at safety, Dye made the transition to outside linebacker last season in Brady Hoke’s 4-3 defense. This fall, Dye has been excelling in his comfort zone of the middle of the field.
“He’s a really sharp guy,” said Leavitt. “That’s one reason we moved him in there. A lot of adjustments, checks, calls and he’s done a really, really good job. You have to remember, he played safety in high school.”
It didn’t take long for Leavitt to realize what position fits Dye’s skills best. It almost makes you wonder what the 2016 coaching staff was trying to do with him. However, Dye played a starring role as a freshman, regardless of his position.
They played him at outside last year which is really different from where he’s at now. He’s been making some really good improvements. He’s got good length, very heady ballplayer. He makes a lot of plays. It’s a good position for him.
The inside linebacker was impressed by what he saw in Oregon’s first full scrimmage on Saturday. But, he knows there is room for improvement.
“It was good,” said Dye. “Guys went out there and played their butts off. Coaches were pretty happy with the scrimmage. Still, things we need to work on, we’re not there as a total defense yet. I think the offense was moving the ball well. Overall I think it was a great scrimmage.”
Not only has Dye excelled in his new role at linebacker, but he has emerged as a team leader this year. The California kid has enjoyed watching his teammates get better over the spring and fall. He respects the progress of the offense, defense, and even the freshmen.
“The freshmen class came in with a great mindset to come on the field and compete and try to earn a starting spot,” the sophomore stated. “I know how it feels because I was in the same spot last year. I respect those guys. They come out every day and work hard just like everyone else on the field. The game knows no age.”
Alongside a group of hungry players like Dye, Leavitt is blessed with a coaching staff that is as passionate about their job as him. What’s better than a former Duck coaching the future of the Ducks like defensive graduate assistant Kwame Agyeman?
“Listen, we have a great group in that defensive room now,” Leavitt said. “Keith (Heyward) is awesome with the safeties, Charles (Clark) with the corners and you can’t beat Joe (Salave'a). We have Kwame helping us. I’m very fortunate to be around these guys.”
We'll continue to post interviews with Coach T and his coaches/players on a daily basis.