As defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt reflects on Oregon’s defensively-fueled victory over Michigan State in the Redbox Bowl and heads into offseason recruiting, one may wonder whether the highly touted coach has any lingering frustration over Kansas State passing him up in their search for longtime coach Bill Snyder’s replacement at the helm. It was a known fact that the Wildcat’s head coaching spot was one Leavitt coveted, he even had a clause in his contract that allowed him to leave free of charge if it was that particular position that he decided to take. But Kansas State declined, as did Leavitt’s former stomping ground Colorado, who also was recently in search of a new head coach after a rather dismal season.
But if there is a proverbial silver lining to Leavitt remaining as Oregon’s defensive coordinator it’s that come next season he will begin working with perhaps the most talented, and certainly the most heralded, group of athletes he ever has.
Oregon’s unprecedented 2019 football class, which ranks #5 in the nation and #1 in the Pac-12, is spearheaded by defensive talent. The nation’s top recruit, Kayvon Thibodeaux, is a defensive end, perhaps the most disruptive position in all of football. Joining him are 4-star and top 50 national players Mykael Wright, a cornerback, and Mase Funa, an inside linebacker. Also on board are 4-star outside linebacker Ge’mon Eaford and 4-star defensive tackle Keyon Ware-Hudson. Junior Troy Dye, whose production took a slight step back this season from his outstanding first two years, still remains a freak athlete with NFL size & speed. Dye is set to make his decision soon as to whether or not he will enter the NFL draft or return for his senior season.
Either way Leavitt is looking at a unit that could easily become the next “Gang Green” and wreak havoc upon opposing teams’ offenses. Considering the exponential differences Leavitt was able to make in his first seasons at Colorado and Oregon, one can only imagine what he could potentially do with some of the most elite defensive players in the country.
So maybe Leavitt won’t get to be a Wildcat like he’d hoped for, but if this recruiting class and the decisions of several key players to return are any indicator, it’s a great time to be a Duck.