Courtney: Ducks follow Familiar Theme with DeRuyter Hire

The DC elevated Cal from one of the nation’s worst defensive units to one of the Pac-12’s stingiest

Posted on January 22, 2021

Chris Courtney
  By Chris Courtney, SportsPac12

When you compare Mario Cristobal’s search for a new defensive coordinator in 2021 with his search for a new offensive coordinator in 2020, the parallels are eerily identical.


Following the 2019 season and Oregon’s victory over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl, the Oregon head man dove headlong into his search for an offensive coordinator to replace the departed Marcus Arroyo, who left his post in Eugene to assume head coaching duties in Las Vegas for UNLV. Though the search felt somewhat protracted due to Arroyo being announced as the new head coach at UNLV in December of that year, Cristobal’s decision to hire former Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead came roughly three weeks after Moorhead was fired in Starkville.

Similarly, the two-to-three week timeline to find a replacement for former defensive coordinator Andy Avalos—who left Oregon to take the head coaching job at his alma mater Boise State at the end of this past season—held true.

Per multiple reports, Oregon has tabbed well respected defensive coordinator and former Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter to be the program’s next defensive coordinator.

Most recently, the defensive coordinator at Cal (2017-20), DeRuyter served as the defensive coordinator at Air Force (2007-09) and Texas A&M (2010-11) prior landing the top job in Fresno where he went 30-30 as the Bulldogs’ head coach.


With the Golden Bears, DeRuyter was lauded for his dramatic defensive turnaround in Berkeley, elevating Cal from one of the nation’s worst defensive units prior to his arrival, to one of the Pac-12’s stingiest defenses practically overnight. In fact, in DeRuyter’s first season as Cal’s defensive coordinator, the Bears’ average improvement in the 15 primary defensive categories tracked by the NCAA was just under 40 spots per category.

Though some Duck fans may chaff at the lack of splashiness that comes with DeRuyter’s hire, due largely to age (58) and a relatively modest track record as a recruiter, the SoCal native is intimately familiar with the Conference and its footprint. He has a well-earned reputation as a developer of talent (see Derek Carr, Davante Adams, Von Miller, Evan Weaver, Ashtyn Davis, among others), and is well-regarded for his ability to scheme and disguise pressures and coverages.

Former Oregon defensive coordinator Andy Avalos | CBS Sports

And just like Avalos prior to his two-year stint as Oregon’s defensive coordinator, he’s also been a coach who has made quite an impression on Cristobal himself. Particularly when evaluating recent head-to-head matches, as DeRuyter’s defenses at Cal slowly but surely found success against the Oregon offense since Cristobal came to Eugene prior to the 2017 campaign.


In the last four meetings between the Ducks and Bears, DeRuyter’s defenses have limited the Oregon offense to just over 30 points per game (30.25), including a pair of 17-point outings the last two seasons. In 2019, Cal’s defense was tremendously effective in shutting out the Ducks in the first half of Oregon’s narrow 17-7 win in Autzen. However, last season’s loss in Berkeley had to be especially glaring for Cristobal, who saw the Oregon offense get completely de-fanged by DeRuyter’s group, which shutdown and shut out the Ducks in the second half en route to a 21-17 victory for the Bears.

From 2018 on, DeRuyter’s defenses at Cal have finished no worse than fourth in the conference in total defense, and when considering the caliber of talent DeRuyter was employing compared to what he now inherits at Oregon, it’s more than reasonable to think he could duplicate or improve upon those marks in the coming seasons.

Sure, DeRuyter’s appointment may lack a certain flashiness and sex appeal compared to some of the candidates that Cristobal and the program were rumored to have been vetting, but DeRuyter’s track record speaks for itself, and voluminously.

Oregon will certainly miss Andy Avalos’ influence over a defense that demonstrated undeniable growth and improvement over his brief tenure in Eugene, but with hard lessons from the past still fresh in the minds of Cristobal and others inside the program, the Ducks once again followed a well-worn, tried-and-true path to find a replacement worthy of the opportunity and the title.

This story also appears at and is syndicated with permission. Follow WFOD on Twitter @_WFOD and Chris Courtney @csquared02.

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