UCLA Football Preview: Cristobal Keeps Ducks Flying High Despite Revolving Door
In just four years, Oregon head coach has already had to replace both of his coordinators.
Tomorrow, the UCLA Bruins will host the Oregon Ducks at the Rose Bowl in a game which has possible Pac-12 championship implications for both teams. The Ducks are currently tied with Oregon State for first place in the Pac-12 North while the Bruins are tied with Arizona State for second in the South. UCLA needs a win to be in a position to tie Utah for first in the South next weekend while Oregon needs to win to preserve their chances of making the College Football Playoff.
The Ducks are led by head coach Mario Cristobal. Cristobal took over the Oregon program when Willie Taggart left Eugene after just one season. Since taking over the Ducks, Cristobal has led the team to a 30-11 record.
Despite just being in his fourth season as Oregon’s head coach, Cristobal is already on his second set of coordinators. Despite that, Cristobal has managed to attract some really great coordinators to help make the Ducks even better than they already were.
The Ducks’ new offensive coordinator is Joe Moorhead. Moorhead is in his second season with Oregon. He replaced Marcus Arroyo who left the Ducks staff to become the head coach at UNLV. Before joining the Ducks’ staff, he was the head coach at Mississippi State where he compiled a 14-12 record in two seasons. Before that, he was the offensive coordinator at Penn State where he increased the team’s offensive yards per game by nearly 100 yards.
After last season, Cristobal also had to replace his defensive coordinator. That’s because Andy Avalos left to become the head coach of Boise State. To fill the position, Cristobal brought Tim DeRuyter to Eugene. DeRuyter comes to the Ducks after spending the past four seasons as UC Berkeley’s defensive coordinator. He managed to turn around the Bears’ defense which had been ranked second-to-last nationally in scoring defense before his arrival. He hasn’t just improved UC Berkeley’s defense. When DeRuyter was at Air Force in 2009, his defense was near the top of multiple categories nationally.
Let’s look at the Oregon special teams.
Oregon has one of the best kickers in the conference, if not the country, in sophomore Camden Lewis. Not only is Lewis a perfect 26-for-26 on PATs, but he’s also perfect on his seven field goal attempts with three of those having been for 40 yards or more including his career and season long of 49 yards. As if all that isn’t enough, Lewis has kicked off 40 times so far this season and half of those kickoffs have gone for touchbacks. The only blemish on his stats for the season was the one kickoff which went out of bounds against Stony Brook.
Sophomore punter Tom Snee picks up where Lewis leaves off. Snee has had almost half of his 24 punts land inside the 20 while only three of them have gone for touchbacks. So, when Oregon doesn’t score on an opposing defense, they aren’t making it particular easy for the opponents to get into the end zone either. It’s a deadly combination.
Wide receiver Mycah Pittman will likely return all of the punts. While Pittman is averaging 10 yards per return, he does have a long of 32 yards.
Although Pittman is the only guy who has returned a punt for Oregon this season, kickoff returns have been handled by a committe of five Ducks. Freshman receiver Kris Hutson is the team’s leading returner. His five returns are the the most on the team while he has also gained the most yards per kickoff return and he has the team’s longest return as well. Meanwhile, sophomore cornerback Mykael Wright has the second most returns on the team with four. The only other Duck with more than one return is senior receiver Johnny Johnson III. Johnson is second on the team with an average return of 21 yards and his longest is 30 yards. So, Johnson and Pittman make up quite the one-two punch of dangerous return men for Oregon.