Oregon Football: What to Expect from Don Pellum as Ducks' Defensive Coordinator

Kyle KensingContributor IJanuary 13, 2014

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 19: Linebacker coach Don Pellum of the Oregon Ducks yells out instructions to his players before the game against the USC Trojans at Autzen Stadium on November 19, 2011 in Eugene, Oregon. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

Oregon didn't need to launch a national search committee to find its replacement for longtime defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti. Multiple reports, first surfacing via The Oregonian's Andrew Greif, have head coach Mark Helfrich tabbing linebackers coach Don Pellum for the vacancy this week. 

Oregon is an exercise in consistency, opting for smooth sailing over making a splash. Pellum's promotion is yet another example of this quality, as the well-tenured assistant is deeply entrenched in the program.

A former Ducks player, Pellum has two decades of experience in the program as a coach, working under Rich Brooks, Mike Bellotti, Chip Kelly and now Helfrich. 

One source told Greif that Pellum's familiarity with the program makes him the right fit: 

I think he's a good choice because he's coached several positions on the defense. The only thing he hasn't coached is the secondary, and I think he's a student of the game and he's a hard working guy who really knows what the defense is all about. 

Similarly, Ryan Thorburn of The Register-Guard reported Pellum received high marks from from his former Oregon colleagues. 

After working alongside Aliotti for the duration of the coordinator's tenure at Oregon, don't expect Pellum to deviate too drastically from his predecessor's scheme. 

Of course, that's not to imply Pellum is taking over an antiquated scheme. Aliotti integrated changes to the defense to stay ahead of the ever-changing offensive curve.

His 46 formation, broken down in a fascinating chalk talk at Football Study Hall, was a response to the proliferation of spread offenses similar to the system Oregon adopted in 2007. 

The "hybrid" 3-4 scheme flourishes with quick and adaptive defenders in the front seven. Some of the most noteworthy standouts in the system are Pellum's more recent pupils, including Dion Jordan, No. 3 overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft; Kiko Alonso, candidate for the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year; and standout inside linebacker Michael Clay. 

All three left the program after the 2012 season, leaving Oregon with its biggest question mark entering the most recent campaign. The response from Pellum's linebackers unit was resounding. 

Boseko Lokombo flourished as a pass rusher with seven tackles for loss, seven quarterback hurries and three sacks. Derrick Malone stepped up in the middle to provide a team-high 105 tackles. The linebackers were integral to ranking Oregon No. 13 in scoring defense, which included this exclamation mark: Shutting down Texas in December's Alamo Bowl. 

Malone will again be a leader of the Ducks defense in 2014, and ended 2013 putting his stamp both on the surprising linebackers unit and Oregon's campaign as a whole with an interception returned for a touchdown. 

The next-man up mindset through which Oregon's linebackers continued to flourish fit another foundation of Aliotti's system. To endure the disparities in time of possession that Oregon's quick-strike offense creates, the defense adapted by going deep into the lineup and preparing youngsters and reserves to contribute immediately. 

Next season, Pellum will be able to go deeper into the roster with the Ducks returning an experienced defense that includes Malone, cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, defensive end Tony Washington and talented youngsters like Tyrell Robinson and Torrodney Prevot. 

The ship may have a new captain, but in keeping the defensive coordinator duties within the program, Oregon should hold steady.