Leavitt leaves Buffs
Defensive coordinator, a key in CU’s resurgence, takes job at Oregon
boulder» It took Jim Leavitt two years to turn Colorado’s defense from one of the worst units in the country to the top statistical group in the Pac-12.
Now it appears the defensive guru is heading north for a new rebuilding project.
Leavitt will leave Colorado to sign a four-year contract as the new defensive coordinator at Oregon, according to a Fox Sports report.
Leavitt tweeted Wednesday night: “I love CU, players, Boulder and all alum! Been great to me! Couldn’t pass up opportunity for family! South Champs! Been a great ride!!”
Leavitt will become the highestpaid coordinator in Pac-12 history for any public institution, the report said. He was making about $512,000 annually at CU.
“Hate this business,” CU linebacker Addison Gillam tweeted shortly after news of his defensive coordinator’s departure broke.
“Surprised by the announcement, but thankful for what @CoachJimLeavitt has done for the program,” CU quarterback Sefo Liufau tweeted. “Good luck in the future coach.”
Colorado was coming off a 2014 season in which it had the 14thworst total defense in the country when it hired Leavitt, the former South Florida head coach who had spent the previous four seasons as the linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers.
CU improved to seventh in total defense in the Pac-12 during Leavitt’s first season in 2015, when he installed a 3-4 defense that better matched up with the league’s fastpaced spread offenses. This season the Buffs finished the regular season No. 1 in the league in total defense and No. 2 in scoring defense.
“I wanted them to have success, because they haven’t had any around here for a while,” Leavitt told The Denver Post in late October. “We don’t have any stars. We have a bunch of guys out there who are really trying, and that really is it.”
Leavitt’s success with CU’s defense brought recognition — he was finalist for the Broyles Award given to the nation’s top assistant — and other coaching opportunities. According to Fox Sports, Leavitt also interviewed this
month to be the defensive coordinator at Mississippi.
By leaving CU for Oregon, Leavitt will be facing another turnaround task. The Ducks were second to last in the Pac-12 in yards allowed this season at 518.4 per game. In fact, Oregon’s defense in 2016 had many of the same cover-your-eyes numbers produced by CU’s defense in 2014, the year before Leavitt’s arrival.
Oregon recently hired Willie Taggart, previously the coach at South Florida, as its new coach after firing Mark Helfrich. Oregon went 4-8 last season and finished last in the Pac-12 North.
Now the Buffaloes, who are ranked No. 11 in the country and face No. 13 Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, must find a new leader for a defense that will lose many key pieces of the unit that has been a backbone during CU’s 10-3 season.
One in-house candidate could be Joe Tumpkin, CU’s second-year safeties coach. Tumpkin already has experience as a defensive coordinator, having led Central Michigan’s defense for five seasons.
Tumpkin this season helped oversee a secondary that was one of the best groups in the country. His top safety, senior Tedric Thompson, tied a school record this season with seven interceptions while being named a second-team All-American by CBS Sports.
Jim Leavitt directed a fast, powerful upswing in CU’s defense in two years. Cliff Grassmick,