Leav­itt leaves Buffs

De­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor, a key in CU’s resur­gence, takes job at Ore­gon

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider

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.

Daily Cam­era

Jim Leav­itt di­rected a fast, pow­er­ful up­swing in CU’s de­fense in two years. Cliff Grass­mick,

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