Pellum on the sidelines is the first right move for the Oregon defense

USATSI_7897216_168380293_lowres (1)

After four weeks of smashing each other, the Ducks finally get to play a game, and fans get a first look at what looks to be an improved, energized and aggressive defense (Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports).

Ultimately it’s not about the x’s and the o’s, it’s about the energy, execution and effort.

Which is why Duck fans should be encouraged by Don Pellum’s decision to coach this year from the sideline rather than the booth, a decision that will allow him to work face-to-face during games and teach and correct on the fly.

Pellum’s a master of film study and he’ll be well-prepared for games, so the human element of working with kids and commanding effort and aggressiveness from the sideline will serve him best.  Defensive players have to sustain intensity and understand what they’re doing, and this gives him the best opportunity to foster that.

Former Oregon linebacker Michael Fletcher told Jason Quick of the Oregonian today, “I can guarantee you this: His defense is going to be prepared; there’s not going to be any questions, because they will know what they are supposed to do.”

If you’re looking for a reason to feel confident about the Oregon defense, check Tyson Coleman’s arms on Saturday. The junior linebacker bulked up to 235 this year, and he’s ripped. The entire front seven is stronger than last season, and Pellum, Aiken and Chinander have them playing more aggressively.

Alex Balducci, who’s being counted on to take over at nose tackle, responded in the off season by putting on 25 pounds of muscle to 6-4, 310. He told Aaron Fentress of Comcast Sports NW, “It seemed that at times our players, we lacked attention to detail. We thought we were entitled because we play for Oregon. The past success we’ve had, we thought that would carry on. That’s what happened with Arizona and essentially what could have happened with Oregon State.”

The lessons of 2013 are not lost, and this group has used them to prepare with more resolve and purpose. They will be a relentless and resourceful unit this year, especially with Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Erick Dargan taking charge on the back end. The 2014 defense will be cohesive and way more effective than their predecessor, putting the lie to all the careless notions about the Ducks as soft and finesse-oriented. They’ll be a terrific complement to what might be the most electrifying offense in school history.

But they have to get in done in big games. Paul Myerburg of USA Today pointed out in his preseason preview that Marcus Mariota is 0-2 versus Stanford, and 23-1 against everyone else.

The Ducks have improved things for fans this off season also. The stadium will feature a new video scoreboard on the west end, improved cell service, and the coveted bacon corn dog. All very nice, but you’d trade them all for wins over Michigan State and The Cardinal.

Dale Newton

About Dale Newton

The Ducks Stops Here is a site for opinions, commentary and analysis on Duck football. I've written it since 2010. Reader contributions are welcome and can be submitted at