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  • Writer's pictureRob Bowron @Beta_Rank_FB

Ranking the 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Coordinators

Updated: Jul 1, 2019

Prior previews:


1. Tim DeRuyter, Cal

#12 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #15

2017 Beta_Rank: #62

You may be wondering why DeRuyter is ahead of some of the other names on the list and the important data point is that in 2016, before Wilcox and DeRuyter took over, Cal's defense ranked #119 in Beta_Rank. In two years, largely with players they did not recruit, Wilcox and DeRuyter have shaped an excellent defense out of what Sonny Dykes left behind. Cal's defense is built on making you earn it; they don't give up big plays, they force 3 and outs, get to the QB, and don't give up a big yards per play average.

2. Morgan Scalley, Utah

#27 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #21

2017 Beta_Rank: #23

Scalley is quietly one of the best coordinators nationally and his defenses are flexible depending on the personnel. His 2017 defense was like 2018 Cal; they made you drive the length of the field and made you work hard to do it. The 2018 version was a different kind of defense. The Utes were susceptible to big plays and forced fewer 3 and outs, but they relied on impact plays to put the offense in a hole and get them off the field before they scored. There is enough coming back on defense, and across the team, that this could be the year that Scalley breaks out as a big name.

3. Mel Tucker, Colorado

#43 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #13 (Georgia)

2017 Beta_Rank: #3 (Georgia)

Tucker has sent out signals that he'll probably act as his own DC so I am putting him here. You could argue that he deserves to be higher with his gaudy rankings, but he also had better players at Georgia than Utah or Cal have (and it isn't close). Colorado was quietly respectable-ish on defense last season, finishing #50, so there is something for Tucker to work with there. I expect an improvement out of the Buffs that should keep Tucker near the top of the list next season.

4. Jimmy Lake, Washington

#25 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #6

Nobody trash talks like a 19 year old college athlete more than Jimmy Lake. You can quibble and say he should be higher, but with everything the Huskies had back last year on defense it is hard to argue that they exceeded expectations. Also if you remove the snow bowl vs. WSU from the data the Huskies drop 8 spots. It was their best defensive performance of the season, but the home run was wind aided (I am adding weather data to a new model update out later this summer). Lake could end up being a great DC, but we just don't have the sample yet; the Huskies need to force more 3 and outs to really make a jump. That said, Lake has a huge opportunity to climb this season as the Huskies rank #130 in returning production on defense. He can prove it this season by exceeding expectations; which are low at #24 in preseason Beta_Rank.

5. Lance Anderson, Stanford

#30 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #43

2017 Beta_Rank: #67

If you go all the way back to Anderson's first season as DC you will find that in 2014 he coached the #3 defensive unit in Beta_Rank. I think that still merits some credit even though he has been in the #30-45 range most years at Stanford. 2017 was a bad unit, but they bounced back to respectability. If the Pac-12 had more depth at DC Anderson would probably be lower, but with the money woes come the staff budgets to match. The Cardinal project at #28 in preseason Beta_Rank so he could buck his trend and get back into very good defense territory in 2019.

6. Andy Avalos, Oregon

#15 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #53 (Boise St., #16 Group of 5)

2017 Beta_Rank: #47 (Boise St., #11 Group of 5)

Avalos was an ok hire, but replacing Jim Leavitt with an ok hire isn't a good trade. Leavitt only managed to get Oregon to #38 in Beta_Rank last season, but you can count me in the camp that thought he was taking the Ducks in the right direction. The Ducks project at #15 on defense next season in Beta_Rank so Avalos has a lot to live up to. He'll have the raw material to make a jump, but the Ducks last season lacked impact plays in the secondary and from the pass rush. The Ducks have high expectations with Herbert back so Avalos is going to have to deliver in year one.

7. Clancy Pendergast, USC

#19 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #52

2017 Beta_Rank: #33

Relative to the talent; Clancy Pendergast has been seriously underachieving. Yes, there have been injuries, but the Trojans have talent on the two deep. They were projected to be a top 10 defense in 2018 with their A+ recruiting and talent returning. Instead they were a slightly below average Power 5 defense. Pendergast has his work cut out for him this season with so little production returning, #119, but Beta_Rank has high expectations, #18, mostly based on recruiting prowess.

8. Danny Gonzalez, ASU

#49 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #82

2017 Beta_Rank: #50 (SDSU)

It was not a great season for Gonzalez in his first year in Tempe. It was a slight improvement over the #85 finish they had in 2017, but not what I was expecting from a Gonzalez defense. The Sun Devils were awful at giving up big plays and getting 3 and outs and both of those metrics will have to improve in 2019 for the Devils to exceed the projected jump on defense. Gonzalez should have more experienced players in his system in year two so count me in on thinking he finishes in the #40's.

9. Tracy Claeys, Washington State

#62 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #75

I was not madly in love with the Claeys hire. I think Mike Leach does a great job replacing staff generally, but I wondered if he could repeat his home run he had with Alex Grinch. Claeys did not live up to his predecessor in year one. The Cougs struggled to keep offense's yards per play down, they gave up big plays, and they did not force many 3 and outs, but they did occasionally make a big play to get off the field. Claeys has to shore up the defense's discipline and assignments in 2019 to be more sound every play.

10. Jerry Azzinaro UCLA

#58 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #90

Azzinaro was a left field hire for Kelly and it did not pan out in 2018. The Bruins had some thin spots on the defense, but compared to most Power 5 programs they certainly had much more heralded recruits. The Bruins were bad at everything in 2018 and while that doesn't bode well for the future; they should not be as bad as they were simply because they have better players than other teams. Its on Azzinaro to figure that out. If he can beat the preseason projection he could rise in my estimation, but that might be asking a lot, especially given where recruiting seems to be headed.

11. Marcel Yates, Arizona

#66 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #86

2017 Beta_Rank: #115

In three years at the helm Yates has managed to make Arizona's terrible defense from Casteel's last year a little less terrible. That is well deserved faint praise. That Yates managed to hold on to his job when Kevin Sumlin took over was a surprise; that he turned in another awful defense was not. In three season Yates hasn't shown much XO acumen or recruiting prowess. His defense last season managed to force more 3 and outs than you might have expected, but if they did not get you off the field in the first three plays they generally gave up points. The Wildcats are projected to make a jump to merely bad Power 5 defense in 2019 so Yates better at least match that projection.

12. Tim Tibesar, Oregon State

#127 Preseason Beta_Rank

2018 Beta_Rank: #129

It is not as if Oregon State was any good in 2017, ranking #125, but you expect your coordinator hires to make some difference and Tibesar clearly did not. The Beavers were so impossibly bad on defense that I would not have been shocked to see them make a move after one season. Apparently Coach Smith thinks the problems are more personnel than scheme. Tibesar simply has to beat the preseason projection and get closer to #100 this season to justify his salary.

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