DeRuyter Discusses Priorities, Personnel
In 31 years as a coach, Tim DeRuyter has been some places where college football is king.
He was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Texas A&M from 2010-11. After that, DeRuyter spent five years as head coach at Fresno State. He has experiences at some other elite mid-majors as well, including Air Force, Nevada and Navy.
Few other places in the country, however, rival the newest home for DeRuyter, who was announced last week as the defensive coordinator at Oregon.
"To be at one of the few places in the country with the opportunity to not only win a conference championship but play for a national championship … I'm just really excited to be a part of it," DeRuyter said Monday, during an introductory virtual press conference with local media.
DeRuyter takes over a UO defense that was one of the best in the country in 2019, but that slipped from those lofty rankings a bit in 2020. He comes to Oregon from California, where he helped the Golden Bears shut the Ducks out in the second half last season and pull out a victory.
The UO defense has some big shoes to fill in 2021, after the loss of defensive linemen Jordon Scott and Austin Faoliu, and defensive backs Deommodore Lenoir and Nick Pickett. But the Ducks also return some big-time players, notably returning Morris Trophy winner Kayvon Thibodeaux, Pac-12 defensive freshman of the year Noah Sewell and defensive backs Mykael Wright and Verone McKinley III.
"We're going to figure out who our best 11 football players are, and we're going to attempt to put them in a simple system they can execute as fast as they can," DeRuyter said. "Hopefully making it difficult for an offense to figure out what we're doing, but ultimately making it easy for our guys to pin their ears back and play."
Schematically, DeRuyter said his UO defense won't stray far from some of the concepts the Ducks have used in recent seasons. He said he'll employ multiple fronts, and a "Star" position along with four other defensive backs — think the nickel spot in which Ugochukwu Amadi, Jevon Holland and Jamal Hill have thrived the last few years.
Among the differences: DeRuyter doesn't intend to play Thibodeaux on the interior of the line, instead unleashing him as an edge player who will rush the quarterback and can even drop into coverage at times.
"We're going to move him around a bunch," DeRuyter said.
DeRuyter has worked previously with UO assistants Jim Mastro and Ken Wilson. Though he's just getting to know UO head coach Mario Cristobal, DeRuyter already knows well the emphasis Cristobal places on recruiting.
"In college football, if you want to play at an elite level, you better have elite-level athletes," DeRuyter said. "Coach Cristobal is all about talent acquisition. He wants to attack recruiting just like we're going to attack practice, just like we're going to attack in the weight room, and how we want to attack on Saturdays in the fall."
Like UO offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead — whose scheme forced DeRuyter and the Cal staff to work "some late nights trying to figure out what we wanted to do" last season — DeRuyter has been a head coach previously in his career. He said Cristobal already has consulted with him on some issues, and that the two are deep into the process of looking for a replacement for departed safeties coach Keith Heyward.
DeRuyter is eagerly anticipating his first practice with the Ducks this spring, assuming protocols allow business as usual. Among his points of emphasis will be creating takeaways, after Oregon forced turnovers in only two games in 2020.
"There's no more critical factor in football than turnover margin," DeRuyter said. "Our job on defense is not to wait for a turnover. It's to take the damn ball away."