EUGENE – Don Pellum, who has encountered 23 years of coaching success at the University of Oregon as a football graduate assistant, linebackers coach, and a tutor of safeties and defensive linemen, has been elevated to the position of defensive coordinator according to the Ducks’ Head Coach Mark Helfrich.
Pellum has built a strong rapport with teammates and players alike in his 30-year association with Oregon as a player, administrator and coach, in addition to his reputation for enhancing players’ abilities to their fullest potential. He replaces Nick Aliotti, who retired as the school’s defensive coordinator after 17 seasons following the Ducks’ 30-7 win over Texas in the Valero Alamo Bowl.
He will continue his role coaching Oregon’s inside and weak-side linebackers.
“This is a challenge I welcome with open arms,” Pellum said. “I have been fortunate to enjoy a long relationship at an institution that means a lot to me as well as the luxury to work with a lot of class coaches and athletes. I certainly have benefitted from the knowledge handed down to me from numerous head coaches and coordinators but head into this next phase of my career anxious to implement ideas of my own.
“I am grateful to Coach Helfrich and the University of Oregon for the confidence they have bestowed upon me and am excited to add to the success this program has enjoyed.”
Pellum has benefitted from his association with four different Oregon head coaches and seven separate defensive coordinators. The 51-year-old Southern California native has spent the past 14 seasons overseeing the program’s linebackers, with his pupils continually rising to the forefront on the biggest of stages. His players have led the team in tackles in three of the last four seasons, and he continually has molded units which have lacked experience into team leaders.
Included was last season when he was forced to replace the Ducks’ top two tacklers from the previous year with a pair of unproven performers. The result was the emergence of first-year starters Derrick Malone and Rodney Hardrick, with Malone accumulating a team-high 105 stops after tallying 56 tackles in his first two seasons and Hardrick finishing third in the Pac-12 in fumble recoveries (3).
Malone was named an honorable mention Pac-12 all-conference selection following the 2013 season.
In addition, former Oregon linebackers Michael Clay and Kiko Alonso were selected as post-season defensive MVPs for their performances in the 2013 Fiesta Bowl and 2012 Rose Bowl, respectively. The tandem both earned second-team all-conference honors following their senior seasons in 2012.
"Don Pellum is a great teacher and one of the best communicators I have ever been around," Helfrich emphasized. "The entire defense will benefit from his demanding preparation, with an emphasis on discipline and relentless effort.
"The cultural continuity is a bonus in elevating DP to a position of greater leadership and influence in our program."
Pellum has made a habit of transforming groups of inexperienced players into productive contingents of overachievers. Overseeing a unit that included only one player with any previous significant playing time at the line of scrimmage, he helped produce a corps that contributed to the Ducks leading the Pac-10 in total defense and pass defense in 2005, in addition to finishing third in the league in scoring defense.
No team was better against the run in conference play during the school’s 2009 Rose Bowl run, thanks in part to his group of linebackers. Pac-10 foes averaged only 118.6 rushing yards per contest in addition to Oregon’s league-best total defense in conference contests (316.0 avg.).
In 2013, Oregon led the Pac-12 in pass defense (204.5 avg.) and pass efficiency defense, finished second in the league in scoring defense (13th nationally, 20.5 avg.) and third in total defense (370.1 avg.).
In the past 20 seasons, he has been credited with much of the development of 27 all-conference honorees. In addition, as many as six of his players have either earned their way into NFL camps over the course of the last four years or can expected to do so when practices begin this summer.
"I have never learned or grown so much under a single coach than I did under Coach Pellum," Clay said. “He immediately commands the respect from his players unlike anyone I have ever come across and gets the max out of everyone he comes into contact with.
"No coach is prepared like DP,” the former Oregon linebacker added. “Without his knowledge and guidance, I wouldn't have been the player I was. He put me in a position where I could thrive for the University of Oregon. They could not have hired a better person."
In addition to his Oregon coaching success, Pellum has flourished in his roles as an educator at several different stops. After working with the Ducks’ tight ends and scout team as a graduate assistant for two seasons (1985-86), he served as defensive line coach, strength and conditioning director and academic coordinator at Willamette University in 1987. He then returned as Oregon’s recruiting coordinator in 1988 and ’89 before embarking on a three-year stint as recruiting coordinator at the University of California. He assumed the additional responsibilities as assistant athletics director for student services in Berkeley in 1992 before returning to Eugene to resume his coaching career in 1993.
Upon his return, he tutored the program’s outside linebackers for three years before shifting his attention to the team’s safeties in 1996. He first concentrated his efforts on Oregon’s inside linebackers in 1997 before guiding the school’s defensive line for one year in 1999.
The Ducks’ former starting linebacker (1984) earned a pair of undergraduate degrees in telecommunications and film as well as rhetoric and communications, from Oregon in 1985. He also received a minor in sociology. Pellum proceeded to earn his master’s in telecommunications and film the following year in addition to completing work toward his doctorate.