Few coaches have been as successful developing talent as 23rd-year Oregon assistant Don Pellum, who also continues to coordinate much of the program’s recruiting efforts in addition to coaching the team’s middle and weak side linebackers.
Completing his playing career with the Ducks in 1984, the former starting linebacker continued his association with his alma mater in 1985 as a graduate assistant coach. Since then, his tenure has covered a number of responsibilities, including recruiting coordinator as well as coaching Oregon’s linebackers, safeties and defensive line. He has remained at Oregon ever since, with the exception of a one-year stint as defensive line coach, strength coach and academic coordinator at Willamette University in 1987 and three years heading up the recruiting efforts at the University of California (1990-92).
No team was better against the run in conference games during Oregon’s most recent Rose Bowl run in 2009, thanks to his group. Pac-10 foes averaged only 118.6 rushing yards per contest. Pellum’s ‘backers also had a role in UO’s league-best total defense in Pac-10 play (316.0 avg.).
His unit was instrumental in Oregon ranking 23rd in the country in rushing defense in 2008 (119.4 avg.) while finishing second in the Pac-10. Yet his influence over the program’s success runs much deeper than just that of statistics.
Pellum has developed a knack for bringing out the best from his players while concerning himself with their development aside from football as well. His players have led Oregon’s defense in quarterback sacks eight of the last 17 years, including 26 of the Ducks’ 38 sacks in 1999 by the defensive front four. Duck fans also fondly remember an inexperienced group prior to the 1994 campaign that keyed back-to-back New Year’s Day bowl appearances following the 1994 and ‘95 campaigns.
He benefitted from the Ducks utilizing one of their deepest linebacking corps in recent memory in 2009 which included second-team all-conference choice Casey Matthews and honorable mention all-league standout Spencer Paysinger.
Yet few of his accomplishments could be any more rewarding than in 2005 when he transformed a unit which included only one returnee with any significant line-of-scrimmage experience at the major college level. What resulted was one that helped Oregon lead the Pac-10 Conference in total defense and pass defense, in addition to finishing third in scoring defense. While his trio of 2005 starters began the season accumulating only 89 tackles during their Oregon careers, they tallied 207 between them that year alone.
Included was second-team all-conference outside linebacker Anthony Trucks, who led the team with 99 tackles en route to pacing the Pac-10 in quarterback sacks (11, tied for 8th in the nation), tackles for loss (15.5) and forced fumbles (5, tied for 7th nationally). In all, Pellum has been credited with much of the development for 20 Pac-10 all-league honorees in the last 16 seasons, including 2002 NFL draft choice Wesly Mallard.
In 2008, Pellum assisted in the development of first-year starter Spencer Paysinger into the team’s second-leading tackler (95), with all three of the unit’s starters finishing among the team’s top six tacklers.
One of Oregon’s most popular former players, Pellum returned to coaching on a full-time basis in 1993 following six years as a recruiting coordinator in the Pac-10.
Pellum was responsible with assembling outstanding recruiting classes with Oregon and while at California, and has been responsible for directing some of the Ducks’ best recruiting efforts in school history since his return. His recruiting efforts help land him on the list among the nation’s top 25 recruiters by Rivals.com after the Ducks were named the No. 11 recruiting class in the country in 2007.
The Banning, Calif., native was a graduate assistant at Oregon for two years while completing an advanced degree in telecommunications and film, coaching the tight ends, and assembling the scout teams. He also has completed some work toward his Ph.D.
Pellum and his wife, Marla, reside in Eugene.