The long wait is over, the Colorado Buffaloes have finally hired their next defensive coordinator. Jim Leavitt, most recently serving as the linebackers coach of the San Francisco 49ers where he cultivated a unit that included Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, will take over the role. Leavitt has over 30 years of coaching experience and is most notably known for his time at South Florida, leading the program from it's inception in 1995 to 2009.
Waiting sucked and we'll never really know how it may have effected recruiting, but this is a home run hire. Jim Leavitt knows how to coach the hell out of a defense and he is very well respected amongst his peers. He learned under Bill Snyder and obviously coached with Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco. The Buffaloes staff just got a ton better and I wouldn't doubt that we will see dividends almost immediately.
The Football Brainiacs, a great site covering the Oklahoma Sooners, published a post (highly recommend you read the whole thing) promoting Leavitt for their staff last month that includes a great breakdown of his defensive style.
Coach Leavitt come's from a 4-3 background, but having coached in San Francisco under Harbaugh, he's also well versed in the 3-4. I suspect OU would like to be multiple in their fronts when possible, but regardless what they choose to do this coming season, in my opinion, Leavitt can teach it.
His former player I spoke with gave me a few notes about the defensive he played in under Leavitt at South Florida. "We were aggressive, we flew around, and we had a lot of fun." In talking about his position group (defensive back) he said, "we did one-on-one's every practice...it was a battle everyday...we played guys head up...we were always competing and that's the attitude he built...we were always battling and he used the word ‘battle' a hundred times a day in practice." I asked him about their coverages, and he said they were about 50-50 man/zone and primarily played out of a two high safety shell.
As a head coach it's clear that coach Leavitt took pride in his defense. South Florida consistently had a Top 25 defense in the country. While he was at South Florida (for the sake of time I just pulled South Florida's total defensive rankings for his final few years): 2005 ranked 17th, 2006 ranked 25th, 2007 ranked 28th, 2008 ranked 10th & 2009 ranked 24th.