The Pac-12 is home to many of the top defensive minds in the country
Photo: M. Samek, 247Sports
1. Pete Kwiatkowski - Washington
The two best defensive coordinators in the country are Washington's Pete Kwiatkowski and Clemson's Brent Venables. Chris Petersen received much of the credit for the Washington resurgence, but Kwiatkowski is Washington's secret weapon. Kwiatkowski followed Petersen to Washington after coordinating 3 Boise State defenses that ranked in the Top 12 nationally from 2010-2013. Kwiatkowski was able to quickly elevate the Washington defense to the top of the Pac-12 as the Huskies ranked 13th nationally in points allowed per game in 2015, 8th in 2016, and 5th in 2017. The architect of the Husky defense then made a selfless move to allow Washington to retain the up and coming Jimmy Lake. Kwiatkowski moved to a Co-Defensive Coordinator role to allow Lake to make the play calls. Under the leadership of Lake & Kwiatkowski, Washington ranked 5th nationally in 2018 and 15th in 2019. After the 2019 season, Lake was promoted to be Head Coach and Kwiatkowski will resume his play calling duties. The Husky defense retained the majority of their talent from the 2019 defense and will feature what will surely be a Top 10 or Top 5 defense in 2020.
2. Morgan Scalley - Utah
2019 was Scalley's finest work as a defensive coordinator. The Utes dominated defensively while ranking 6th nationally in points allowed per game. The Utah defense managed to hold 6 opponents to 7 points or less during the 11 win campaign. Scalley has been at Utah since 2006 and assumed the play calling duties in 2016. His first two defenses ranked 34th and 39th nationally before making a jump to 17th in points allowed per game in 2018. Utah lost 6 defensive players to the 2020 NFL Draft and will face a slight defensive rebuild this season. Expect a regression from 2019, but the Scalley led defense will still be formidable.
3. Andy Avalos - Oregon
Avalos came to Oregon in 2019 from Boise State and made an immediate impact. The Ducks made a defensive jump from 48th nationally in points allowed per game to 9th. The only thing keeping Avalos from being 2nd on this list is that his Boise State defenses weren't particularly dominating, especially when compared to what Kwiatkowski accomplished at Boise State. In 3 years at Boise State as the Defensive Coordinator, his defenses ranked 29th, 38th and 30th nationally in points allowed per game. Oregon's 2020 defense currently projects as the 2nd best nationally by ESPN's SP+. Another strong season from Avalos and he will be moving up this list.
4. Lance Anderson - Stanford
Lance Anderson has been the DC at Stanford since 2014 and has been successful despite a defensive set back in 2019. In his first season at the play caller, the Stanford defense ranked 2nd nationally in points allowed per game. Since then the defense has dropped off and has ranked 33rd, 18th, 35th, 38th and 80th. The 2020 Stanford defense will feature some talented pieces and should improve from 2019.
5. Tim DeRuyter - California
DeRuyter's spot on this list comes with a caveat: Deruyter and Justin Wilcox have given play calling duties to Peter Sirmon in 2020. In the end, the Cal defense will continue to be a collaborative effort and the scheme will be what Justin Wilcox wants to run. With that said, DeRuyter has done an outstanding job with the Cal defense and will continue to be an integral part of the planning process each week. Wilcox & DeRuyter inherited a defense that ranked 127th nationally in points allowed per game in 2016. They quickly set out to make improvements and were able to rank 79th in points allowed per game in 2017, 22nd in 2018 and 33rd in 2019.