Andy Avalos’ rapid ascent through the coaching ranks hit another peak Monday when he was promoted to defensive coordinator for the Boise State football program.
The 34-year-old former linebacker has taken a step forward in his career five times in the past seven years. He replaces Marcel Yates, who accepted a job as Arizona’s defensive coordinator after two years in that role with the Broncos.
“Andy’s ready to go,” Yates said. “He’s ready to do it. He’ll do a great job.”
Avalos played at Boise State from 2000 to 2004. He was a high school linebackers coach in 2005, Colorado graduate assistant from 2006 to 2008 and Nebraska Kearney defensive line coach from 2009 to 2010. He was so important to Nebraska Kearney that the coach later credited Avalos with improving the 2011 team, too.
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Avalos moved up in 2011 to Sacramento State, where he coached linebackers. He achieved his goal of joining the Boise State staff in 2012 as defensive line coach and chose to join Bryan Harsin’s staff as linebackers coach in 2014 rather than follow Chris Petersen to Washington and coach the line.
Avalos has contributed to the development of ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Kamalei Correa and linebackers Tanner Vallejo, Ben Weaver, Tyler Gray, Joe Martarano and Blake Renaud. He also prepared his linebackers to fill in at nickel the past two seasons when the Broncos were short on defensive backs.
Avalos and line coach Steve Caldwell built the game plans for the run defense under Yates. The Broncos finished fifth in the nation in run defense last fall and 36th in 2014.
“He is more than ready for this as a leader, teacher and motivator of young men,” Harsin said in a statement, “and he brings a passion and intensity for the game that will set the tone for us defensively.”
It’s unclear if Avalos will coach linebackers, too. The Broncos return Caldwell and have hired Ashley Ambrose to coach defensive backs. They still have one defensive opening (plus offensive coordinator).
Avalos will step into the leadership role on defense, as he did as a two-time All-WAC linebacker in 2003-04.
“It is an awesome challenge that I couldn’t be more excited to be taking on,” he said in a statement.
Yates takes Pac-12 challenge
Yates also is on the rise. After nine years at Boise State, he left to become the co-defensive coordinator at Texas A&M in 2012 and returned to his alma mater as defensive coordinator in 2014.
Now he’s headed to Arizona, where he will try to fix one of the nation’s worst defenses.
“It is a new challenge for me to get on the stage and show people exactly what I can do in the Pac-12,” he said Monday. “And I have work to do. It’s not like I’m just walking in and thinking I’m the man. I’m a new coordinator in a great conference and I have to show exactly what the defensive staff can do for the University of Arizona.”
He’ll run a combination of the 4-2-5 he used at Boise State and the 3-3-5 that has been a staple at Arizona, Yates said. He’ll coach linebackers, a change from his usual spot with the defensive backs.
He knows a couple of the Wildcats’ coaches from the recruiting trail but didn’t have any strong ties there. He was offered the job Saturday and made his decision Sunday night, he said.
He met with the entire Boise State team Monday.
“When you recruit kids and you coach kids and you have that relationship with them, it’s always tough to leave them,” he said. “I let them know: ‘Thank you, guys. I love you.’ This was a tough decision for me and my family and they understood it and they all gave me my ‘good lucks’ and all wanted to see me do well. That made it a lot easier, to look at them face to face and explain to them why I was doing it.”
He said he won’t recruit players who are committed to Boise State in the 2016 class.
Thompson, Odhiambo to combine
Two of Boise State’s top NFL prospects have received invitations to the NFL Scouting Combine, their agent said Monday.
Safety Darian Thompson and left tackle Rees Odhiambo are potential draft picks. They were invited to the combine Feb. 23-29 in Indianapolis, agent Ron Slavin said.
Thompson is a two-time team defensive MVP and first-team All-Mountain West player. He is scheduled to play in the Senior Bowl next week. He started for three and a half years and set the Mountain West career interceptions record with 19.
Odhiambo is a three-year starter who was unable to play an entire season because of injuries. He missed the final five games of 2015 (ankle). Still, he made the All-Mountain West first team. He was an All-MW second-teamer in 2014, when he played 10 games. He played eight games in 2013.
Center Marcus Henry (East-West Shrine Game, 2 p.m. Saturday, NFL Network) and cornerback Donte Deayon (NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, 4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2) are scheduled to play in all-star games this week.
Andy Avalos file
- Age: 34
- Hometown: Corona, Calif.
- Playing career: Boise State linebacker (2000-04). All-WAC first team (2003, ’04); 365 career tackles.
- Coaching career: Corona (Calif.) High linebackers coach (2005), Colorado defensive graduate assistant (2006-08), Nebraska Kearney defensive line coach (2009-10), Sacramento State linebackers coach (2011), Boise State defensive line coach (2012-13), Boise State linebackers coach (2014-15).
- Degrees: Bachelor’s degree, criminal justice, Boise State (2004), master’s degree, education, Colorado (2008).
- Family: Wife, Summer; daughter, Paityn