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Foster to put `D' back in Ducks

Four defensive coordinators in five seasons.

That's not the best of situations for Bob Foster -- Oregon's newest defensive coordinator -- as he tries to rebuild a defense that hasn't played well consistently since the Ducks' Gang Green defense disappeared following the 1995 Rose Bowl Game.

Foster thinks he's the guy to rekindle the ferocity and effectiveness of Oregon's defense.

I'm not looking to create Gang Green again, just a good, solid defense, said Foster, who was the featured speaker Wednesday at the Southern Oregon Duck Club luncheon at the DoubleTree Hotel in Medford.

Foster hopes he can plug the holes in a leaky Oregon defense, which ranked last in the Pac-10 in 1997, giving up 440.5 yards per game, and ninth in '96 (437) under Rich Stubler.

It's not real good for the continuity of the defense to have four coordinators in five years, but I'm optimistic, says Foster, 57. He was an assistant coach at UC-Davis for 18 years and head coach for four seasons.

After a brief stab at retirement, he took over as defensive coordinator at Willamette University of Salem three years ago. Willamette lost in last season's NAIA national championship game.

Foster said he has a group committed to making the Ducks a defensive force in the Pac-10 again.

They seem to be anxious to try to improve our defense, he says. We played a lot of young players last year. A big bonus for us is how well our defense played against Air Force in the Las Vegas Bowl.

I like the competitive attitude of our players, and I think you are going to see some real improvement fairly quickly. One thing you won't see is us playing off the ball.

That comment drew a large, somewhat sarcastic cheer at Wednesday's luncheon from Oregon fans, who grew impatient with Stubler's porous defenses in two years.

We are somewhat inexperienced and small, but I like the spirit of those kids, said Foster, who turned down a position under new coach Paul Hackett at USC to take the Oregon job. After interviewing at Oregon, I felt good enough about our players and their attitudes that I took this job after turning down a chance to coach at USC. I chose Oregon because I like the players, the fans, and because the area is very livable.

Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti, who coached against Foster in the Northern California Athletic Conference, said Foster's defenses at UC-Davis gave his Chico State offensive teams problems.

Having competed against him, I can tell you he was the most difficult person I've ever had to try and design an offense for, said Bellotti. What he's accomplished at Davis will translate so well to what we do here. That's why I wanted to hire him three years ago.

Oregon's other defensive coordinators since 1994 were Nick Aliotti, Charlie Waters ('95) and Stubler ('96-97).

Aliotti left Oregon in 1994 to go with former Oregon head coach Rich Brooks to the St. Louis Rams as a defensive coach. Aliotti spent the last three years with the Rams, but became UCLA's defensive coordinator two months ago.

Waters, a former Dallas Cowboys defensive star, replaced Aliotti as Oregon's defensive coordinator in 1995, but he stayed only one season.

Then came Stubler, a long-time defensive coach in the Canadian Football League, who brought a CFL-like defensive alignments to Oregon that started with players lined up one or two yards off the ball with wide splits between them.

Stubler left Oregon after the Las Vegas Bowl to be the defensive coordinator for the Edmonton Eskimos of the CFL. His scheme drew almost immediate criticism from Oregon fans because the Ducks lacked the intensity that drove Gang Green to the Rose Bowl.