The other newcomer to the Oregon football coaching staff aside from wide receivers coach Matt Lubick is defensive line coach Ron Aiken. Aiken replaces Jerry Azzinaro who Chip Kelly brought to Philadelphia with him.
What separates Aiken from some of the other Oregon coaches is his NFL pedigree. Aiken has 23 years of coaching experience at the collegiate and profession levels and has spent the past six years seasons as the defensive line coach of the NFL Arizona Cardinals.
Aiken was the first hire by new head coach Mark Helfrich.
“Ron Aiken is an icon in the defensive line community,” Helfrich said in a statement released by the University of Oregon. “His vast experience — coaching in all phases at the high school, college and pro level — will complement our current staff.
“When speaking with former colleagues and players he coached, three words came up every time: fundamentals, respect and character. We are excited to welcome Ron and his wife, Sheryl, into the Oregon family.”
Along with deep knowledge of defensive schemes, particularly with the defensive line, Aiken is expected to be a major contributor in recruiting efforts. Having a position coach that knows what NFL teams are looking for is a huge plus for most recruits.
As surprising as it may be, Aiken was not a defensive player in college. He was an all-conference offensive lineman at North Carolina A&T. His first job in coaching was as offensive line coach at a South Carolina high school in 1980. Following that he was the offensive coordinator at Tarkio College in 1982, special teams coordinator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1985 and head coach of Langston University from 1986-89.
Aiken broke into division one coaching as defensive ends coach at New Mexico from 1990-94. He was at Vanderbilt in 1995 and 1996, Texas in 1997 and San Diego State in 1998. From 1999-2006 Aiken was with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Aiken was with the Cardinals from 2007-2012.
Aiken inherits a lot of talent on the Ducks’ defensive line. The crown of the unit is rising star Arik Armstead along with senior defensive end Taylor Hart. Hart led the team with 8.0 sacks for 41 yards. The two paired with Wade Keliikipi and Ricky Heimuli make for one of the Pac-12’s best overall defensive lines. Oregon, largely due to injuries, played numerous freshman on the d-line last season. Those include Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Alex Balducci. Those six will rotate across the line with Tony Washington Jr playing the hybrid DE/OLB position Dion Jordan played the past two years.
Expect a strong year from the defensive line in 2013.