Arizona Wildcats football: Rodriguez says keeping staff intact “huge” for recruiting


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Arizona football coach addresses the media on National Signing Date (ArizonaWildcats.com video capture)

Arizona football coach addresses the media on National Signing Date (ArizonaWildcats.com video capture)

Keeping his staff intact this season was important for Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez to have what he believes is a successful Class of 2014 recruiting class.

Speaking to reporters at the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility on National Signing Date Wednesday, Rodriguez was all smiles about this year’s group of recruits, saying that Arizona is “better, deeper and faster”, and also bigger and more physical in some areas.

The new facilities had much to do with Rodriguez and his staff convincing Los Angeles “explosive” (as he called them) linebacker prospects Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware to sign Wednesday instead of nearby USC or UCLA or other Pac-12 schools.

More important than that: The relationships Rodriguez and his staff built with recruits was the major turning point because all of the coaches have remained with the program.

“I think (coaching continuity) is huge in recruiting,” Rodriguez said. “Everybody loses staff members for various reasons. I hope we don’t. We haven’t lost any staff members, which is great. You don’t want to lose them in lateral movements.

“Sometimes if they’ve moved on to a coordinator position or head coaching position, that’s all great. Our staff is really close and I think people can see that. We are all happy here.”

That sense of camaraderie was obvious during the #AZOKGDay show on ArizonaWildcats.com early in the morning Wednesday while national letters of intent were faxed to the coaches’ offices.

Matt Dudek, the gregarious recruiting coordinator, interviewed a series of assistants and Rodriguez with each showing a light-hearted behavior that signified the day went well.

That sense of togetherness was not always the case with the previous staff under Mike Stoops, whose temper tantrums on the sidelines with assistants and players became infamous.

Three years ago right before what would be Stoops’ last recruiting class, a few coaches were hired elsewhere and that adversely affected the program.

Bill Bedenbaugh, Stoops’ co-offensive coordinator and line coach, left for West Virginia. Defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown, who lasted only one season in Tucson, left for Colorado with defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo.

Stoops hired Robert Anae as offensive line coach to replace Bedenbaugh. After Stoops’ firing in 2011, Anae remained on Rodriguez’s staff until leaving last January to become offensive coordinator at BYU. Tony Gibson, Arizona’s cornerbacks coach under Rodriguez, also left last January to West Virginia.

Former tight ends coach Spencer Leftwich also left the staff to coach at UTEP, where his son plays.

Nobody left after the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in December.

“I’ve talked to Mike (Stoops) about (coaching turnover) a couple of years ago,” Rodriguez said. “He was losing some key assistant coaches. When you lose 2-3 coaches at a time, what you lose in continuity can some times really hurt your recruiting classes.

“That’s what happened. He lost some really good recruiters. He lost some recruiting continuity and the program really suffered because of it. You want continuity because of the schemes but more than anything you want continuity because of recruiting. Our staff is staying together. We kind of have our areas defined. Not only that, we understand what we’re looking for when we recruit. Everybody is on the same page.”

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Rodriguez also commented about how Arizona’s football program has developed since taking over for Stoops:

“We’re better. We’re deeper. We’re faster. … We’re so much faster today than we were yesterday.”

That speed will be displayed at the skill positions, most noticeably the return game, which has not been an Arizona strength since Antoine Cason played six years ago. Rodriguez noted that Salpointe’s Cameron Denson and Norco (Calif.) product Kwesi Mashack are dangerous return specialists in addition to Davonte Neal, who sat out last season after transferring from Notre Dame.

“Our return pool went from being a weakness on the team this fall to being a strength,” Rodriguez said.

Where Rodriguez increased size was at the cornerback position with Scottsdale Community College’s Patrick Glover (6’2″ and 190) and Los Angeles Salesian’s Rodney Carr (6’1 and 195).

“We have bigger guys who are more physical,” Rodriguez said of the cornerback position. “We needed to get some size and depth there. … As you guys saw in the Super Bowl, (Seattle and Denver) had big athletic corners. We’re not there yet. We needed to get size and depth there with guys who can bang people around a bit and we feel we got that in this class.”

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.



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