When you are a coach who was a success at School A but failed at School B, the strategy at your next job is pretty obvious: Do exactly what you did at School A.
With the completion of his coaching staff, Rich Rodriguez took a major step toward making the “A” stand for Arizona.
On Friday Rodriguez introduced the final assistant coaches who will be making up his first staff at the UA, but to RichRod himself they needed no introduction. Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel was the key as some have said he was the missing piece for Rodriguez at Michigan.
The Wildcats’ new coaches look a lot like the West Virginia Mountaineers’ old coaches, and that’s the way it should be.
It’s the first question you ask when a coach is trying to recreate past success at a new location: Can he assemble a coaching staff as good as the one he had?
In this case, yes. A resounding yes. Here’s a breakdown of the staff including each person’s total number of years coaching at the college level and the number of years coaching the position for which he’ll be responsible at the UA:
|Coach||Age||Position||Total Yrs.||Years Pos.|
|Rich Rodriguez||48||Head Coach||24||18|
|Calvin Magee||48||Co-OC, RB||16||7|
|Rod Smith||38||Co-OC, QB||14||6|
|Jeff Casteel||49||Def. Coord.||24||19|
|Robert Anae||53||Off. Line||21||17|
|Bill Kirelawich||64||Def. Line||31||27|
Nobody with less than a decade of experience and everybody but one has multiple years coaching his assigned position. The lone exception is Spencer Leftwich who has been an offensive line coach for 23 years but will be coaching tight ends at Arizona.
The fear with getting the band back together is that when they start to play you remember why they broke up in the first place. You can’t recapture past glory if the game has passed you by.
That’s not the case here. Instead of a bunch of old has-beens you have a combined 202 years of coaching with one guy in his early 50s and one guy in his 60s. Experience plus energy? It’s not just a bad hair-care commercial.
Compare that to Mike Stoops’ first staff where a rookie head coach brought in a rookie defensive coordinator, or Stoops’ last staff where his OC had no previous experience as a coordinator and his defensive backs coach had zero years of coaching experience anywhere.
Even if you leave out Casteel’s long history with Rodriguez, the Cats are getting an active defensive coordinator with a shiny new Orange Bowl ring, a guy whose defense has been a part of 70 wins over the past seven years. That kind of hire doesn’t happen to Arizona Football.
(Duane Akina leaving Texas to come to Tucson, only to go back one month later? That’s what happens to Arizona Football.)
So the RichRod revival is off and running but a number of questions remain.
Will his offensive system work in the Pac-12? A version of it is working just fine at Oregon.
Will his defensive system work in the Pac-12? We’re going to have to wait and see. But it does make sense at a traditional non-power like Arizona to run a scheme that emphasizes smaller, faster players over huge, dominating defensive linemen.
Can Rodriguez recruit players as good as the ones he’s had? This is the big one. Pat White came from Alabama. Steve Slaton is from Pennsylvania. Denard Robinson came from Florida. It would be a tough sell to get players from any of those places to come all the way to the desert.
Rodriguez and his staff have proven they can build a winning program and put together a winning game plan. Will they be able to recruit well enough to close the talent gap with Oregon and USC to give their system a chance to succeed once again?
That’s a lot of questions, and it may be a few years before we have all the answers. But RichRod successfully answered the first challenge by convincing his coaches to join him on the other side of the country.
At this point there’s no reason not to believe Rodriguez will be able to positively answer all the remaining questions. Even at Arizona.
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