Fresh off their changes to the Defensive Staff, the Arizona football team is set to begin Spring Practices.
It’s November 22, 2011, and the University of Arizona is hosting a press conference at McKale Center, introducing Rich Rodriguez as the Wildcats’ new head football coach. The introduction lasts but a few minutes, but the lasting impression made by Rodriguez was “Why not Arizona?” Fast forward to 2016, Rodriguez is now entering his fifth season with the Wildcats, after arguably the best four-year stretch in the program’s history.
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Since arriving in Tucson, Rodriguez has certainly been a bit of fresh air and has undoubtedly changed the football culture here following the Stoops era. He always promised that while at Arizona, he’d give his best effort, leading many of hopeful fans believing, why not Arizona, after a stellar 10-4 season in 2014.
Well, such ambitions have somewhat subsided, following a rather lackluster result to the 2015 season. The Wildcats finished a rather unsatisfying 7-6 (3-6) record, good for 10th place in the Pac-12.
The offseason would also prove to be a bit stress inducing, after Rodriguez had flirted with South Carolina, by interviewing for the vacant head coaching position. Instead, Rodriguez had declined the offer, returning to Tucson with big challenges ahead. Time to try and elevate Arizona football to the next level, and fixing an abysmal Arizona Defense.
Changes were coming, and in a rather surprising move, Rodriguez decided to part ways with long-time partners and friends Jeff Casteel (Defensive Coordinator), and Bill Kirelawich (Defensive Line Coach). The commitment to producing a better product on the field has certainly been on the mind of an ultra-competitive Rodriguez, who hates losing.
Exit Coaches David Lockwood, Casteel, Kirelawich, and Matt Caponi. Enter coaches Donte Williams, Marcel Yates, Jahlil Addae, and now Vince Amey who was hired Wednesday. Almost a complete staff overhaul for the Wildcats! The vision was to create a more competitive, aggressive, defensive product, highlighted by a young, hungry staff, with an emphasis on recruiting.
Recent hire Vince Amey is the staff’s latest addition, and he does have some experience with the Wildcats after serving as a football analyst along with Jahlil Addae on the staff. Amey is a former Sun Devil, but it appears allegiances have changed for the time being as he is well respected by the players.
The 2016 season should prove to be interesting, and it will likely be a challenge improving a defensive unit that lacks a ton of talent while teaching brand new schemes and terminology. However, as Rodriguez had stated in 2011, he would always put forth his best effort. And he is getting to practice earlier than a number of other schools by starting on Friday.
The Wildcats will look to get things rolling coming into Spring, and after releasing their schedule, the unorthodox and inventive Rodriguez is hoping these changes produce significant results for Arizona and give them a chance to get settled under the new staff.
2016 Arizona Spring Practice Schedule (as of Feb. 11)
Practice No. 1 – Friday, Feb. 12
Practice No. 2 – Saturday, Feb. 13
Practice No. 3 – Saturday, Feb. 20
Practice No. 4 – Monday, Feb. 22
Practice No. 5 – Wednesday, Feb. 24
Practice No. 6 – Thursday, Feb. 25
Practice No. 7 – Tuesday, March 1
Practice No. 8 – Wednesday, March 2
Practice No. 9 – Friday, March 4 (Open public scrimmage; 6 p.m. at Arizona Stadium)
Practice No. 10 – Monday, March 7
Practice No. 11 – Wednesday, March 9
Practice No. 12 – Thursday, March 10
Practice No. 13 – Monday, March 21
Practice No. 14 – Wednesday, March 23
Practice No. 15 – Friday, March 25
Dates subject to change.
Arizona will begin Spring Practice on Friday, February 12, which will, of course, be closed off to the public. The Wildcats will actually not have a “Spring Scrimmage” like they normally do this year, but will have Open Practice at 6 p.m. on March 4, inside Arizona Stadium.
Bear Down, Arizona!