Arizona Football: Rich Rodriguez spills the tea on Hard Edge Podcast

TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Head coache Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
TEMPE, AZ - NOVEMBER 25: Head coache Rich Rodriguez of the Arizona Wildcats watches from the sidelines during the first half of the college football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Sun Devil Stadium on November 25, 2017 in Tempe, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

In his latest Hard Edge Podcast (Episode 10), former Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez gives fans insight into the Arizona Football program.

Have you wondered what are former head coach Rich Rodriguez’s thoughts on the current state of Arizona Football, the coaching staff, and/ or the team? Well, so have we.

Luckily for us, in his most recently released podcast entitled ‘Hard Edge’, Rich Rod spilled the tea (partook in gossip for those not hip to the slang), and we are all here for it. You have to be able to read between the lines a bit to understand what he is trying to tell us, and I feel it is quite revealing.

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I feel like I am in a familiar and comfortable place, once again transcribing former Arizona head coach’s comments. But this time, he wasn’t answering my question about playing the Tight Ends more. No, instead he was answering his daughter Raquel’s questions on their podcast, “Hard Edge.”

First off, with the current state of College Football, Rich Rod thinks Alabama is by far the best team in the NCAA, but who is the biggest surprise this season? That answer may in fact surprise you.

After the Ducks traveled to Berkeley this past weekend, it was Cal’s upset over Oregon that has made him into a believer. He also likes the Iowa State team, who has a lot of veteran experienced players and a good coach, along with good quarterback play (hint hint).

“I thought Oregon, obviously they lost a lot of good players, but they were obviously the overwhelming favorite to win the Pac-12. And Cal had all kinds of issues with COVID and with the restrictions back in California when they could practice, and really haven’t had much practice time at all and they played tremendously– You gotta give their [Cals] coaching staff a lot of credit.”

Why hasn’t Sumlin played more seasoned players or “grown men”? Why has he and his staff seemingly just played the “players of the future” these past few years, instead of focusing on winning? These are all questions we have raised over the last three seasons, but the overall question we’ve had is how Coach Rod has been getting through watching another coach lose games with some of his recruits still?

During the podcast, Raquel asked her dad if it’s difficult watching his old team struggle through 11 straight losses.

"“Well, it is. And particularly looking at the upper class-men — we thought in 2017, you know we were 7-5, we went to a bowl game, but we had a lot of good young players, we had four or five true freshmen starting on defense, we had all the skilled guys comin’ back on offense, Khalil Tate, one of the most dynamic players in the country coming back. So we were poised for success.”"

But wait there’s more…

"“I know again, it’s self-serving, I’ve used this word before, for me to talk about this but, we were excited for the next couple of years. And you know they got a new staff coming in so a lot of things change when that happens, and you know guys opting out or transferring and what have you, but, I would’ve thought that they would have had some success, more success than what they’ve shown in the last couple of years and having 11 games in when they’ve gotten beat.”"

Wait for it…

"“Again I was disappointed that we didn’t get an opportunity to see that through and frankly, I’m a little disappointed that Arizona let us go based on false accusations. And have yet to correct that narrative. And a false narrative at that!”"

There it is. Just what we have been saying. The team was poised to win games and get better and better, but instead of capitalizing on what was already built, Sumlin and staff tore it apart and started fresh. They even had Rich Rod around as a parent of one of their players, wasn’t it self serving not to have consulted him at all?

In retrospect, Sumlin could have been hugely successful if he would have incorporated Rich Rod’s suggestions for continuity and brought in a few more alumni to help out and gain support. He has done neither and it shows. If it was me, I would have used every one I could to win games, everyone.

Raquel suggested that they write a book, a soap opera about what really went down when they let Rodriguez go. We’re sure it would be a doozy, a top seller and I am all for a book tour. Perhaps that could allow me to continue bugging Rich about why he didn’t play the tight ends enough (just kidding, Rich).

Rich continued to discuss some of the senior starting players Sumlin has who are walk-on’s without scholarships (he alluded that this wasn’t how he would have done things, or that senior walk-ons playing should have scholarships). Especially when it comes to preferred walk-on linebacker, Rourke Freeburg. “One of the greatest thrills is putting a guy on scholarship! — He’s earned one.” They had a priority starting with seniors, and he thinks Freeburg should have one.

Rodriguez also felt the Colorado game was winnable.

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Arizona Wildcats Football

“Can we be honest here? I really thought they would have a chance to beat Colorado — Arizona — playing a true freshman quarterback so we’re going to be limited a little bit on what they can call and what they want to call offensively. And, they started off great — Arizona couldn’t stop the run game — and couldn’t get anything going on offense.”

Raquel then asked her dad something we have all been asking for months, “If you’re losing 11 games straight, at what point do you think maybe it’s time to re-evaluate what you’re doing in the sense of, ‘what we’re doing currently is not working, something’s gotta change’?”

“Good point, all coaches are competitive,” said Rich Rod who went on to point out that the coaches cause the team to lose some games, whether it was in their control or not.

“I think you owe it to your team every week to let’s do what we gotta do to win this week. It bothers me at times, and I’m not saying this at Arizona or anywhere else in particular but I know it happens where maybe it looks like they’re playing for the future.”

“You know they’ve kinda given up on this year’s team and this year’s seniors and are playing for the future, and you should never do that. You know what I mean? Those seniors are owed that! As soon as you become the coach there, you owe it to everyone on that team and to the fanbase to win every game you can possibly win from the day you get there.”

Here’s where Sumlin seemed to drop the ball and I agree with Rich. I think this is why Sumlin lost so many players these last couple of seasons, “If an upper class-man is better than a younger guy, and he’s doing all the right things, and he’s giving you the chance to win, then you should play them cuz you owe that to your senior class and that fan base,” explained Rodriguez.

Again, I agree, and outside of his personal bias, I too felt Rhett should have been given a chance to play as the backup quarterback, period.

Raquel and Rich continued to discuss how things used to be at Arizona when he was Head Coach. Once he tried to simulate a rainy, cold atmosphere so the team could practice in Utah-like weather to prepare for their game against the Utes. So the team practiced at 6 am with the sprinklers at full blast.

And Coach was right! The weather was just like he and his coaching squad had mimicked so it helped a lot. The Cats won 42-13 (“or something like that”). Raquel said she had to cheer in the rain, but her coach didn’t prepare her; that game was her first away game cheering.

Rodriguez also has a plan for this odd Covid-19-riddled season: “Have every team play 10 games, give the top two teams a bye, then have a tournament instead of playoffs with just the Top Four teams.” That would be a way to make it fair he thinks.

Rich’s prediction for this season: There will be more opt-outs in this year of NCAA playoffs and Bowl Games to prepare for the NFL than ever before. He says the guys he knows in the NFL like watching players play in a Bowl Game.

But that wasn’t his rant, he has a rant for every podcast episode, this weeks rant had to do with players. This is also where we read between the lines.

Rodriguez feels the players need to understand the game. He holds meetings every week during the season called “Football 101.” “We took one topic a week” to help the players learn the game, and he likes to prepare his players for the NFL, learning fronts and quarterback signals. That’s why he liked to recruit players who loved the game of football. “As a coach, you have a duty to teach them that.”

Coach Sumlin and his staff should listen to this episode of Rodriguez’s podcast, he has a lot of unique things he does in his programs that make a whole lot of sense.

For one he teaches that the football itself represents the program, and to never leave it on the ground after a touchdown. Instead, players should hand it to the referee, take care of it like it’s the entire program.

Another thing he likes to do is coach his players to never show fatigue, so when they were tired, they practiced not bending over.

Lastly, he likes to teach his team to run to the other side of the field with eagerness at the end of quarters, just to try and throw the other team off.

dark. Next. More on Arizona Football on ZonaZealots..

Reading between the lines, Sumlin is doing a bad job, isn’t teaching football, didn’t honor the seniors, isn’t playing Rhett when he is clearly experienced, isn’t playing to win by playing for the future and more. Sure do miss the way Rodriguez thinks