Monday, March 8, 2010
Arizona begins four-coordinator experience
By Ted Miller
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Tim Kish, one of Arizona's quartet of coordinators, brandished a football helmet during a news conference Friday.
"I haven't seen any of these fly across the meeting room yet. Does that answer your question?" he said, drawing laughs.
Kish was specifically addressing how coaching life might be different with the Wildcats now that the notoriously hot-headed Stoops brothers -- head coach Mike and former defensive coordinator Mark -- won't be fussing at each other this season, but the gesture also seemed meaningful for coming to terms with Mike Stoops' admittedly "unorthodox" decision to enter spring practice with four coordinators and no designated playcallers.
Quarterback Nick Foles has admitted he's curious to see how the two-coordinator system works out on offense.
There will be many voices of authority telling Arizona's players what to do in 2010.
"I wouldn't have done it if I didn't think it could work," Mike Stoops said.
Stoops lost his brother, now at Florida State, on defense and Sonny Dykes on offense. Dykes became Louisiana Tech's head coach.
The vacancies were filled by two men on both sides of the ball: line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and running backs/tight ends coach Seth Littrell on offense and linebackers coach Kish and secondary coach Greg Brown on defense. Bedenbaugh, Littrell and Kish were promoted from within. Brown was hired away from Colorado.
Moreover, Kish noted that Mike Stoops will always play a major role with the defense, while new quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo also is a possible playcaller.
Stoops said that deciding who ultimately has the final word on play calls will be "a process that will be on-going as we go through spring."
"It's probably a little bit unorthodox, but I think our players are as confident as they have ever been in our staff," he said. "I think they have a great feeling of continuity. That's the biggest thing. There's not a lack of trust there."
While there may be skepticism about how well the arrangement will work outside the program, all coaching parties were preaching a party line of jovial collaboration heading into spring practices.
"There's no egos between Greg and I," Kish said.
Said Bedenbaugh: "Everything up to this point has been great and it's going to continue to be great. ... We've been in this offense. We know what we want to do. We think alike. We want to run the same things."
Wildcats players also were -- not unexpectedly -- positive about the coaching situation. An obvious benefit for them is familiarity and continuity. There's no plan for wholesale scheme changes on either side of the ball. On offense, in particular, with 10 starters back, the transition should be fairly smooth.
But quarterback Nick Foles at least admitted that he's really not sure how everything will go down in practices and games.
"I am curious because it's something different. When there's something different that you're not used to, you're going to be curious," he said. "I know I'm going to hear a lot of voices, but these guys have a lot of great knowledge so I'm looking forward to them critiquing all of us and getting us better."
The initial task is fairly simple: coaches will coach their positions.
Foles' early focus with Scelfo is improving his footwork. Kish has to find three new starting linebackers. Brown has two holes in his secondary. Bedenbaugh's line has a chance to be one of the best in the Pac-10. Littrell has experience all over the field at the skill positions.
But at some point somebody has to be first-among-equals on both sides of the ball, other than Stoops. The collaboration will face a stress test as a pecking order is established this spring.
"That's what we'll do during scrimmages," Bedenbaugh said.
While there's consensus now, it remains to be seen among the coordinator quartet whether any helmets will be hurled to punctuate an opinion during future staff meetings.