Pac-12: Joe Salave'a

Staff changes: Arizona

February, 28, 2011
Considering only Oregon and Washington didn't experience any staff turnover, it seems reasonable to take a look at the staff changes in the Pac-12 this offseason, starting with Arizona.

Arizona had plenty of movement in and out, starting with one half of the coordinator tandems it used on both sides of the ball in 2010.

Team in parenthesis is where the departing coach ended up.

Bill Bedenbaugh, co-offensive coordinator (West Virginia)

Robert Anae, offensive line (Seth Littrell moves up from co-offensive coordinator to offensive coordinator)

Greg Brown, co-defensive coordinator/secondary (Colorado)
Duane Akina, secondary (Texas -- Akina was hired away from Texas for a few weeks to replace Brown before deciding to return to Texas).

Ryan Walters, secondary (Walters' promotion from defensive GA has not been officially announced but has been reported by the Tucson Citizen)

Mike Tuiasosopo, defensive line (Colorado)

Joe Salave'a, defensive line

Reaction: This is a lot of turnover, but one of the payoffs of having co-coordinators means losing one doesn't force you to change your scheme going forward. Littrell was the playcaller in 2010, so losing Bedenbaugh shouldn't cause too much of a shake-up. More than a few folks think Anae's tough-guy ways will help a rebuilding line discover its mojo. Walters started 33 games at Colorado at safety -- all under Brown -- so his familiarity with the scheme should be high, not to mention that's also head coach Mike Stoops' prime area of interest. Still, it's pretty deflating to go from a highly respected veteran like Akina, who was hired away from a marquee program and has deep Arizona roots, to a rookie coach. Tuiasosopo was a good coach and recruiter -- he will be missed -- but Salave'a has plenty of NFL cred that players will respect. It will be interesting to see how this all meshes together this spring.

Arizona loses another assistant

January, 3, 2011
Bill Bedenbaugh, Arizona's co-offensive coordinator and line coach, is leaving the Wildcats for West Virginia, meaning Mike Stoops now has two staff vacancies to fill.

Stoops also must replace defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown. He already hired Joe Salave'a to replace defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo. Both Brown and Tuiasosopo left for Colorado.

All three assistants who left the Wildcats had close relationships to the new head coaches at their next destinations. The Arizona Star reported this on Bedenbaugh's move:
Bedenbaugh and WVU head-coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen were college teammates at Iowa Wesleyan and coaching colleagues at Texas Tech. Holgorsen will serve as the Mountaineers' offensive coordinator this fall, then take over head coaching duties from Bill Stewart in 2012. Bedenbaugh is expected to start his WVU career as offensive line coach, with a promotion possible after the first year.

The Star further reported: "Former BYU offensive coordinator Robert Anae is atop coach Mike Stoops' wish list."

When you consider that we are in the final month of recruiting, you'd expect Stoops to be pretty darn busy over the coming weeks.

Q&A: Arizona D-coordinator Tim Kish

December, 23, 2010
Arizona started 7-1 and its defense ranked among the nation's best. Then the Wildcats lost their final four games, and the defense struggled mightily, particularly against the run.

The Wildcats, nonetheless, ended up in the Valero Alamo Bowl, where they will take on No. 14 Oklahoma State, which only ranks No. 1 in the nation in total offense, with 537.6 yards per game.

The Cowboys will be the third top-10 offense the Wildcats have faced this year.

Moreover, Arizona just lost a pair of defensive coaches to Colorado: co-coordinator Greg Brown and defensive line coach Mike Tuiasosopo. Joe Salave'a is already on board taking over the defensive line, but the secondary will be mostly supervised by head coach Mike Stoops heading into the bowl game.

Further, Stoops has announced that Tim Kish, who shared the coordinator duties with Brown this year, will be the solo defensive coordinator in 2011.

So it seemed like a good time to check in with Kish as he gets ready for the Cowboys potent attack and prepares for the future in Tucson.

So co-coordinator Greg Brown is gone: How does that change your job heading into the Alamo Bowl?

Tim Kish: It just requires me to do a little bit more prep work than I would do normally. But everybody is pitching in. Coach Stoops is pitching in, Ryan Walters, our graduate assistant who helped Greg with the back end is doing an awesome job right now. We are just all rallying around each other and making sure we dot our 'Is' and cross our 'Ts' in our game preparation.

There won't be any "co" with the defense next year. Coach Stoops has said you'll be the coordinator alone. How do you feel about running the defense next year?

TK: It really isn't going to change a whole lot from what we've done here in the past. We'll continue to use our base package, which we've had our previous six years with Mike's brother Mark. The thing we did this year is experiment a little bit with more man coverage and some man-pressures and things we hadn't done previously. We're going to continue to grow but we aren't going to ask our guys to do things that they are not capable of. The key to any good defense is adapting to your personnel. As that progresses, we'll progress.

Were there any challenges specific to being a co-coordinator that you won't face now?

TK: To be honest, I couldn't have had a better co-coordinator to work with. There were no egos. Greg and I kind of plotted out how we were going to handle game preparation each week. Obviously, we overlapped each other in a lot of things we did, so it was an ideal situation for both of us, I felt. It's just unfortunate it only lasted one year. Now you've got to go back and kind of reorganize your thought process. But it's not going to change dramatically. It just puts a little more onus on me being more involved in the full picture, especially in the passing game. I look forward to that challenge.

Let's talk about this season: What's your overall feeling on how the defense played?

TK: I felt like we started strong out of the gate. We were playing with some good momentum. We had some teams there at the latter part of the season that we probably didn't match up as well with as we did earlier in the season. There's no excuses, though. We just didn't play as well. We didn't have that energy and enthusiasm that I thought we played with in the first two-thirds of the season. Part of that was the types of offenses we were facing. But there are no excuses on this end. We knew what we were getting ourselves into. We didn't respond the way I expected us to respond at the end of the season.

What went wrong with the run defense late in the season?

TK: I don't know if I can point the finger at any one thing. For whatever reason, we weren't playing as physically as we were early in the season. Everybody wears down; everybody gets bumps and bruises. Those are no excuses for anything that went wrong with the run defense. We just weren't getting downhill as well at the second level, fitting our gaps. We weren't holding onto the double-teams and the scoop blocks as well as we did early in the season. It was a combination of a lot of things. We didn't tackle very well. We missed a lot of tackles at the end of the season. There were a lot of things we have to take a good, hard look at in the offseason and see what we need to do to shore up. We know we want to get bigger and more physical up front. We're not a huge team up front, and yet we have got to be in position where we can control those gaps with our front-seven. It's just something we are going to have to take a good hard look at and evaluate and critique and see what we can do to help that situation next year.

Who exceeded your expectations this season?

TK: I expected the ends [Brooks Reed & Ricky Elmore] to play well and they did. D'Aundre Reed was the biggest surprise of the three [ends] up front. At the end of the season, we were actually starting him as one of the top two guys [ahead of Elmore]. All three of those guys were as advertised. We knew what we were getting out of them over the course of the year. I think [DT] Justin Washington had his moments in there as a freshman D-lineman in there. He played well at times but he wore down a little bit there and got nicked up at the end of the season and didn't play as well. Mana Mikaele up front at nose guard had a pretty consistent year. I was pleased with his effort all year long. Obviously, with the three linebackers, the unknown was across the board. But I think Paul Vassallo exceeded my expectations, all of our expectations, because he was as much a defensive end as he was a linebacker in junior college. He was the most consistent at linebacker. Jake Fischer adds a good dose of athletic ability and flexibility in there. Derek Earls was fairly steady as well. From that standpoint, I was fairly pleased with that group. In the back end, to be honest it was the young guys who garnered the attention. [CB] Shaquille Richardson had some really good moments in there, but he's still learning. Jonathan McKnight is going to be a hell of a corner. He's just coming into his own. And so is [SS] Marquis Flowers. The future bodes pretty well for that back end right now.

Tell me about Oklahoma State's offense.

TK: The All-American wide receiver doesn't drop a ball [Justin Blackmon]. He catches anything within 10 feet of him. He's just smooth. He looks so natural out there running routes. He has a great knack for finding grass and sitting down in the zone and beating man coverage. And the quarterback [Brandon Weeden] has played consistently all year long for them. They are real solid up front -- three juniors, a sophomore and a redshirt freshman starting for them up front. They know how to zone block. They know how to pass protect. It's hard to get to [the QB] because they are not doing a lot of five-step drop. They're getting the ball quickly out of the quarterback's hands. Those two other receivers complement Blackmon because they're steady. I don't know if people call them possession receivers but I know they run good routes and catch the ball as well. Then once you look at all that, they've got a bevy of running backs -- they can throw any one of three at you -- and they can pound the ball on you. We're expecting them to try to run the ball early and then play-action pass us like they do everybody else. We can't give up a lot of after-contact yardage, whether it's in the passing game or run game. So we've concentrated on trying to shore up our tackling.

You guys lost your final four games. What do you think the guys mindset is after the disappointing finish?

TK: We've put that behind us. No question about it, we laid an egg last year at the Holiday Bowl last year. These kids have a lot of pride. You can say, 'What if, what if, what if,' but that's not what we do. We have to learn from our mistakes. We certainly didn't finish the season the way we wanted to. Could we have won a couple of those games? Absolutely. But that didn't happen. Our mindset is totally on Oklahoma State and getting prepared as well as we can for this bowl game, playing hard for 60 minutes.

Arizona taps Salave'a to coach D-line

December, 16, 2010
Former Arizona and NFL standout Joe Salave'a has been hired to coach the Wildcats' defensive line, replacing Mike Tuiasosopo, who took a job at Colorado.

Salave'a, 35, who played nine years in the NFL, lettered at Arizona as a defensive tackle from 1994-97, serving as team captain in 1996. He earned honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors in 1995, second-team honors in 1996 and was a first-team selection in 1997.

Salave'a has been out of coaching and football for the past year, living in Las Vegas, but was San Jose State's defensive line coach in 2008 and 2009.

"I'm really excited to have him join the staff," coach Mike Stoops said in a statement. "He fits what we're doing very well. He has a solid history and comes highly recommended. Joe built a legacy here and in the NFL that will have an immediate impact on our players and in recruiting."

A couple of things to like about the hire: 1. Salave'a's recent NFL pedigree will get players' attention, both in recruiting and as a coach; 2. Salave'a, a native of Leone, American Samoa, will keep the Wildcats Polynesian pipeline open in recruiting, just as Tuiasosopo did.

Stoops said his 2011 staff won't be complete until sometime in January. He also needs to replace Greg Brown, the Wildcats' co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach, who also left for Colorado.

Salave'a will start Monday and help prepare the Wildcats for their Dec. 29 appearance in the Valero Alamo Bowl. Stoops will take over for Brown in the secondary.

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