Football is back!
Well, kind of. Sort of. Almost.
Pac-12 Media Days are Thursday and Friday in Hollywood. Now that Arizona baseball is finally in the rearview mirror, we — i.e., yours truly — can turn our full attention toward Wildcats football.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty Thursday — UA coach Rich Rodriguez speaks at 9:30 a.m., so it won’t be long — I wanted to revisit some pieces written elsewhere over the summer that pertain to Arizona.
First and foremost: Two rankings of FBS coaches that reflect well on Rodriguez and suggest the UA is in a good place despite last season’s backslide.
The crew at Athlon Sports ranked the FBS coaches 1-128 based on a variety of factors. Rodriguez landed at No. 28 on that list (one spot behind Arizona State’s Todd Graham).
Having the 28th-best coach in the country suggests your program is on the fringe of the Top 25, which is where Arizona ought to strive to be. Here’s what Athlon’s Steve Lassan wrote about Rodriguez:
A year after a Pac-12 South title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl, Arizona took a step back in the win column with a 7-6 overall mark and a 3-6 record in league play. The seven wins in 2015 were the fewest by Arizona under Rodriguez’s watch, but despite injuries to key players on (defense), the Wildcats earned their fourth consecutive winning record.
Rodriguez is widely regarded as one of the nation’s top offensive minds and should get this program back on track over the next two seasons. Scoring points won’t be a problem for the Wildcats, but the defense has to improve. Rodriguez took steps to fix this unit in the offseason, hiring new play-caller Marcel Yates to highlight a revamped staff. Prior to taking over in Tucson, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia from 2001-07 and 15-22 in three years at Michigan.
He’s the "Independence Day: Resurgence" of coaches. There are going to be flaws, you know the ending, and you’re hardly expecting anything award-worthy. You know a lot of bad things will happen along the way to some sensational thrill-ride moments. And in the end, you’re going to be entertained by the spectacle.
While I think RichRod’s coaching résumé is worthy of a better film than “Independence Day: Resurgence” — I mean, he’s at least the original “Independence Day,” right? — ranking him 39th doesn’t seem unfair. (CFN, by the way, ranks Graham 43rd.)
Lists like these are inherently subjective; both authors state in their introductions that there’s no universal criteria to definitively determine who belongs where. But the fact that Rodriguez landed in the top 40 in separate rankings should have UA fans feeling good about where the program is and where it might be headed.
The Pac-12 bloggers at ESPN.com do a terrific job of coming up with material to fill those long summer months of inactivity. Having been in that position before, I know how hard it can be.
One of their features this summer: compiling “All-Century” teams for each school — a starting lineup of the best players for each Pac-12 program since 2000.
Here’s what Ted Miller came up with for Arizona:
- QB Nick Foles
- RB Ka'Deem Carey
- RB Mike Bell
- OL Eben Britton
- OL Colin Baxter
- OL Marques McFadden
- OL Makoa Freitas
- OL Adam Grant
- TE Rob Gronkowski
- WR Bobby Wade
- WR Mike Thomas
- K Nick Folk
- DL Brooks Reed
- DL Joe Tafoya
- DL Earl Mitchell
- DL Ricky Elmore
- LB Scooby Wright
- LB Lance Briggs
- LB Spencer Larson
- CB Antoine Cason
- CB Trevin Wade
- S Darrell Brooks
- S Michael Johnson
- P Drew Riggleman
I’m not going to pretend to be an Arizona football historian (I’ll leave that to Greg Hansen) or expert (at least not yet), so beyond the obvious selections (Carey, Britton, Gronkowski, Reed, Wright, Briggs, Cason) I’m not sure what Miller (who's as sharp as they come) got right or wrong. Your thoughts?
Some key dates worth filing away:
Aug. 3: Arizona players report for training camp
Aug. 4: Training camp begins
Aug. 21: UA media day (first chance to talk to newcomers)