Greg Hansen: Peak of the Stoops' program

2011-09-17T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T13:47:38Z Greg Hansen: Peak of the Stoops' programGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
September 17, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Editor's note: Former New Mexico football coach Rocky Long resigned from that job. He was not fired.

Dear Mr. Football: What is the greatest fear of a UA football fan?

A: That the Wildcats peaked in 2008, beating BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl, and are forever stuck in the middle.

If you check the 2008 starters against the 2011 starters, it is lopsided. Only Juron Criner would be a clear starter, over 2008's Terrell Turner. Do you realize Nicolas Grigsby gained 1,153 yards that year, and the third receiver, Delashaun Dean, caught 53 balls? Do you realize Jason Bondzio made 14 of 16 field goal attempts? And that Mike Thomas was the league's top '08 kick returner and top receiver?

On defense, I think current linebacker Paul Vassallo and safety Robert Golden might start over Adrian McCovy and Marquis Hundley. Trevin Wade is a push at corner with 2008's Devin Ross.

It's also a toss-up at QB: Willie Tuitama threw for 3,088 yards and completed 65 percent of his passes.

The '08 squad had playmakers on defense such as Earl Mitchell and Nate Ness and, of course, no one on the '11 club can do what Rob Gronkowski did in '08.

The '08 Wildcats beat the '11 Wildcats on a neutral field 37-28.

Dear Mr. Football: Has Mike Stoops hit a coaching ceiling?

A: Stoops has won 41 games in seven-plus UA seasons. At an off-the-grid football school like Arizona, 41 wins doesn't get you a new contract, but it does get you an eighth season.

As a body of work, seven years is enough to reliably project the future. Here are the men that most closely parallel Stoops, those who coached seven years at middle tier football places and were retained:

• Rocky Long, New Mexico, 40 wins. He quite after 10 years.

• Mark Mangino, Kansas, 45 wins. He was fired after eight years.

• Ron Turner, Illinois, 38 wins. He was fired after nine years.

• Glen Mason, Minnesota, 64 wins. He was fired after 10 years.

• Mack Brown, North Carolina, 42 wins. He then went 27-8 and was hired by Texas.

• Mike Price, Washington State, 38 wins. He then produced three 10-win seasons, two of them resulting in Rose Bowls, and was hired by Alabama

Two went on to better things. Four hit the ceiling. The odds aren't good.

Dear Mr. Football: Has any team in the last five years played a three-game set to match Arizona's Oklahoma State-Stanford-Oregon ordeal?

A: After back-to-back winning seasons in 2006-07, Arkansas opened 2-0 and then ran into No. 9 Alabama, No. 7 Texas and No. 12 Florida. Lost 'em all. Couldn't recover. Lost later in the season to unranked Kentucky, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Mississippi State.

But it doesn't always have to cripple a team. In 1992, Arizona took a 1-1-1 mark into meetings with No. 1 Miami, No. 8 Stanford and No. 11 UCLA in consecutive weeks. The Wildcats were one missed field goal from a sweep and the Desert Swarm era was launched when almost no one saw it coming.

Dear Mr. Football: Is there anything that even Mel Kiper doesn't know about Stanford?

A: Incredibly, USC did not offer a scholarship to any of Stanford's 22 listed starters, and Oregon recruited just one, defensive end Matt Masifilo.

I researched the recruiting history of all 22 Stanford starters on Rivals.com, which probably follows that business closer than anyone, and discovered that, on paper, you wouldn't think Stanford is part of the Pac-12, or even the West.

Arizona pursued only two Stanford starters, Masifilo and linebacker Trent Murphy, of Phoenix. Further, Stanford's lineup tonight includes just four Californians: receiver Chris Owusu, safety Delano Howell, tackle Jonathan Martin and linebacker Shayne Skov.

Stanford starts several players from Maryland, Texas and Georgia, and has others from Wisconsin, Illinois and Pennsylvania. This has historically been misconstrued as a recruiting disadvantage, but I think it is otherwise.

Few have the national reach of Stanford to go into Illinois, for example, and land potential first-round draft pick Coby Fleener, a tight end who was going to enroll at Nebraska until Stanford approved his academic transcripts.

Fleener is a Gronkowski-level star, who amazingly, has caught touchdown passes of 41, 58, 38, 39 and 60 yards in the last three games.

Dear Mr. Football: Who's having the most impact on college football this year, Andrew Luck or his father, Oliver Luck?

A: Andrew could win the Heisman Trophy, but father Oliver, director of athletics at West Virginia, is setting precedent where college football rarely dares to tread. He implemented beer sales at WVU's Mountaineer Field last week. That is usually an unspoken off-limits area for college football.

It was successful. The Mountaineers sold 21,811 cups of beer and 10 kegs of beer, earning a gross of $160,000. Over the course of a home season, that could be close to $1 million.

Don't think other ADs aren't intrigued by the possible new revenue source.

Dear Mr. Football: Has Arizona ever won a game against an opponent who became the NFL's top overall draft pick in the following spring, such as Stanford QB Andrew Luck appears to be?

A: It is 1-6 in those games, losing to UCLA's Troy Aikman in 1988; Wazzu's Drew Bledsoe in 1992; USC's Keyshawn Johnson in 1995; Penn State's Courtney Brown in 1999; Utah's Alex Smith in 2004; and LSU's JaMarcus Russell in 2006.

The only victory came in 1982 against - irony here - Stanford QB John Elway, but that doesn't mean a thing.

In '82, coach Paul Wiggin forced Elway to play safety-first, don't-get-beat football unless Stanford trailed in the fourth quarter. And that's why Arizona beat Stanford 41-27 that year; Elway threw just 33 passes, 19 in the fourth quarter.

This Stanford team won't play not-to-lose football.

Dear Mr. Football: Is this going to be a blowout?

A: I suspect Stanford isn't a team that will finish the season in the top 10. It's not LSU or Alabama, but it has better players than Arizona, including a significant edge on both lines.

The most disappointing facet of Arizona's young season is that this team hasn't shown the toughness, or physical prowess, to be competitive against a Top 25 team. That'll be the challenge: be tough or get whipped.

Once or twice a year, no matter how good the opposition, Stoops' teams have a history of hanging tough. Tonight is likely to be one of those games. If it comes down to a throw by Andrew Luck or a kick by Alex Zendejas, or whoever, it's not much of a mystery.

Stanford at the wire, 31-28.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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