Charlie Ragle's alarm clock read 4:30 a.m. The Arizona Wildcats' first spring practice of 2013 was more than four hours away, but Ragle was wide-awake, counting down the minutes until practice time.

"I felt like a 9-year-old on Christmas morning," Ragle said. "I really did."

The Wildcats' first-year tight ends coach and special teams coordinator had been waiting more than a year for this practice.

The former Scottsdale Chaparral coach, who led the Firebirds to three straight state championships, was hired by Rich Rodriguez before the 2012 season as the Wildcats' assistant director of operations. The opportunity to work with Rodriguez and in the Pac-12 was something he couldn't pass up.

But there was a catch.

In his role, Ragle wasn't allowed to coach on the field. He could help in meeting rooms and assist in recruiting, but he wasn't allowed to teach X's and O's on the practice field.

That changed the night the Wildcats beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl. Rodriguez met with Ragle after the win and told him he wanted to promote him to a full-time coach and assign him a position group to coach.

The no-teaching ban was over.

"To get back on the field and coach, it's who I am and what I'm about," Ragle said. "It's rejuvenating."

Ragle, who is enjoying some down time this week with the Wildcats off from spring practice until March 20th, recently talked to the Star about his promotion and new role:

On how tough it was to not be able to coach last season: "I was excited to be here, first and foremost, and thankful to coach Rodriguez for getting me in. That was a big, big deal. It was exciting. Everything was great until we had to walk out here every afternoon. You had to obviously abide by NCAA rules. It was real tough, but I knew it was going to be like that coming in. I had to step back mentally and say 'I'm going to get as good as I can inside and then when I come outside I'm going to watch and observe and take notes and do whatever I can to get better out here.' I would be lying if I said it wasn't hard to watch."

On what it was like when Rodriguez promoted him: "He brought me into the office after the New Mexico Bowl, that night. The whole day was special for me, going back to New Mexico, where I'm from, and finishing the game the way we did and then him offering me the job. It's something I'll never forget. It was a surreal moment for me. To be able to drive out of here on the 15th having won the New Mexico Bowl and knowing I'll get to coach again was very, very special."

On if he ever thinks about what it would have been like to stay at Chaparral: "All the time. I enjoyed my time at Chaparral and coaching high school football. But I never let that dream inside of me die that this is ultimately what I wanted to. I'm very fortunate that Coach Rodriguez gave me that opportunity again. Inside of me, it was something I could not let go. It's like anything in life. If you want it bad enough and you continue to work and fight for it, you will make it happen."

On his responsibilities as the special teams coordinator: "I have the tight ends and oversee special teams. We'll do it as a group effort. But the responsibility falls in my lap. It's something I'm excited about. It's something I've always been involved in. Even back at Chaparral. I didn't call the 'O', I didn't call the 'D', but I always had a hand in special teams. It's a very important part of the football team and I'm excited to have the opportunity."

Key dates

• March 20: Wildcats return to practice following spring break

• March 29: 7 p.m., scrimmage at Phoenix College

• April 13: 1 p.m., spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.