"The only way we're going to get better is by getting reps," said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. The Wildcats gave up 499 yards per game last year.


Rich Rodriguez hired a fourth assistant to his fast-growing coaching staff Thursday. And although Rod Smith's name might not be familiar to Arizona Wildcats fans, his pedigree should be.

Smith, Arizona's new quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator, spent the 2011 season at Indiana. Before that, he - like the other three assistants hired this week - worked under Rodriguez in stops at West Virginia and Michigan. Smith replaced Frank Scelfo, who was not retained.

Smith, 38, also has the distinction of being one of Rodriguez's first-ever quarterbacks. He led Glenville (W.Va) State's football team to a 32-12 record and four consecutive conference championships from 1993 to 1996.

Rodriguez's trademark spread-option offense is "a whole different game now than it was then," Smith said Thursday night from Bloomington, Ind., where he lives.

"When I played, we were straight drop-back guys. We threw it 50, 60 times," Smith said. Rodriguez "morphed it and evolved it into what it is today. That's the thing about this offense: You can morph it around whatever kind of quarterback you have. It all depends on what the triggerman can do."

And at Arizona, it's triggerman - not men.

Smith will start with just one quarterback, senior Matt Scott. Backups Tom Savage and Daxx Garman opted to transfer after Rodriguez was hired. Scott redshirted as a senior this season; the speedster has one year of eligibility remaining.

"I haven't had a chance to watch him, but I've heard about him," Smith said. "Sometimes, (speed) gets overblown - it doesn't have to be one kind of guy. But I'm excited to get a chance to meet him. He's the only one I've got, so I'm looking forward to working with him."

Consider Smith a "quarterback whisperer" - while at South Florida, he turned signal-caller Matt Grothe into the Big East rookie of the year. He mentored Pat White at West Virginia in 2007, his only year as a full-time assistant, before moving - along with most of the Mountaineers' staff - to Michigan.

There, Smith helped recruit and develop Denard Robinson into one of the nation's top offensive threats. The Wolverines racked up a school-record 488.6 yards per game in 2010.

Rodriguez and his entire staff were fired following the season. But, Smith said Thursday, the coaches knew that they'd eventually get back together.

So far, Rodriguez is fulfilling his promise. Thursday, he hired Mike Parrish - another former West Virginia and Michigan aide - as the Wildcats' director of operations, replacing Erick Harper.

Parrish, 28, spent the last year working for Steiner Sports in New York; before that, he served one year as Michigan's director of football operations (2010) and two (2008-09) as a recruiting/operations assistant with the Wolverines. He earned his bachelor's (2006) and master's (2008) degrees from West Virginia, where he worked in athletic marketing. Parrish is a native of Morgantown, W.Va., home of West Virginia University.

Rodriguez hopes to complete his coaching staff by the end of next week. The Wildcats still must fill the vacant defensive coordinator and defensive line, linebackers and offensive line coaching positions, and must still hire a strength and conditioning coach.

On StarNet: Follow the Cats and their new coaching staff on Ryan Finley's blog at azstarnet.com/finley