Arizona football: UA more prepared in first practice

Quarterback B.J. Denker and running back Ka'Deem Carey greet each other during Arizona's first spring practice.


Arizona Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez has $2 million to hire a coaching staff, and he plans to spend it judiciously.

Meanwhile, former UA head coach Mike Stoops is becoming a hot commodity.

Stoops told the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star on Friday that "of course" he'd be interested in joining Nebraska's staff if defensive coordinator Carl Pelini, as expected, leaves to become the next head coach at Florida Atlantic.

Pelini's brother, Bo, is the Cornhuskers head coach. The Stoops and Pelini families grew up together in Youngstown, Ohio, and attended Cardinal Mooney High School. Mike Stoops was a groomsman in Bo Pelini's wedding.

The Stoops-to-Nebraska rumors heated up Friday, two days after the former UA boss interviewed with Ohio State coach Urban Meyer for the Buckeyes' vacant co-defensive coordinator's job. If hired, Stoops would share the job with Luke Fickell.

Meanwhile, Arizona appears closer to unveiling a new coaching staff.

UA media relations director Tom Duddleston Jr. said Friday the UA is "not prepared to make any job-hiring announcements this week," but conceded that things could change once the regular season ends Saturday.

Rodriguez is expected to meet with the media Monday.

Few, if any, of Stoops' former assistants will return next season. Rodriguez has already told special teams/defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt and defensive tackles coach Joe Salave'a they won't be retained. Quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo's contract also won't be renewed.

Recruiting coordinator Dave Emerick was initially retained, but is now expected to join Mike Leach's staff at Washington State. Emerick spent six seasons with Leach at Texas Tech, first as his director of player personnel and then as the Red Raiders' "chief of staff."

With a coaching staff to fill, Rodriguez is expected to target West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel .

Casteel coached West Virginia's linebackers and later served as defensive coordinator under Rodriguez from 2001-07. He opted to stay in Morgantown, W.Va., when Rodriguez - and most of his assistants - left for Michigan in 2008.

Casteel runs a 3-3-5 defense. He's making $400,000 this season.

West Virginia finished its regular season Thursday with a 30-27 win over South Florida. Through 12 games, the Mountaineers rank 25th nationally in total defense, 30th in passing defense and 49th in rushing defense.

Unlike Rodriguez, Casteel has a connection to the West - albeit a small one. The Paden City, W.Va., native spent the 2000 season as UTEP's defensive ends coach before moving back east.

Casteel's availability will likely come down to whether he'd be willing to move west, and how much Arizona could pay him.

Speaking last week, Rodriguez said "there are certain guys I know I want, but I don't know if they can come."

"They're in high-paying, high-profile positions and very comfortable where they're at," he said.

On StarNet: Get the latest on Arizona's new coaching staff