Arizona football: Rookie coach springs into action on defense

2011-04-12T00:00:00Z 2014-09-15T09:46:12Z Arizona football: Rookie coach springs into action on defenseRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 12, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Arizona secondary coach Ryan Walters met with his players for the first time in February, and his message was clear: I may be young, but I'm not naive.

"I told them: The relationship has changed," Walters said. "I'm no longer the G.A. I'm the coach. You're the players. What I say goes."

Message delivered.

The former graduate assistant is enjoying a smooth spring, his first as part of coach Mike Stoops' staff. Walters has already tinkered with the Wildcats personnel, switching cornerback Robert Golden to safety two weeks ago when Adam Hall suffered a right knee injury.

Walters' players, meanwhile, have quickly embraced their 25-year-old position coach.

Walters served as secondary coach in December's Alamo Bowl after Greg Brown accepted a job at Colorado. Stoops promoted the former University of Colorado standout to full-time status after Duane Akina, tabbed in January to replace Brown, opted instead to return to the University of Texas.

"I think they've responded tremendously. No backlash, no questioning," Walters said. "They've responded well. They know that if I'm riding them, it's coming from a place of love."

The Star talked to Walters about his new gig, his boss and, of course, his age. Here's what he said:

On his first spring as a full-time assistant: "It's been awesome, man. I'm learning a lot as we go. I've got a great group of guys that I'm working with. It helps when the head coach is a great secondary mind as well."

On the advantages to being a 25-year-old coach: "It definitely helps. My last year playing was the 2008-09 season, so I understand what it takes to be a student athlete. I definitely think that helps as far as relating to the players and knowing what to expect."

On whether there are drawbacks to being so young: "From what I've seen, there haven't been any negatives. I'm eager. I'm hungry. I'm not taking anything for granted. It makes me want to work even harder and prove people wrong. It makes me want to validate Mike's decision to hire me."

On how he got into coaching: "I went to minicamp with the Saints (in 2009), and that didn't work out. Plus, my body was singing to me a little bit. I got a call from Coach Brown (at Colorado) offering me a spot. …

"I was a student coach that fall. I just got that itch, man: I thought, 'I can be really good at this.' I love the environment, the atmosphere that comes along with football."

On coming to Arizona last fall: "When coach Brown came out here, he said the G.A. spot was open. It was a no-brainer for me. I wanted to full-court press it."

On leaving his alma mater: "I felt leaving was important for me to do. If you stick around, you get seen as an alum, and maybe people think that's the reason you're there. It was important for me and my career to branch out, meet new people and learn different philosophies."

On Arizona's decision to hire Akina in January: "I was planning on staying. Once I found out he was coming here to take the job, I was looking forward to learning from him. He was one of the best DB coaches out there. When he then left, he told me, 'Hey, I think you're ready for this job.' That was good to hear. I had only spent about a month with the guy. For him to say that and wish me well was pretty humbling. We still stay in touch."

On his interaction with Stoops: "During the bowl practices, we met more together than we do now. This spring, he's been leaving me alone. That's a good sign. He's comfortable with what we're doing. I've got tremendous respect for him. I love his intensity and passion for the game. That's something I take very seriously."

On life as a full-time assistant coach with a salary: "It's definitely changed for the better. I'm not complaining at all - it's nice getting the company car, and my wife is very happy, and that makes the quality of life great.

"A happy wife is a happy life."

Up next

• What: Arizona spring game

• When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday

• Where: Arizona Stadium

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