Greg Hansen: Foes' scary offenses fire up UA's Kish

2011-08-10T00:00:00Z 2012-11-30T19:10:00Z Greg Hansen: Foes' scary offenses fire up UA's KishGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 10, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Facing a pitiless 2011 schedule with opponents that scored a cumulative 4,552 points last year, Arizona made the following fixes to its defensive coaching staff:

Out went co-coordinator Greg Brown and line coach Mike Tuiasosopo, who together have coached 43 years in college and pro football.

In came line coach Joe Salave'a and secondary coach Ryan Walters, who have combined to coach two seasons as paid college coaches.

Did you get that? Forty-three years out. Two in.

"I'm blessed to have these guys with me," defensive coordinator Tim Kish said Monday. "I feel we are heading in the right direction."

Tim Kish is not a glass-half-full guy. He is a glass-is-overflowing-and-spilling-on-my-shoes guy.

In a 24-day period from Sept. 8 to Oct. 1, Kish's defense will face the Big Four of college football offenses. In order, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Oregon and USC combined to gain 25,413 yards last season, or nearly 500 per game. All of them return their starting quarterback.

My Lord, why didn't they just schedule the Green Bay Packers?

Today is Day 7 of Arizona's training camp - the first six days were installation practices, in which the base systems of offense and defense are applied - and Kish finds himself short on experience and depth at defensive end, linebacker and safety. At a time of urgency, the installation period was inevitably a rush job.

Kish's defense lacks star power and punch, and two of his starters, safety Adam Hall and linebacker Jake Fischer, have knee injuries that will prevent their participation until October, if then.

And Kish is smiling. He does not look at the September schedule and break into tears.

"I'm excited," he said. "We spent a little more time in the office this summer, getting everybody on the same page, and I feel good about where we are at."

You will be seeing a lot more of Tim Kish this year because he is moving from his game-day perch in the press box to a visible spot on the Arizona sideline, but do not expect him to compete with Mike Stoops for TV time.

Kish is not a celebrity coordinator the way camera-conscious Nick Holt is at Washington and 71-year-old Monte Kiffin is at USC. Kish does not have an abundance of talent and depth the way Nick Aliotti does at Oregon and Craig Bray does at ASU.

Kish has coached defense at football-challenged places such as Indiana, Army, Northwestern and Ball State, and that means he is probably among the most qualified men in college football to coach against what might be its most demanding list of points-and-yards opponents in school history. Who could be better at knowing how to react to a crisis?

"He knows his stuff," UA linebacker Derek Earls said. "He's a great teacher. He makes you want to play for him."

Without any real attention, Kish has become one of the enduring figures in the history of UA football coaching. In the school's modern era, 1960-2011, the only defensive coaches to have a longer tenure than what will be Kish's eighth season are Sharkey Price, Duane Akina and Larry Mac Duff.

The only Pac-12 defensive coordinators on the job for a longer sustained period are Oregon's Aliotti and Oregon State's Mark Banker.

Typically modest, Kish insists that "this isn't my defense, it's Mike Stoops' defense," and it is. Kish, 57, has embraced the system and has been a loyal and capable soldier.

"I love working for Mike," he said. "I think we can raise the bar a little bit this year."

The composition of Arizona's four-man defensive staff is compelling. Walters, at 25, is the Pac-12's youngest defensive assistant coach. He is an impressive dude.

Salave'a, at 36, is a card-carrying alumnus of Desert Swarm, the most sainted group in Arizona history. Ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt, 43, who was resourceful enough to be an All-Pac-10 safety - and a starting quarterback during his Wildcat playing days - earned his way onto Stoops' staff after paying significant dues at Montana, Cal Poly and San Jose State.

No Pac-12 school has five full-time defensive coaches, but in a way Arizona does, and given the upcoming schedule, this is a very good thing. Stoops is coach No. 5, or No. 1, depending on the situation. For his part, Kish has enough self-esteem to solicit help from all of them, be it a 25-year-old beginner or the acknowledged defensive brilliance of Stoops.

"We've got a good chemistry," Stoops said. "I love what Tim gives us."

Kish gives Arizona hope, savvy, enthusiasm, 36 years of experience, and, above that, he might be the top recruiter in the UA football program in a decade or more. This is not a man who scares easily.

In a season whose theme could be "Welcome to the Jungle," you'll find Tim Kish out front, clearing the bushes.

Coming Aug. 28

The Star's 2011 college football preview section.

Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 4 0 0.714
USC 6 3 0 0.667 9 4 0 0.692
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 10 3 0 0.769
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 13 2 0 0.867
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 8 5 0 0.615
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 6 0 0.571
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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