Joe Salave'a hardly recognized the place.
The former Arizona Wildcats and NFL standout visited Tucson this weekend for the first time since 1999, and could barely believe how much his alma mater has changed.
"I got lost," he said with a chuckle.
Salave'a will have plenty of time to explore if he lands a spot on coach Mike Stoops' evolving coaching staff. Salave'a interviewed this weekend for the vacant defensive-tackles coach's job, one that became open when Mike Tuiasosopo left for the University of Colorado last week.
Salave'a, 35, said he was "tickled to death" to interview at his alma mater. Salave'a was a two-time All-Pac-10 selection at the UA, and a fourth-round pick of the Tennessee Oilers, now Titans, in 1998. He coached at San Jose State for two seasons, and spent this summer with the Seattle Seahawks as part of the NFL's minority internship program.
"The goal was to come out here and let them know I was interested in the position," he said. "I'm interested, if there's an opportunity there."
Reached Sunday at his home in Honolulu, former UA coach Dick Tomey called Salave'a "a great candidate" for the Wildcats' vacancy.
Tomey coached Salave'a for five years with the Wildcats, then, as head coach at San Jose State, brought his former star on board as a defensive-tackles coach in 2008.
Salave'a turned Spartans defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert into the Western Athletic Conference's defensive player of the year. The Chicago Bears selected Gilbert with their third-round draft pick in 2009.
"Joe, I think, was a big part of making that happen," Tomey said. "He has tremendous instincts about people. The game is not complicated. People are complicated. Joe was always a superlative effort player and a superlative technique player. Watch the film of the guys who have played for him, and you'll see, they do the same thing."
Tomey called Stoops and defensive coordinator Tim Kish last week to recommend Salave'a for the job.
"I'm very hopeful that Joe would get an opportunity. It would be, in my view, a great fit for him," Tomey said. "But it's not up to me. Mike has some great options, and he's always put together great coaching staffs."
Stoops said Sunday that his staff is "looking at all our options"; he must also replace co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown, who followed Tuiasosopo to Colorado.
"There are a lot of good people out there that want to come here," he said. "We've always hired the right people here for what we're doing, people who fit the landscape, whether it's coaching philosophy or recruiting."
On paper, Salave'a seems a natural fit to replace Tuiasosopo.
Both coach defensive tackles, have recruiting connections in Hawaii and American Samoa and have developed raw players into NFL draft picks.
With some luck, Salave'a could find his way home.
"This is a second home for me and my family," he said. "We're going to keep our eyes and ears open, and hope something comes of it."
Scelfo 'not going anywhere'
Frank Scelfo laughs at the rumors that have connected him to openings at Colorado and Louisiana-Lafayette in the last week.
The Arizona Wildcats' quarterbacks coach isn't leaving Tucson anytime soon.
"I've got some unfinished business here, man," he said. "I'm not going anywhere."
Colorado hired away two UA assistants, co-defensive coordinator Greg Brown and defensive tackles coach Mike Tuiasosopo, during a 48-hour span last week.
FootballScoop.com reported that new Buffaloes coach Jon Embree was going to turn his attention to Scelfo, who joined the UA's staff in February after stints as offensive coordinator at Tulane and Louisiana Tech. Scelfo, 51, says he isn't interested.
"I really think the opportunity to win a Rose Bowl is right here. That's what I think," he said. "Why would I leave?"
• What: Arizona (7-5) vs. Oklahoma State (10-2)
• Where: San Antonio
• When: 7:15 p.m. Dec. 29
• TV: ESPN
• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM