Greg Hansen: Timing clicked for Wildcats, Michalczik

2013-08-08T00:00:00Z Greg Hansen: Timing clicked for Wildcats, MichalczikGreg Hansen Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 08, 2013 12:00 am  • 

No matter what anybody tells you about celebrity assistant coaches at USC and Oregon, the Pac-12's ranking authority on offensive linemen was standing in the end zone at Arizona Stadium early Wednesday morning.

"I used to come out of that frickin' little door down there," Jim Michalczik said with a chuckle.

If you squinted and the sun didn't block your view, you could see a faraway staircase near the south end zone.

How antiquated is the visitor's locker room at Arizona Stadium? Let's just say it didn't get a cent of the $74 million spent on the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.

"It's kind of weird to look at it now," said Michalczik. "I've got some good memories, but some tough ones, too."

In 2004 and 2006, Michalczik walked up that aging staircase and onto the turf with Cal Bears teams ranked No. 7 and No. 8. He always kept good company. Michalczik was accompanied by first-team All-Pac-10 linemen Ryan O'Callaghan, Alex Mack and Marvin Philip.

It was much the same in 2000, when Michalczik celebrated in the musty old room with No. 10 Oregon State. Or in 1991, when Michalczik climbed the stairs with the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes, a team on its way to the national championship, a team so talented that Michalczik coached the scout team, which included future NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp.

On Wednesday, in his first week of training camp with a team searching for a Warren Sapp and an Alex Mack, the 47-year-old Cougar from Washington State spoke of his alliance with Arizona and Rich Rodriguez.

"One thing about college football is that it's an ever-changing deal," he said. "I don't look at it like you're following someone else's act."

Was there an off-season coaching acquisition of more relevance in the Pac-12? Probably not.

Among the most impressive streaks in Pac-12 football is that Cal had a first-team all-conference offensive lineman in eight straight seasons under Michalczik. Who does that?

"He's my third position coach in five years, and I know I'm blessed to be part of this," said UA senior guard Chris Putton. "He coached in the NFL. He's been up there."

Michalczik was in such demand that in the winter of 2009 he left Cal to accept a three-year, $1.05 million deal to be offensive coordinator for new Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. Two months later, the Oakland Raiders persuaded Michalczik to leave the Huskies.

Arizona knows the drill too well.

One year it's Ron McBride coaching your offensive line, the next year it's Pat Hill. One year it's Bill Bedenbaugh, the next it's Robert Anae.

Those four coaches, plus ex-Wildcat offensive line coach Charlie Dickey, form one of the most impressive pipelines of any assistant coaching position in modern Pac-12 football.

Michalczik fits the list in style and purpose.

As part of Jeff Tedford's Cal staff in 2006, Michalczik flew to Morgantown, W.Va., to study and absorb the hurry-up offense introduced to national consciousness by RichRod. With a connection established, all that RichRod and Michalczik needed to form a partnership was better timing.

That happened in February, when Anae left Arizona to become BYU's offensive coordinator and, Michalczik, in limbo after Cal fired Tedford, was the obvious man for Arizona's job.

"We're not going to change" strategy, said RichRod, aware that Michalczik has a reputation as one of the top run-blocking coaches in college football. "Every coach has a little different personality. I tell them to coach to their personality. Jim's a great addition to this staff; I'm sure the guys up front really respect that."

It's not that Michalczik is staring at a blank page. Putton, Fabbians Ebbele, Mickey Baucus and Cayman Bundage have all been starters. The offensive line should be one of Arizona's strengths.

"We've got more depth than last year," said Putton, who has 19 career starts. "I like what I see in our younger guys."

Michalczik was one of those younger guys when he made his football debut in Tucson, October 1988. He was an honorable mention all-conference lineman for Washington State coach Dennis Erickson, then a 41-year-old hot shot, the Next Big Thing in college football coaching.

The Cougars arrived at "that frickin' little door down there" ranked No. 20, averaging 42 points a game, favored to beat the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium. Instead, Michalczik and his teammates were blown out, losing 45-28.

Three years later, after a stint with the Arizona Cardinals and time as a student-teacher, Michalczik was hired by Erickson as a graduate assistant coach at Miami.

"That seems like a lifetime ago," said Michalczik.

Consider this Chapter II.

Contact columnist Greg Hansen at ghansen@azstarnet.com or 573-4362. On Twitter @ghansen711

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Latest Sports Video

More videos

Sean Miller, Johnson, Rondae recap Maui Invitational championship win

UA basketball coach Sean Miller, Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson discuss No. 3 Arizona's win ov…


Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Featured businesses

View more...