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13 candidates for the Arizona Wildcats DC job, from big names to in-house options
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13 candidates for the Arizona Wildcats DC job, from big names to in-house options

  • Updated

Former Washington head coach Jimmy Lake could be an attractive choice to replace Don Brown as Arizona’s defensive coordinator.

So you want to be the next defensive coordinator of the Arizona Wildcats? There’s an opening.

Don Brown was named head coach at UMass on Monday, returning to a place he coached from 2004-08. Nothing that Brown has four children and 11 grandchildren, all of whom live in Massachusetts, Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch called the move “a great opportunity to head back home.” Fisch said the UA athletic department was fully prepared to counter UMass’ offer to keep the 66-year-old “Dr. Blitz” in Tucson.

Brown will coach Arizona’s defense one last time in Saturday’s rivalry game against ASU in Tempe. Fisch is expected to announce Brown’s replacement sometime in the days and weeks after the regular season ends.

Arizona’s well-traveled head coach said there are “plenty of people who are interested in that position.”

“When you’ve coached for as many teams as I have, you know a lot of people,” he added.

So who will be the Wildcats’ next defensive coordinator? These names could be good fits:

The big names

Jimmy Lake

Previous job: Washington’s head coach. Lake was fired earlier this month.

Age: 44

Other coaching experience: Washington (defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach), Boise State (defensive backs), Detroit Lions (defensive backs), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (defensive backs), Eastern Washington (defensive backs).

Why he fits: Lake is still a highly regarded defensive mind with Pac-12 and West Coast connections.

Ed Orgeron

Current job: LSU’s head coach. Oregon announced last month that he would not return in 2022.

Age: 60

Other coaching experience: LSU (defensive line), USC (interim head coach and defensive coordinator), Tennessee (associate head coach and defensive line), New Orleans Saints (defensive line), Ole Miss (head coach), Syracuse (defensive line), Nicholls State (linebackers), Miami (defensive line).

Why he fits: Orgeron was a defensive line coach, defensive coordinator and interim head coach at USC, where he worked alongside current UA assistants DeWayne Walker and Brennan Carroll.

The in-house candidates

DeWayne Walker

Current job: Arizona’s cornerbacks coach.

Age: 60

Other coaching experience: Cleveland Browns (defensive backs), Jacksonville Jaguars (defensive backs), New Mexico State (head coach), UCLA (defensive coordinator), Washington Redskins (defensive backs), New York Giants (defensive backs), USC (defensive backs), New England Patriots (defensive backs), Cal (defensive backs), Oklahoma State (defensive coordinator), Utah State (cornerbacks), BYU (cornerbacks).

Why he fits: Walker has been a college defensive coordinator and head coach, and could be a natural fit if Fisch decides to promote from within.

Chuck Cecil

Current job: Arizona’s safeties coach.

Age: 57

Other coaching experience: Arizona (interim defensive coordinator and defensive analyst), St. Louis Rams (defensive backs), Tennessee Titans (defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach).

Why he fits: Cecil has experience as an NFL defensive coordinator, and ran the Wildcats’ ‘D’ following the 2019 firing of Marcel Yates.

Keith Dudzinski

Current job: Arizona’s outside linebackers coach.

Age: 53

Other coaching experience: Michigan (analyst), Albany (associate head coach and defensive coordinator), Maryland (defensive coordinators and inside linebackers), UMass (defensive coordinator), Northeastern (defensive coordinator and linebackers), UMass (defensive backs and linebackers).

Why he fits: A Don Brown disciple since their days together in the northeast, Dudzinski could continue running the “Dr. Blitz” defense in Tucson — if he doesn’t follow his mentor back to UMass.

Guys with UA ties

Donte Williams

Current job: USC’s interim head coach.

Age: 39

Other coaching experience: USC (associate head coach and cornerbacks), Oregon (cornerbacks), Nebraska (cornerbacks), Arizona (cornerbacks), San Jose State (defensive backs).

Why he fits: Williams is still viewed as a rising star in the profession, and his extensive Pac-12 experience and success on the recruiting trail would make him a natural fit in Tucson.

Mike Stoops

Current job: Florida Atlantic’s defensive coordinator.

Age: 59

Other coaching experience: Alabama (analyst), Oklahoma (associate head coach and defensive coordinator), Arizona (head coach), Kansas State (associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator), Iowa (linebackers and defensive backs).

Why he fits: If Fisch wants to hire a “head coach of the defense” in the style of Brown, why not hire Stoops, a former Wildcats head coach?

Oregon associate head coach Joe Salave’a played for Dick Tomey and coached under Mike Stoops before heading north.

Joe Salave’a

Current job: Oregon’s associate head coach, defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator

Age: 46

Other coaching experience: Washington State (associate head coach and defensive line), Arizona (defensive line), San Jose State (defensive line).

Why he fits: A former Arizona Wildcats player and assistant coach who got his coaching start under Dick Tomey at San Jose State, Salave’a brings toughness, passion for the UA and a nearly unmatched skill for recruiting the islands. Would he leave Oregon? Could Arizona afford him?

Antonio Pierce

Current job: ASU’s associate head coach, defensive coordinator and recruiting coordinator.

Age: 43

Other coaching experience: ASU (co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach).

Why he fits: He probably doesn’t. But Pierce, a former UA player, is still highly regarded in Tempe — even with the Sun Devils under investigation for recruiting improprieties.

The up-and-comers

Chris Partridge

Current job: Mississippi’s co-defensive coordinator/safeties coach

Age: 41

Other coaching experience: Michigan (special teams/safeties/linebackers), The Citadel (defensive line), Lafayette (secondary)

Why he fits: Partridge overlapped with Fisch at Michigan, is considered one of the top recruiters in the nation and is a cousin of Arizona coordinator of high school recruiting Ryan Partridge.

Kurt Mattix

Current job: San Diego State’s defensive coordinator.

Age: 46

Other coaching experience: Eastern Kentucky (defensive coordinator), Michigan (defensive quality control coach).

Why he fits: Mattix has the Aztecs ranked 11th nationally in total defense and 10th in total defense. While he has no direct ties to the UA staff, he and Fisch just missed each other in Ann Arbor. Mattix left as the defensive quality control coach at the end of the 2014 season; Fisch was hired at quarterbacks coach in January 2015.

Tosh Lupoi

Current job: Defensive line coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars.

Age: 40

Other coaching experience: Atlanta Falcons (defensive line), Cleveland Browns (defensive line), Alabama (co-defensive coordinator and outside linebackers), Washington (defensive line), Cal (defensive line).

Why he fits: Tupoi was seen as an ace recruiter and rising star during his time at Cal and Washington, and his experience under Nick Saban would seem to make him a hot choice to rejoin the college ranks someday.

The Hail Mary pass

Vic Fangio

Current job: Head coach of the NFL’s Denver Broncos.

Age: 63

Other coaching experience: Chicago Bears (defensive coordinator), San Francisco 49ers (defensive coordinator), Stanford (defensive coordinator), Baltimore Ravens (linebackers), Houston Texans (defensive coordinator), Indianapolis Colts (defensive coordinator), Carolina Panthers (defensive coordinator), New Orleans Saints (linebackers).

Why he fits: Fangio is a sitting coach in the NFL who likely isn’t going anywhere. But should Denver decide to make a change, Fisch would at least talk to his longtime mentor about joining the UA staff. The two worked together 19 years ago with the Houston Texans and have stayed close since. Fangio visited Fisch in April, and watched the Wildcats in spring drills.

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