University of Arizona spring game

“I hope there is no ceiling (for Colin Schooler and Tony Fields II),” said Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates. “They had a really good freshman year.”

Will Marcel Yates return for a fourth season as Arizona's defensive coordinator? All current signs point to yes.

Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin has not given Yates any indication that he plans to move in a different direction. While that doesn’t necessarily mean Yates' job is safe, the coordinator is operating under the impression that he will be back.

Yates is on the road recruiting this week, along with the rest of the Wildcats' staff. UA coaches are pushing hard to land players before Dec. 19, early signing day. 

Yates' contract situation could also be a factor. Yates signed a two-year extension in January, meaning he is on the books through January 2020. Yates' contract is fully guaranteed. He made $500,000 in both 2016 and '17 before signing the extension. 

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It appears that Marcel Yates will get at least one more year as Arizona's defensive coordinator.

Sumlin, who hasn’t spoken to the media since the season ended Saturday and isn’t expected to until early signing day, is said to value continuity. Yates is one of only two full-time holdovers from former coach Rich Rodriguez's staff.

Sumlin also recognizes that while Arizona has improved its talent on the defensive side of the ball, it needs more playmakers and depth to ascend to the upper echelon of the Pac-12. He and his staff are taking an inside-out approach with this recruiting class, trying to beef up the lines and tapping into the junior-college ranks for immediate reinforcements. The Wildcats have added four recruits since Saturday; three of them are junior-college linemen. 

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Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates tries to rally his players in the third quarter against Southern Utah at Arizona Stadium, Saturday September 15, 2018, Tucson, Ariz.

Although Yates' defense struggled at times this season — especially in road losses to Houston, Utah and Washington State — the unit improved in some key statistical categories.

The Wildcats allowed 432 yards per game, nearly 40 fewer than their average from 2017 (471.2). They surrendered 32.6 points per game, a three-year low. That figure was 38.3 in 2016 and 34.4 last season.

Arizona played most of the season without top cornerback Jace Whittaker, one of several defensive backs who were unavailable because of injuries and other issues. Whittaker is expected to return for a fifth season next year. 


Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or mlev@tucson.com. On Twitter @michaeljlev