Arizona is losing one of its top assistant coaches to the NFL.
Offensive line coach Joe Gilbert — who worked wonders in his one season with the Wildcats — is leaving Tucson to become the O-line coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Gilbert will reunite with new Bucs coach Bruce Arians, who worked with Gilbert in 2012 with the Indianapolis Colts. Arians was named Tampa’s head coach Tuesday.
Gilbert spent five seasons in Indianapolis before joining Kevin Sumlin’s staff last year. Gilbert inherited an offensive that lacked experience and depth; only one member of the Week 1 lineup had prior starting experience in Division I.
Despite not having veteran left tackle Layth Friekh for portions of the season and having to start a walk-on, Josh McCauley, at center, Arizona had one of the most productive offenses in the Pac-12. The Wildcats finished first in the league in rushing, second in total offense and third in scoring. They allowed 20 sacks, the fourth fewest in the conference.
Friekh is the only significant loss from last season’s line. The group added four newcomers in the 2019 class, including two junior-college transfers.
Whoever Sumlin hires will be Arizona’s third offensive line coach in as many seasons — fourth if you include Garin Justice, who spent about a month on the UA staff a year ago.
Justice came on board in December 2017 to replace Jim Michalczik, who left after five seasons to join the staff at Oregon State. The man who hired Justice, Rich Rodriguez, lost his job about two weeks later. Justice was not retained and landed at UNLV.
The O-line opening already has been posted on the UA job website.