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Slumping Arizona Wildcats fire defensive coordinator Marcel Yates; Chuck Cecil to take over defense
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Slumping Arizona Wildcats fire defensive coordinator Marcel Yates; Chuck Cecil to take over defense

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Arizona defensive coordinator Marcel Yates was fired Sunday, one day after the Wildcats lost at Stanford. 

After a disappointing defensive performance at Stanford, and a lack of overall progress on that side of the ball, Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin has decided to make some significant changes.

Sumlin has fired defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing.

Senior defensive analyst Chuck Cecil, a 15-year NFL coaching veteran, will take charge of the defense and presumably the safeties, whom Yates also coached. Another analyst, Hank Hobson, will be given additional responsibilities — presumably including the linebackers. That was the position Rushing coached.

Sumlin is expected to address the changes at his weekly news conference Monday afternoon. 

Defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, top left, and safeties coach John Rushing, top right, were fired Sunday. They'll be replaced by Chuck Cecil, bottom left, and Hank Hobson, bottom right.

Arizona lost 41-31 at Stanford on Saturday. It was the third straight game in which the Wildcats allowed 41 or more points. The Wildcats (4-4) will finish their regular season with games against Oregon State, Oregon, Utah and Arizona State — teams that carry a combined 22-9 record. Oregon and Utah are both 7-1.

Yates was in his fourth season as defensive coordinator. He previously worked under Sumlin at Texas A&M, and Sumlin decided to keep him on staff after becoming UA coach in January 2018. Yates made $560,000 annually as part of a multi-year contract that was set to expire in January. 

Arizona ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in total defense and 12th in points allowed. The Wildcats never climbed above ninth in the conference in either category under Yates.

Yates and Rushing have been close friends since working together at Boise State and Montana State. The two switched positions this season, despite Rushing never having coached linebackers before. Sumlin hired Rushing last year.

Cecil served as the Tennessee Titans’ defensive coordinator in 2009 and ’10. He worked as the St. Louis Rams’ secondary coach the next five seasons. He joined former coach Rich Rodriguez's staff in 2017 season as an analyst; Sumlin kept him on staff when he took over in 2018, promoting Cecil to senior defensive analyst. As an analyst, Cecil watched film but was not allowed to coach players on the field. 

Chuck Cecil, center, talks with former UA football coach Dick Tomey and current coach Kevin Sumlin during a practice in 2018. Cecil will take over the Wildcats' defense following Sumlin's decision Sunday to fire coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing. 

Cecil is one of the greatest players in Arizona history, earning consensus All-America honors in 1987, when he also was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year. He returned to his alma mater in 2017.

Hobson played linebacker for the Wildcats from 2011-14 and previously worked as a defensive graduate assistant.

Contact sports reporter Michael Lev at 573-4148 or On Twitter @michaeljlev 


Michael is an award-winning journalist who has been covering sports professionally since the early '90s. He started at the Star in 2015 after spending 15 years at The Orange County Register. Michael is a graduate of Northwestern University.

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