Anger and rage. Those were my thoughts the day Arizona hired Jedd Fisch as the new head football coach to replace Kevin Sumlin. I have grown up as a fan of the University of Arizona Athletics teams my whole life because my dad went here, and my step-dad played football here.
They were both also angered by the hire, and I know from my step-dad that many former players were very angry by it as well. I also know that I am one of a ton of fans that were frustrated and in disbelief over this hire. I have heard rumors that the ticket office was blown up with cancellations for season tickets and also, both President Dr. Robert C. Robbins and athletic director Dave Heeke had their inboxes flooded with messages from angry fans on both email and social media.
Prominent football alumni were also outspoken on social media about their disdain for the hire. The anger stemmed from a few things. How involved was Robbins, Brent Brennan looked like a slam dunk hire and since Fisch has had so many jobs, would he really be committed to building up a program in as much of a rebuild as Arizona?
Heeke had also been quoted on local radio saying that he wanted someone with Arizona ties in some way or that at least had some sort of familiarity with the program and its history. He said he wanted someone that would also engage with and love the community as well. When Fisch was hired, almost none of those boxes were check-marked. Fisch’s only connection to the school was that his oldest daughter is a current student at the University of Arizona.
First, Fisch said all of the right things at his introductory press conference on Zoom to the Tucson media. The two most important things being that he talked about securing the state of Arizona in recruiting and not letting so much talent just walk out of the state without a push from the UA. Fisch also wanted to welcome back the alumni who have felt slighted a bit after the last staff was in power. He wants alumni to be in and around the program as much as possible. He also said practices would be open to anyone as well, which also captured some goodwill for Fisch.
Next, the staff started getting put into place. This staff has just been finished and seems very impressive overall. On offense, Brennan Carroll comes in as the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach. Jimmie Dougherty is the new quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator. Scottie Graham is now the new running backs coach, Kevin Cummings as the wide receivers coach and Jordan Paopao is the new tight ends coach.
On defense, Don Brown comes in as the defensive coordinator, Ricky Hunley as the defensive line coach, Chuck Cecil as the safeties coach, DeWayne Walker as the cornerbacks and nickel coach. Fisch also confirmed on Thursday, Jan. 14, during a virtual press conference that the new linebacker coach is Keith Dudzinski. Fisch also confirmed that both Dudzinski and Paopao will be coaching the special teams unit together.
The final piece of the puzzle was a strength and conditioning coach and that is now Tyler Owens who came from Alabama. This entire staff is very impressive and has already been making strides with recruiting.
The biggest stride being that every wide receiver that wanted to transfer decided to pull their name from the portal and return to Arizona. They have also managed to bring in a nice mix of transfers and freshmen to round out the rest of the incoming recruiting class.
We have a long way to go until the first games are played next year, but it’s becoming very clear that Fisch might just be up to the task of rebuilding this program, and making it respectable again.
Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter