ARIZONA FOOTBALL

Arizona Wildcats, Jedd Fisch ready to begin new era for football program

Aug 22, 2021, 9:09 AM | Updated: 11:39 am
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch during the Pac-12 Football Media Day on July 27, 2021, at the W Hotel in H...
Arizona coach Jedd Fisch during the Pac-12 Football Media Day on July 27, 2021, at the W Hotel in Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Jedd Fisch wasted no time creating a buzz before his first season at Arizona by bringing in big-name assistant coaches, reconnecting with former players and through social media savvy.

He hopes it will all translate to more wins on the field. That could be the hard part.

“They have been down the last couple years,” Fisch said. “We talk about the winning culture, and we don’t talk about what happened in the past.”

The past has not been all that great.

Arizona foundered under previous coach Kevin Sumlin, losing a school-record 12 straight games, capped by a 70-7 trouncing by Arizona State to end a dismal 2020 season.

The Wildcats opted to pay a hefty buyout to fire Sumlin and replaced him with Fisch, a coach with extensive NFL and college experience but who never was the head guy.

Some Arizona fans were not exactly thrilled about Fisch’s hiring, but he’s won them over by hiring a top-notch staff of assistant coaches, including Don “Dr. Blitz” Brown and Brennan Carroll, son of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.

Fisch also hired former Arizona players Chuck Cecil and Ricky Hundley, and brought in Tedy Bruschi as a special advisor.

On the field, the Wildcats have plenty of question marks, including a new quarterback and a defense that’s been among the worst in the Pac-12. Arizona was picked to finish last in the conference, which Fisch hopes to change.

QUARTERBACKS

Grant Gunnell, the primary starter last season, transferred to Memphis, leaving the Wildcats with a hole at quarterback.

The competition wound down to two players: Washington State transfer Gunner Cruz and returning freshman Will Plummer.

Plummer threw for 388 yards in three games for Arizona last season and can extend plays with his legs. Cruz made one appearance last season against USC and is a good decision maker.

South Florida transfer Jordan McCloud has the most experience on the roster, but didn’t have the benefit of spring practice. The sophomore played 20 games for the Bulls, accumulating a combined 3,127 yards and 15 TDs.

DR. BLITZ

Arizona had been known for sitting back on defense under the previous two coaches, something that won’t happen under Brown.

“Dr. Blitz” likes to play a hyper-aggressive defense and brings 45 years of experience to the desert, the last five at Michigan. The Wildcats have been among the Pac-12’s worst defenses for years, so the change could do them some good.

Arizona has some size and experience up front, should be in decent shape in the backfield, but will have a new linebacking unit.

GROUND GAME

Arizona has been known as an offense that plays fast and puts up big numbers, but that could change under Fisch.

The ground game will play a much bigger role in Tucson this season and all those spread formations fans have been used to seeing will often be replaced by the quarterback taking the snap under center.

Arizona should have a solid offensive line and has a couple of playmakers at receiver in Stanley Berryhill III and Jamarye Joiner.

At running back, Michael Wiley returns after averaging nearly seven yards per carry in limited action last season and Northwestern transfer Drake Anderson could provide a big boost.

SCHEDULE

Arizona has what could be a difficult opener, facing BYU in Las Vegas on Sept. 4. If the Wildcats lose that and a game against San Diego State, they could finally end their losing streak at home against FCS Northern Arizona at home on Sept. 18.

Arizona opens Pac-12 play on the road against Oregon and has to play USC on the road. The Wildcats close the season on the road, hoping to avenge last year’s blowout loss to rival Arizona State.

Arizona Football

(Twitter Photo/@Joey_Artigue)...
Jake Anderson

New Arizona State ‘nothing personal’ billboard pops up outside of Tucson

If you've driven northbound on Interstate 10 just outside of Tucson in the last two years, the signage may look familiar to you.
2 days ago
Kelee Ringo #5 of the Georgia Bulldogs intercepts the ball in the fourth quarter of the College Foo...
Associated Press

Former Saguaro DB Kelee Ringo’s pick-6 seals CFP title game for Georgia

Former Scottsdale Saguaro DB Kelee Ringo sealed the College Football Playoff National Championship for Georgia with a late pick-six.
10 days ago
The College Football Playoff logo is seen before the 2017 College Football Playoff National Champio...
Associated Press

CFP expansion talks stall; Pac-12 supports all proposed playoff models

Pac-12 Commissioner George Kliavkoff released a statement on Monday that his conference was ready to back any of the expanded playoff models.
11 days ago
Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura (4) throws against Central Michigan during the first h...
Arizona Sports

Arizona Wildcats football lands WSU QB transfer Jayden de Laura

The Arizona Wildcats got a big-time commitment on Monday, landing Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura via the transfer portal.
10 days ago
(Twitter photo/Rayshon “Speedy” Luke)...
Arizona Sports

Arizona adds 4-star running back Rayshon Luke to 2022 class

Running back recruit Rayshon Luke announced his commitment to Arizona at the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.
13 days ago
Arizona head coach Kevin Sumlin is shown during the second half of an NCAA college football game ag...
Wills Rice

Former Wildcat Kevin Sumlin named coach of USFL’s Houston Gamblers

Former Arizona Wildcats coach Kevin Sumlin has been named head coach of the new United States Football League's Houston Gamblers.
13 days ago
Arizona Wildcats, Jedd Fisch ready to begin new era for football program