Arizona football’s Jedd Fisch confident in ‘our best team’ yet

Jul 22, 2023, 1:21 PM

Jedd Fisch...

Head coach Jedd Fisch of the Arizona Wildcats is dunked with powerade after defeating the Arizona State Sun Devils 38-35 in the NCAAF game at Arizona Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

“I’ll tell you, it’s our best team. It’s our best team.”

Arizona head football coach Jedd Fisch didn’t hide his confidence for the Wildcats in his third season at Pac-12 Media Day on Friday in Las Vegas.

His program has evolved from celebrating one win in 2021 to knocking on the doorstep of a bowl game last year at 5-7, including a Territorial Cup victory over Arizona State.

“Our guys are going to go out there and play at a very, very high level,” Fisch said. “If they play at the level that I think we’re going to play at, I think we’re going to win a lot of games this year.”

Arizona has not played postseason football since 2017 but has reloaded the roster over the past two offseasons.

Fisch called their last two recruiting classes the best in school history, as they both ranked in 247Sports’ top 40. The key, the head coach said, was fixing the offense first then turning to defense.

Arizona’s offense went from 17.2 points per game in 2021 to 30.8 last year led by offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll and a revamped group of transfers and recruits like QB Jayden De Laura and WRs Jacob Cowing and Tetairoa McMillan.

“We were coming off being a 1-11 program, really 1-23 over the course of 24 games. We felt if we didn’t get good on offense, we were never going to be able to recruit defense. No one was going to want to come to a team that couldn’t score,” Fisch said.

“For us, it was a matter of saying, ‘Okay, now that the offense is in a good place, what can we do defensively?’ What we did was we committed to both the portal and playing young. Last year we played — at one point in time six freshmen were starting on defense, true first-year college players. We were able to get those guys bigger, stronger and faster this offseason, complemented with guys like Justin Flowe, Daniel Heimuli, Tyler Manoa, Regen Terry out of Michigan, Orin Patu and some of these great players we were able to bring in. I think that will make a huge difference in our defense.”

Cornerback Treydan Stukes said he’s seen the buy-in from his teammates this offseason and for the opportunity ahead.

“I think guys are bought in, we’ve got the opportunity to do something we haven’t done in a while around here,” Stukes said.

Fisch said the program was never going to get much preseason recognition.

Arizona finished No. 8 on the preseason media poll.

“Doesn’t matter what people think now,” Fisch said. “Talking season is over. Football season is going to begin.”

Arizona’s season begins Sept. 2 at home against Northern Arizona.

Arizona recruiting

Fisch said the goal is to keep Arizona and specifically Tucson players in town, recruiting primarily high school players with the transfer portal as a supplement.

He said finding players from winning programs matters a lot, as do academics.

“We go to programs that win games,” Fisch said. “I want to bring in as many winners into our locker room as possible.

“If you could see some of the high school programs that we’ve recruited from recently, they’ve all been ones that have won state championships, all been ones that have competed at the highest level … Our standard is a 3.0 GPA or higher, all 85 scholarship players. You can’t come in here and not expect to be held at a very high standard academically.”

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