Rich Rodriguez has officially been announced as the new head coach of the Arizona Wildcats football program. It comes more than a month after Mike Stoops was relieved of his duties in Tucson, though athletic director Greg Byrne did a phenomenal job keeping the coaching search under wraps and free of wild media speculation until the final hours.
With the future of Arizona football now in place, it's time to take a look at three things I cannot wait to see.
1. What happens to the talent already assembled on the roster:
While the 2012 season is a long ways away, Rodriguez enters a pretty favorable situation, unlike the one he inherited at Michigan.
Instead of having to scramble for a quarterback, senior-to-be Matt Scott is already a dual-threat option -- something our new head coach revolutionized at West Virginia -- and sophomore-to-be KaDeem Carey has the talent to become an All-Conference player. Combine these two with an offensive line that will return all of its starters along with a solid core of wide receivers and the UA offense should be ready to go at the start of practice.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Wildcats could see a drastic change from their usual 4-3 scheme to the 3-3-5 scheme Rodriguez employed at WVU. This appears to be a step in the right direction for UA, especially with a lot of talent expected to return among the secondary. Assuming Jake Fischer, Adam Hall and Jonathan McKnight -- three projected starters who all went down with injury in 2011 -- return to their usual form, Rodriguez could have a talented defense at his disposal.
It will be critical for Rich-Rod to lure current WVU defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel to Tucson. Casteel is widely regarded as one of the best in college football and did not leave the program to join Rodriguez when he made the move to Ann Arbor. A master of the 3-3-5 defense, it would be a huge boost to the rebuilding job if UA is able to bring the coordinator to the program.
2. The Read-Option Offense:
As briefly mentioned above, Rodriguez runs an offense that focuses on a quarterback read-option. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, imagine Oregon's offense; now imagine it at Arizona Stadium. It's essentially the same thing.
Gone will be the days when UA airs the ball down the field 40 times a week and gone will be the days of endless screen passes and slant routes. Rodriguez's offense is based off running the ball and it appears to be a good match for Arizona. With a wide variety of running backs returning -- Carey, Daniel Jenkins, Taimi Tutogi, Greg Nwoko -- the offense should have no problem in 2012 assuming it can get solid protection from the offensive line.
The Wildcat football program has built itself off recruiting primarily from the states of California, Texas and Arizona. Rich Rodriguez has never coached a football game west of the Mississippi River, nor has he recruited any of the areas heavily.
So what does that mean? When assembling his coaching staff in the coming weeks, expect Rodriguez to hire multiple guys that know the west coast recruiting scene like the back of their hand.
At the moment, Arizona has 14 players that remain committed for the class of 2012. Just about all of theme have taken a wait-and-see approach with who becomes the next head coach at UA. It is imperative for Rodriguez, who is widely regarded as a great recruiter and evaluator of talent, to hold onto as many of these players as possible, all while stealing a few players in the final moments before signing day.
It will not be easy for Rodriguez to recruit areas of the country he is yet to visit in his lifetime, but many folks said the thing of basketball coach Sean Miller. That seems to have worked out pretty well in Tucson. Let's all hope for the same thing this time around.