Preview 2017: Rich Rodriguez Needs A Break
Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez is probably better than you think.
Rich Rodriguez is probably a whole lot better than you think.
Throw out the well-documented Michigan issues for the moment – but, keep in mind that his offense worked, with Brady Hoke reaping the rewards in a 2011 Sugar Bowl-winning season.
RichRod took over at Arizona and instantly turned around the Mike Stoops mess. But no matter what happened over the first four years, one ugly 3-9 2016 campaign set everything back to Square One.
And now – injuries, schminjuries – the Rodriguez hot seat talk will fire up throughout the offseason and into the year if Arizona doesn’t look and play a whole lot better. But be careful with this, Arizona. Remember what life used to be like not all that long ago.
Mike Stoops went 41-50 in just under eight years, coming up with just three winning seasons and without a nine-win campaign.
Remember the Mike Hankwitz era? How about those John Mackovic juggernauts?
The four coaches in between Dick Tomey in 2000 and the start of the Rodriguez era went a combined 55-77 for a program that, pre-RichRod, had just three winning seasons since the epic 12-1 campaign of 1998.
Rodriguez had four winning seasons in his first four years in Tucson, including the 10-4, South-winning season of 2014. But instead of being hailed as the best Arizona coach by a mile since Tomey, there’s a chance there could be a regime change with another clunker like last season, no matter how it happens.
The defense – welcome to the downfall of the Michigan run – has to be better after a few disastrous years. It has to be tougher, and there have to be more impact plays, and they might just come thanks to what should be an improved secondary with an okay-looking line that should actually have some depth. If the linebacking corps isn’t awful, there might be just enough of an improvement to turn this back around in a hurry.
Finding the right quarterback is a must, but at least there are options. The running game is a mortal lock to finish in the top 15 in the nation, but will there be a passing attack to go along with it? The line that was devastated early on by injuries has enough pieces in place to make the O go, and – yeah, there’s a theme here – if healthy, the running back situation could quickly become one of the Pac-12’s best.
But if you’re waiting for massive adjustments and wild tweaks, that’s not coming. You know what the Rodriguez spread offense can do, you know the defense is going to give up a bazillion yards and way too many points per game, and you know that another winning season is coming again soon.
Just hope enough key players can stay in one piece to see if Rodriguez really can get it done.