Coaching change not so minor

Ryan Caseyassistant sports editor

Ryan Casey
assistant sports editor

John Ryan Casey

Even though on paper Arizona football’s recent coaching shift – Monday’s promotion of tight end’s coach Dana Dimel to run-game coordinator – really isn’t as big a deal as you’d expect, some deeper digging reveals otherwise.

What appears to be a minor change – made to “”fix something that’s broken and piece it back together the best way we can for the remainder of the season,”” according to UA head coach Mike Stoops – could bring about some significant, well, change.

Stoops said that Dimel will “”set up all the situations and the practice plans how he sees fit … in the best way he can in this period of time to try to get our run game back in order.””

And, who knows, maybe that’s exactly what this team needs after three-straight negative rushing-yardage games under former full-time offensive coordinator Mike Canales, who will now only oversee the passing game. Maybe some added input from Dimel will light a fire under Arizona’s running backs and offensive line.

“”The benefit of it is specialization,”” Dimel said. “”I can specialize on certain parts of what we’re doing in the run game, setting up our play-action passing game off our run game, and (Canales) can specialize in the drop-back passing.””

Dimel’s experience – and history of success – running the football is something that Arizona desperately needs. Put simply, the move was meant to spark the Wildcats’ struggling run game.

From 1999- 2002, Dimel’s Wyoming and Houston teams averaged more than 120 yards per game on the ground. Sure it’s not that impressive, but

What it is, is
trying to take advantage of my experience in a situation where we feel like our offense is close

– Dana Dimel,
UA running game
coordinator

when compared to Arizona’s 118th-ranked (out of 119 teams) 54.8 yards per game this season – a figure that drops to 13.2 when factoring out the 263 yards that came against Division I-AA Stephen F. Austin – it’s seen in a different light.

Also consider that in 2002 at Houston, Joffrey Reynolds gained 1,545 yards under Dimel’s watch, good enough for ninth in the nation, just behind Oregon State’s Stephen Jackson – now with the NFL’s St. Louis Rams – and ahead of former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett during his freshman season. Or that at one point or another in their respective careers, Dimel coached the third-, fourth- and fifth-all-time leading rushers in Kansas State history.

Oh yeah, Dimel also oversaw most of the 2,605 yards Marques Brigham gained at Wyoming en route to being the school’s No. 2 career leading rusher.

“”We (his teams) have proven that we can run the ball effectively,”” Dimel said, “”so that’s the gist right now of, ‘Let’s improve our running game.'””

But to the team and coaches, it’s more of the same, Dimel and Canales working together in the booth to run Arizona’s offense.

“”It’s not a dramatic move,”” Dimel said. “”It’s just one to help us get better as a football team.””

The move to promote Dimel – a former head coach at Houston and Wyoming and offensive coordinator at Kansas State – to work alongside Canales is more of a title switch to the team than anything else.

“”We’ve been working like that all year, and we’ve both been in that situation, ‘Hey Dim, what are you thinking? Who do you like here? What do you like there?'”” Canales said. “”It’s not going to change much from what we’re doing. If he says, ‘Hey, I really like this,’ then we’ll do that,”” he added.

And they have a point: “”Run-game coordinator”” Dana Dimel doesn’t differ all that much from “”tight ends coach”” Dana Dimel. The change is that Dimel’s side of the scale just got a little heavier in terms of play-calling and what he’s doing in practice.

“”What it is, is trying to take advantage of my experience in a situation where we feel like our offense is close,”” Dimel said, “”but it just needs to get that little kick to go over the edge.””

When asked how the change would

affect him, quarterback Adam Austin simply shrugged: “”Not at all.””

“”A lot of teams have running game coordinators and passing game coordinators, so it’s nothing different,”” he said. “”It’s been something that we’ve always been doing. We’ve just got a title now to really focus on that.””

But even though the switch was a subtle one, essentially forcing Dimel to order some new business cards and get more hands-on in practice, it could pay off in the long run.

“”We have a good feel for each other, what we like and what we don’t like, and we can kind of play off each other,”” Canales said. “”It’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing. It’s a great thing. It’s going to help make us better.””

It’s that familiarity that could ease the transition from Mike Canales’ offense to MikeCanales and Dana Dimel’s offense.

“”We’re all working together, and we all just got together with Mike (Stoops), and (he) said, ‘What can we do to make us a better football team?’ So it was a process,”” Dimel said. “”It wasn’t just a dramatic step.””

Now, Stoops and company just hope this subtle coaching move will turn into a not-so-subtle improvement in the running game.

Ryan Casey is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu