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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona making strides as new defensive coordinator implements his system

Jeff Casteel coached under Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez as his defensive coordinator at West Virginia for five years. That meant five years with the same player personnel and alongside the same coaching staff. In short, there was consistency.

Now, after Rodriguez convinced Casteel to join his staff at Arizona and install his signature 3-3-5 spread defense, the duo is starting all over again. And, as expected, there have been some growing pains.

“We didn’t have a whole lot of expectations really,” Casteel said. “We really didn’t know a whole lot coming in, but I know we have some good football players, some tough kids so I’m just trying to find some more of them and get guys to do what we need them to do every day.”

West Virginia consistently ranked among the top defenses in the nation under Casteel. Over the last five seasons, the Mountaineers average ranking in total defense was 23, highlighted by a No. 3 finish in 2010 and a No. 7 finish in 2007. Arizona ranked 110th in the nation in total defense last season.

But this is a new era for the UA football program, both on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Casteel isn’t looking at the past and he’s not thinking too much about the future. The focus is getting the players in tune with the system in the early-going so they are ready when September hits and the season begins.

“They’re getting better. We’re improving a little bit — we’re just taking baby steps is all,” Casteel said. “We’re just trying to make them understand about playing hard and doing the things you need to do every day basis to be a good football team … We’re adjusting and I think the kids are doing a good job and everyone’s getting comfortable with each other.”

In all the practices and two scrimmages that have taken place so far, Casteel has noticed the expected growing pains. He said a lot of that has to do not only with the defensive play-calling, but an adjustment to the offense’s new style of play as Rodriguez and new offensive coordinator Calvin Magee have implemented a spread-option offensive system.

“We’re not paying attention to what the offense is doing, which sometimes gets the kids in trouble when what we’re installing doesn’t match up to what they’re putting in,” Casteel said. “I think for the most part they’ve done a good job. We did a good job (Monday) but the process is, can they come out and do it again?”

In terms of the talent on the defensive side of the ball for the Wildcats, Casteel wasn’t ready to start talking about any standout performers this early.

“We’re not really looking at that (individual performances),” Casteel said. “We’re just trying to look at plays with the team and find as many guys that can help us play a great team defense.”

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