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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The magic touch

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Summer Wildcat

Arizona head coach Mike Stoops sat in his office in early February preparing to conduct one final interview before naming a quarterbacks coach.

Sonny Dykes left the position vacant as he opted for a head coaching job at Louisiana Tech on Jan. 20, and finding a football mind of his caliber seemed far-fetched.

But, when Frank Scelfo walked into Stoops’ office, everything changed.  

“”I was ready to hire somebody else and this came available,”” Stoops said. “”Once I met him I knew his personality was perfect for what we needed for our quarterbacks. And his knowledge was impressive and his confidence, so that was all a big part of it.””

Stoops offered Scelfo the job, but before the Louisiana-native accepted he asked for one phone call – to none other than his close friend Dykes.

“”I called him and told him I really felt good, ‘I think this is the place,’ and he said ‘you know what, it is.’ He said ‘it’s a great place, I was there and it is a great place,'”” Scelfo said in his southern accent.

Scelfo was set to coach under his close friend in 2010 at Louisiana Tech ­­— where he served as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach from 2007 to 2009.

But with Dykes’ support, Scelfo decided he couldn’t pass on the opportunity at Arizona.

“”Sonny and I talked about the opportunity (to coach together), we’ve been knowing each other a long time,”” Scelfo said. “”It was a deal where I needed to decide whether I needed to stay (at Louisiana Tech) or leave. That was kind of it.

“”We were talking and he said he could sense it in my voice that I really felt comfortable about being (at Arizona) so he said, ‘You got to go, man. Take it.'””

The 29-year coaching veteran took the job and has worked wonders with quarterbacks Nick Foles and Matt Scott. Arizona leads the Pacific 10 Conference and the nation in completion percentage, completing 74.1 percent of their throws through eight games. The Pac-10’s second-best team in terms of completion percentage is Saturday’s opponent Stanford, who completes 66.8 percent of its balls.

“”That’s pretty ridiculous this far through the season,”” Stoops said of the completion percentage after the Washington game. “”That’s a credit to both of those players, that’s a credit to our offensive staff and certainly coach Scelfo. He does a great job in preparation.””

Scelfo coached for 11 seasons at Tulane (1996-2006) and mentored four NFL quarterbacks – Patrick Ramsey, Shaun King, J.P. Losman and Lester Ricard. The 59-year-old applied that coaching prowess to Arizona’s quarterbacks, as he adjusted Foles’ footwork and helped Scott develop a shorter release.

“”They were raw, but talented,”” Scelfo said of Arizona’s quarterbacks when he first came to Arizona. “”Skills, physical talents, they had those so I was excited to start working with them after spending time with them because they really wanted to learn. They were anxious to get busy and get started.””

Foles and Scott have both matured with another year under their collective belt, but it’s no coincidence Arizona’s increase in passing prowess came at the same time Scelfo came aboard.

Players and coaches rave about the job Scelfo’s done with the Wildcats’ arms, but Scelfo gives all of the credit to the players.

“”That ain’t me, that’s the kids,”” Scelfo said. “”That’s those guys. They did it, not me.””

Scelfo’s enjoyed his time working with players the caliber of Foles and Scott, but said what makes his job is the coaches he’s surrounded by, rather than the talent he has to work with.

“”If I work for a good guy, with some good guys, it’s a good job. If that’s not the case, I don’t care if I’m coaching Peyton Manning, it’s not a good job,”” he said.

While Stoops said Scelfo fits in great with the coaching staff and players, he did admit that like any other coach, he can get on his nerves at times.

“”He’s always talking. He drives me crazy,”” Stoops said with a smile. “”It’s good for us, it’s good for me. I don’t like to talk all that much. When I speak they usually listen, except for Saturday afternoon for like three hours.””

Scelfo on Foles’ NFL chances:

“”Oh he will, his measurables will be good, his height, weight, arm strength, all that stuff. Knowledge of the game will be good. He’s still got some growing to do, he’s still got to work some more stuff, he’s got to be a little more natural in what he’s doing but he’ll project. He and Matt both will get an opportunity, I believe.””

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