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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Veteran coaching staff looks for repeat performance in 2009

8.23+Practice+%2B+meet+the+team
Michael Ignatov
8.23 Practice + meet the team

On any football team, some of the most overlooked contributors tend to be part of the coaching staff. Aside from the head coach, and sometimes the offensive and defensive coordinators, few critics give much criticism or praise to the rest of the staff.

But after steering the Arizona football team to its first bowl game in 10 seasons last year, the Wildcat coaches should be commended as a whole. Fortunately for Arizona, the majority of the coaching staff returns this year, as only inside receivers coach Michael Smith and co-offensive coordinator Dana Dimel left the team for positions at Kansas State.

“”I really like our staff and the continuity we have within the staff,”” said UA head coach Mike Stoops. “”We lost a couple good coaches but I always feel we replace them with great coaches. So even though we make a few changes, I feel our philosophy is the same.””

That philosophy has always been founded in a strong defense. Stoops himself was a defensive coordinator at Oklahoma prior to coming to Tucson, and with his brother Mark at the helm of the defense, Stoops guided the Wildcats to a third-place Pacific 10 Conference finish in total defensive numbers. With minimal departures from the team during the offseason, a heavy veteran influence should cause additional success this season.

Arizona excelled especially in pass coverage, where it was third in the conference in yards allowed per game. While most of the secondary coaching is done by Mark Stoops, linebackers coach Tim Kish also made a considerable impact on Arizona’s pass coverage in 2008.

Kish has his work cut out this year as only three members of his linebacking corp have extended game experience. But the veterans have faith in Kish and the rest of the staff bringing in and teaching the young players.

“”You can see that (the coaches) are doing a good job of bringing in the right people,”” said senior linebacker Sterling Lewis. “”(The coaching staff) really works at making everyone fit into their certain roles and making us successful, and as they showed last year, they’re pretty good at it.””

While no changes were made to the defensive coaching staff this offseason, two changes were made offensively. After the departure of Smith and Dimel, Mike Stoops brought in two new coaches — both of whom had similar ties to the Wildcat family. Last February, Seth Littrell joined the staff to oversee the running backs and tight ends. Littrell came to Arizona after four years at Texas Tech where he worked with current Wildcat offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes. The former running back also has ties to Mike Stoops after playing college ball for the University of Oklahoma when the Arizona boss was the defensive coordinator of the team.

Littrell has a wealth of talent to work with this season as junior Nic Grigsby returns as a 1,000-yard rusher in 2008, not to mention sophomore Keola Antolin and freshman Greg Nwoko backing him up.

“”My connections to Arizona certainly played a big factor in me coming (to Tucson),”” Littrell said. “”But also, Mike Stoops is a great head coach and I’ve always respected him and wanted to work for him. So when he offered to bring me on to one of the best staffs in the country, I couldn’t say no.””

The other new face on the sideline this year is inside receivers coach Garret Chachere. The 18-year coaching veteran also holds connections with Dykes back from when the two were offensive coaches at Northeast Louisiana University in 1998.

Despite only being with the team for a matter of months, both new coaches commented on the positive atmosphere surrounding the Arizona coaching staff and the high expectations the team has after a break-through season last year.

“”I think the coaching staff is probably the best I’ve been around,”” Chachere said. “”There’s a lot of experience and a lot of enthusiasm. One of the important things about a coaching staff is that your players react and perform, and these players really do perform well for their coaches.””

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