Arizona Football

Former Wildcats lobby for Hunley, other Arizona players for defensive coaching spots


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Ricky Hunley, left, congratulates and provides encouragement to Ka'Deem Carey after Carey's first touchdown run against Oregon two years ago (ABC-TV video capture)

Ricky Hunley, left, congratulates and provides encouragement to Ka’Deem Carey after Carey’s first touchdown run against Oregon two years ago (ABC-TV video capture)

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Ricky Hunley, the best player to ever don the Arizona uniform, has plenty of support from his former teammates and Wildcat brethren to fill Arizona’s vacancies at defensive coordinator or defensive line coach.

Rich Rodriguez also has a void at linebackers coach. Former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel also filled that capacity before he was not retained by Rodriguez on Monday.

Matt Caponi coaches the safeties and recently promoted Jahmile Addae has replaced David Lockwood as the cornerbacks coach.

“This is just my personal opinion about bringing a hometown legend back to Arizona,” Hunley’s former teammate and fellow linebacker Julius Holt posted on his Facebook wall today. “The timing and opportunity could not have come at a better time for the Arizona Wildcats in my opinion.”

Holt’s son, Justin, is an Arizona recruit from Salpointe Catholic who will be a freshman defensive lineman with the Wildcats next season.

“His lifelong goal is to coach at the University of Arizona, the school he attended and played for,” Julius continued as he listed reasons for Hunley’s hire. “Great people skills, loved and respected nationally … Would be the most pivotal Wildcat ambassador football coach, role model and life coach for young men we could ever have representing our program.”

Former Arizona standout cornerback Randy Robbins, who went on to play with Hunley in the NFL with the Denver Broncos, mentioned following Julius Holt’s post on Facebook that hiring Hunley would boost Rodriguez’s recruiting efforts. One reason why Rodriguez reportedly did not retain Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich is they are not dynamic recruiters.

“(Hunley) would get kids to come to Arizona that normally wouldn’t consider visiting,” Robbins wrote. “It’s time for Arizona to start playing defense again. No better place to start than having the best defensive player in the schools history on staff in some capacity.”

Some other reactions to Holt’s post by former Arizona players:

Jay Dobyns: “Unmatchable history at AZ. Elite coaching experience. Recruit any kid from any environment. Respected in the profession and adored by this community. I can’t name one single person better suited. Good luck.”

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Ricky Hunley

Ricky Hunley

Ricky Hunley, a defensive line coach the last two seasons when Memphis became nationally ranked, is among many former Arizona defensive players who are in the coaching ranks. Among them:

Brant Boyer: Indianapolis Colts assistant special teams coach

Charlie Camp: Houston Baptist defensive coordinator

Chuck Cecil: St. Louis Rams defensive secondary coach

David Fipp: Philadelphia Eagles special teams coach

Jeff Hammerschmidt: Colorado State special teams coach

Ronnie Palmer: Texas A&M-Kingsville defensive line coach

Antonio Pierce: Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School coach

Joe Salave’a: Washington State defensive line coach

Brandon Sanders: Pueblo High School coach

RICKY HUNLEY COACHING BACKGROUND

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Brett Hundley (father of former UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley Jr.): “BRING HIM HOME!!!!!”

Donnie Salum: “Would love both Ricky and Chuck Cecil as Co-coordinators. Would be amazing!! Could you imagine two 2-time first-team All Americans/College Hall of Famers sitting in a kid’s living room!? We could just about take our pick of top recruits! Without a doubt we would play Defense again! It’s been way too long.”

Salum made sense with a later comment about the hiring process for Rodriguez to fill the coaching vacancies:

“Imo (in my opinion), the more pressure any AD or coach gets from fans/alum, the less likely it is to happen! Been down this road before with a big group trying very hard to get Ricky the head job before (Mike) Stoops was hired. I heard from a very good source that Larry Smith met with Jim (Livengood) trying to get him the job. Heard Jim asked Larry after many years on your staff why did you never give him the DC (defensive coordinator) job? Larry had no answer. Imo ONLY way this would happen is if Ricky called and sold himself to RichRod.”

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Arizona has not hired one of its former athletes as a head football coach or men’s basketball coach, the two money-making sports, in the Pac-10/12 era (since 1978). The same goes for the 28 offensive and defensive coordinators employed by Arizona during the Pac-10/12 years. Not one Arizona alum.

Joe Salave’a and Jeff Hammerschmidt are a couple of former Arizona players who have coached on the Wildcats’ staff in recent years.

Alums returning to coach their alma mater is not all too common but it has been done with success. The list includes winning coaches such as Pat Fitzgerald at Northwestern, David Shaw at Stanford, Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State and Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech. The recently-retired Frank Beamer at Virginia Tech was a cornerback for the Hokies in the 1960’s.

Hunley, the same age as Casteel at 54, was rumored to be a head coaching candidate when Livengood was seeking a replacement for John Mackovic in 2004. At the time, Hunley completed his first season as linebackers coach with the Cincinnati Bengals, the franchise that picked him in the first round in 1984. As the seventh pick overall, he is the highest Wildcat chosen in the NFL draft.

Arizona’s first consensus All-American and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Hunley played in two Super Bowls with the Broncos in 1986 and 1987 after he was dealt by the Bengals after he was drafted.

He coached under Smith at USC as a graduate assistant and at Missouri as the defensive line coach. He also has coaching stops with Florida, the Washington Redskins, two UFL teams (California and Sacramento), the Oakland Raiders and Memphis.

Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente did not bring Hunley with him from Memphis because he retained the defensive coordinator and defensive line coach from Beamer’s staff there.

Stoops was hired by Livengood in 2004 to be Arizona’s head coach with Hunley, former USC offensive coordinator Norm Chow and former Arizona assistant and New York Giants defensive coordinator Johnny Lynn as rumored candidates.

“I know the people at UA have a tough job ahead of them because there are so many people that would love to have (the position) because it’s a great job,” Hunley told the Tucson Citizen during the hiring process in November 2003.

When Stoops searched for a replacement for his brother Mark as Arizona’s defensive coordinator in 2010, Hunley’s name surfaced as a possibility. Stoops gave the position to Greg Brown and Tim Kish instead. Stoops was fired a season later.

With Hunley’s name mentioned again as a candidate at Arizona, could he finally find a place on the Wildcats’ staff?

If it does not happen now, it will likely never happen.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He has also written articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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