Arizona Football

Off-the-beaten-path storyline: Arizona Wildcats at Washington State

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Random thoughts while wondering if the Arizona Wildcats football players who are currently assistant coaches — such as Washington State defensive line coach Joe Salave’a — in the colleges and pros will ever get a shot at being a head coach in college or the pros like the school has seen in basketball? …

First, Wilbur, a.k.a. Captain Arizona …
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Presently eight former players from the Arizona Wildcats football program are head coaches in high school:

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Thanks to assistance from our Anthony Gimino here are 16 former Arizona Wildcats football players who are assistant coaches in college and the NFL:

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A total of 24 former Arizona Wildcats football players who are coaches but not one is a head coach at the college and pro level. Their basketball counterparts have six head coaches in college and the NBA:

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It should also be noted that Matt Brase (Rio Grande of the NBA’s D-League) and Reggie Geary of Nagoya in Japan are head coaches at the professional level.

Is there a budding college or NFL head coach among the former football players? NFL seems like a stretch because none of the former Wildcats are an offensive or defensive coordinator at that level or a head coach in college. But who knows? College may be a viable opportunity for some of them.

In terms of visibility aided by their NFL careers the top three:

1. Salave’a … The former dominant defensive end for the Wildcats, who played eight seasons in the NFL, has contributed to Washington State’s improvement on defense under Mike Leach. The Cougars enter today’s game against Salave’a’s alma mater with the No. 3 run defense in the Pac-12 and No. 21 in the nation (allowing only 103 yards a game). Salave’a has a tough yet endearing demeanor about him players respond to and his recruiting prowess is revered especially with Polynesian prospects, including standout defensive end Hercules Mata’afa from Hawaii. Leach knows he has something special with Salave’a and does not want to see him leave. At the end of the 2015 season, his contract was extended through 2017. If the Cougars end strong this year with a Rose Bowl or College Football Playoff bowl appearance, his chances of getting attention from athletic directors nationwide will be enhanced. Hawaii would be smart to look at him with his presence in that region.

2. Pierce … He coaches powerhouse Long Beach Poly and his nine-year NFL background includes a Super Bowl championship in 2007 with the Giants. Pierce is also visible on ESPN as an NFL analyst during the week, offering analysis such as whether Vontaze Burfict should be fined or suspended. His three-year record at Poly is 25-7. His team is 9-3 overall and 8-0 in the California Southern Section this season following a 71-0 win over Millikan last night. His background and success overall at Poly should open doors as a head coach somewhere at the college level for Pierce, who is only 38, if he strives for that. He might need experience as a college or NFL assistant first on that trek.

3. Cecil … What is preventing Cecil from becoming a head coach is that he is 51 years old and has been an NFL assistant his entire coaching career since 2001. His lack of experience coaching in college with recruiting demands is a deterrent for him to become a college head coach presently. I know through a highly reliable source that Cecil wanted the defensive coordinator position at Arizona before Rich Rodriguez hired Marcel Yates away from Boise State. Rodriguez went with a proven coordinator known for his ability to recruit high school players and coach up young talent. Cecil does not have that yet in his repertoire. USC was interested in hiring him as defensive assistant last year, according to that same very reliable source. For him to become a head coach, Cecil must avert away from the NFL and become a college assistant. If his unit becomes a success at that level, he is more of a viable head coach in college. In the NFL, he likely is branded as a career assistant because of his 16 years at that standing.

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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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