With Donte’ Williams now off to Nebraska as one of its chief West coast recruiters, Rich Rodriguez must fill a significant void of attracting talent in southern California.
With the pending hire, Rodriguez may also target the talent-rich state of Texas more than what he has shown in his five years at Arizona.
As a formality, Arizona has posted an opening for an assistant coaching position with the NCAA. Williams coached the Wildcats’ cornerbacks. With the dead period for the holidays starting Monday, Rodriguez is hard-pressed to hire Williams’ replacement as soon as possible.
During the dead period, which lasts through Jan. 11, coaches are not allowed to meet face-to-face and observe prospective recruits in person. They are still able to message or phone the recruits and the parents during the dead period.
With the college football signing period starting Feb. 1, that leaves only three weeks after the dead period for Arizona coaches to meet with recruits and their families. It would be prudent on Rodriguez’s part to hire an assistant to replace Williams immediately to allow that coach to meet with some recruits this weekend before having to spend a month without contact in person.
Who could Rodriguez hire to possibly fill that void left by Williams’ departure? The following is a list of prospective names that have been mentioned in recruiting circles:
The former standout of the Desert Swarm defense is currently the co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Houston Baptist. A native of New Orleans, Camp, 43, has a recruiting presence in the South, specifically in Texas, but he also has a background of recruiting California.
He was a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Rowlett High School in Rowlett, Texas, for two seasons before joining the Houston Baptist staff.
Before that, he served as linebackers coach at Akron, North Dakota State, Nevada, San Jose State, Oregon State, San Diego State and Idaho as well defensive ends coach at Arizona. He also interned as a linebackers coach with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins.
Camp was a four-year starter at linebacker for Arizona during the height of the Desert Swarm defense from 1991-95. He led the team in tackles as a senior and received the Bear Down Award for Superior Effort and Achievement in 1992, 1994 and 1995. He played one season with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, before receiving his bachelor’s degree from Arizona in 1997.
In an interesting twist, Camp worked at Oregon State under Mike Riley, the Nebraska coach who hired Williams away from Arizona. He was also an intern with the Chargers when Riley coached there.
New LSU coach Ed Orgeron was set to hire Camp in 2005 as linebackers coach at Ole Miss but Camp backed away for personal reasons. Camp, a young, knowledgeable and boisterous coach, obviously has the respect from his peers in the coaching industry.
The former Texas defensive coordinator under Charlie Strong is known for his recruiting ability while also under Urban Meyer at Florida.
Bedford, who is 58 and earned $800,000 as Texas’ defensive coordinator, was demoted from that position in October after the embattled Strong felt the urge to make a move, mostly to appease the administration.
Bedford had a background of coaching with Strong at Texas, Louisville and at Florida under Meyer when Strong was the defensive coordinator there. He has also coached at Oklahoma State, Michigan and the Chicago Bears.
If brought in by Rodriguez to help coach the defense, Bedford would have to take a significant pay cut from what he earned at his previous schools. But he may be at a point in his career in which money is not as much of a factor. Re-establishing himself as an effective assistant is more important and Arizona would provide that opportunity with Strong fired at Texas.
Bedford’s presence with high school programs and coaches in the south, specifically in Texas, would pay dividends for Rodriguez’s efforts there.
Arizona had only three players from Texas on its 2016 roster — tight end Josh Kern (San Antonio), safety Tristan Cooper (El Paso) and Larry Tharpe Jr. (Carrollton). Kern was recruited by the previous staff and Tharpe walked on at Arizona after playing at Idaho State.
The former UCLA standout linebacker is making a name for himself as a young assistant at San Diego State, which won the Mountain West title this year. White has coached the Aztecs’ cornerbacks since 2009 and has served as the recruiting coordinator since 2011.
White, 37, is viewed as a dynamic recruiter in southern California with many contacts and his coaching has helped to improve the Aztecs’ defense.
In the last three seasons, San Diego State has intercepted a phenomenal 59 passes. The Aztecs lead the nation this season with 22 interceptions with two-time Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Damontae Kazee, a cornerback, achieving seven interceptions.
Former Arizona cornerback Derek Babiash has three interceptions for the Aztecs, who play Houston in the Las Vegas Bowl next Saturday.
White took part in a minority coaching fellowship with the San Francisco 49ers last summer.
He was with the UCLA team that gave Arizona its only loss in 1998. A highlight of that game was White somehow tracking down speedster Trung Canidate before the end zone on a 74-yard pass play from Ortege Jenkins, the longest non-scoring reception in Arizona history.
Akina is 58 like Bedford but he does not lack for energy. And his résumé includes stops at high-profile programs Texas and Stanford in addition to coaching under Dick Tomey at Hawaii and Arizona.
He was the defensive coordinator when the Desert Swarm evolved in 1992 and 1993. He remained in that role through 1995 before coaching the defensive backs from 2006 to 2010.
After spending 10 years with Texas as a defensive backs coach and co-defensive coordinator, Akina was set to return to Arizona in 2011 but rejoined Mack Brown’s staff within a month because another coach left that program.
Strong did not retain Akina upon his hire at Texas in 2014. Akina has coached the defensive backs at Stanford since.
Akina is a tireless recruiter, incredible people-person with his effervescent personality and he can coach.
He is credited as the architect of the “DBU” tradition at Texas while coaching there. He coached 14 All-Big 12 defensive backs and two Thorpe Award winners during his 13 seasons with the program. Ten of his former Longhorn defensive backs play in the NFL.
Akina can open with that fact with any recruit and his parents and win them over from the start.
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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.