Arizona Football

Rodriguez’s choice of Boone to fill defensive assistant job all about their relationship


Rich Rodriguez’s decision to hire former Nevada defensive coordinator Scott Boone as the new linebackers coach has to do mostly with how much Rodriguez respects Boone’s football knowledge in 33 years of coaching.

Nobody is reporting the hire took place because Rodriguez believes Boone is a “dynamic” recruiter, the tag that was applied to former assistant Donte’ Williams, who left to Nebraska after one season to bolster the Cornhuskers’ recruiting effort in the Los Angeles area.

Boone will be 58 by the start of next football season. Former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, who also coached the linebackers, was not retained after the 2015 season because Rodriguez wanted to hit the reset button and get some life into a listless defense that ranked No. 114 nationally.

Casteel is younger than Boone at 56. In an ironic twist, Casteel was hired Monday by new Nevada coach Jay Norvell to fill Boone’s position there as defensive coordinator.

Some of those who live and breathe every last word of recruiting news, have their interest in the program hinge on the hiring of a linebackers coach.

One tweet by a frustrated Arizona fan drew my attention after Boone’s hire became public knowledge following a report by FootballScoop.com. The tweet was directed to the Arizona Daily Star’s football beat reporter Michael Lev.

The disgruntled fan was so upset about Boone’s hire he threatened to not buy season tickets.

The tweet: “That’s the best RR could come up with? Smaller college experience. Not impressed. Season tix purchase in doubt.”

Lev’s response:

That’s what college athletics has become — fans feeling such angst over recruiting to jump to conclusions over a hire over a linebackers coach.

Boone’s recruiting profile at 247Sports is not extensive inasmuch as his background includes 10 years as a defensive coach at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He moved to this part of the country in 2014 when former coach Brian Polian hired him to be the Wolfpack’s defensive coordinator.

Only one player is listed as a commitment to Nevada who Boone recruited — center Dominic Gudino, a 3-star player from Chula Vista, Calif.

What overrides that is Rodriguez’s background with Boone and his belief that his longtime buddy can coach, despite Nevada ranking last in the nation in rushing defense this season (297.6 yards allowed a game).

Boone and Rodriguez reportedly have known each other since the early 1990s when Boone was an assistant coach at Wabash College, a Division III school in Crawfordsville, Ind., and Rodriguez was the head coach at Glenville State, a Division II school in Glenville, W.V.

Former players and those who know them have asked me why no former Wildcats are part of Rodriguez’s coaching staff.

The answer I can give them is Rodriguez calls the shots and he does not have an Arizona background. He does not personally know Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil, Charlie Camp, Antonio Pierce and Joe Salave’a.

He knows Boone from their small-school coaching days. He knows how Boone has come a long way much like him. They can talk over linebackers in a meeting room without pretense.

When Rodriguez made the bold move last year of not retaining long-time associates Casteel, Bill Kirelawich and David Lockwood it came as a signal that he no longer was bent on staff familiarity and wanted to enhance recruiting.

Rodriguez now welcomes an old friend without nearly the same recruiting punch as Williams.

As the head coach, Rodriguez can hire whomever he wants.

Fans have a say in ticket sales based on results.

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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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