Arizona Football

B.J. Denker returns home to Arizona football; ‘Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat’

B.J. Denker is back in Arizona gear.

B.J. Denker is a California kid who has Tucson in his heart. He spent the past two years in SEC country as a offensive graduate assistant at Texas A&M.

But the former Arizona Wildcats quarterback, who authored one of the most amazing out-of-nowhere stories in the 2013 season, has come home to work for coach Rich Rodriguez as an offensive analyst.

I asked him Wednesday about what people in SEC country think of the Pac-12.

“To be honest with you, I don’t think they really think much of the Pac-12,” said Denker, whose hiring was announced earlier this week.

“They’re so revolved around themselves and they’re so, I don’t want to say narcissistic, but it’s all about the SEC. They don’t have time to care about anybody else. … Man, they love their SEC and they love their school, so they’re too busy worrying about their own school and rooting against their rival than they are worried about us liberal folk on the West Coast.”

As an offensive analyst, Denker can assist the coaches, help with scouting and game prep and he will also be a key figure in recruiting junior colleges in California and Arizona.

Denker as a Cat. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

“There are some diamonds in the rough over there,” Denker said of the California junior colleges.

He should know.

Denker didn’t receive one recruiting letter out of North Torrance High School and was barely recruited out of Cerritos College. He was an insurance policy for Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez after his first signing class in 2012, as the Wildcats were looking for potential backup help to Matt Scott.

Denker started one game in 2012 as an injury replacement and then led Arizona to an 8-5 record, including a rout of No. 5 Oregon and a win over Boston College in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl in Shreveport, La.

He completed 233 of 381 passes (61.2 percent) for 2,516 yards, with 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He ran for a 949 yards, a school record for a quarterback, although Brandon Dawkins came just 5 yards short last season.

“I think it was probably a little underrated,” Denker said of his season as a starter.

“It went by way too fast. I think looking back at it now, I’m happy with my performance. The coaches got a lot more out of me than maybe a different staff would have. I think I played above my potential. But there are all just great memories. At the end of the day, it’s not about wins and losses when you’re four years out of it.

“It was a lot of fun. I made a lot of friends, made a lot of memories.”

Denker played football in the summer of 2014 in a European league after graduation — he quarterbacked the Basel Gladiators to the championship of Swissbowl XXIX — before joining Texas A&M.

The 26-year-old eyes becoming an FBS head coach as his ultimate goal. Here are more questions and answers from Wednesday’s interview …

On taking the job at Arizona:

“Hopefully, this jump-starts me and can propel me into a full-time position coach. The great thing that I like about this job is I’ll have recruiting responsibilities — maybe not on-campus responsibilities, getting to travel, but being responsible for junior colleges, especially in Arizona and California, which I’m comfortable with. That will be good to put on my resume. As a young coach, recruiting is a huge thing. It’s hard to get recruiting experience if you’re not a full-time position coach, so this is a good thing for my resume.”

On coaching in the SEC:

“The SEC is its own animal, but it was good. I tried to pick up and learn from Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and some other coaches that I wouldn’t have had a chance to work with, but, yeah, there is some special talent over there and football is really important over there. … It’s 100 percent not hype. It’s real.”

On trying to game plan against Alabama’s defense the past two years:

“You can’t really solve it. You can just hope to survive it. And it’s not just Alabama; the SEC is so deep and so talented, it’s scary. That’s the SEC. Every team has a freak on the end — a defensive lineman or a linebacker. Every single team. Whether it’s the last team in the conference or Alabama. So, every single week was a challenge in terms of how we were going to attack or go away from a certain guy.”

On what Rich Rodriguez means to him:

“He’s meant the world to me. He’s the only coach, or the first coach, who recruited me. The first coach who gave me the starting position. The first coach who gave me a, quote, unquote job out of college when I was a student assistant here. He helped me get my first real job at A&M and now he’s brought me back. My success as a player and as a coach goes to Coach Rodriguez and the staff. Coach (Rod) Smith has been kind of my mentor a bit, too, and Coach (Calvin) Magee has been great. Those three guys specifically have helped me as a player and coach. Wherever I go from here has a lot to do with them, and Coach Sumlin, too.”

On getting back to Tucson:

“Arizona is home, Tucson is home, even though I’m from Los Angeles. This place will always have a special place in my heart because I went here. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”


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