Arizona Football

Nothing but the Notes: Get serious — Niumatalolo will not run triple-option at Arizona

Fans, fans, fans and Khalil Tate … Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo, if hired at Arizona, will not run the triple-option. You do know he runs that style of offense at Navy because of his talent base at a military institution? Do you know that when Niumatalolo was calling the plays under John Robinson at UNLV at the turn of the century that he ran a pro-style offense with option mixed in to keep defenses off balance? When Niumatalolo was provided the opportunity to call the plays as the tight ends and special teams coach — imagine that — UNLV went 8-5 in 2000 and beat Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Rebels’ quarterback was dual-threat talent Jason Thomas, a transfer from USC, who could run out of the pocket but was known more for his arm than his legs. If you look at these highlights of the 2000 UNLV team, Thomas looks like Tate with a similar skill set — runner who could pass:

The 2000 UNLV team had 542 rushes compared to only 245 pass attempts. If Niumatalolo is hired by Arizona, he will likely have a similar ratio until his quarterback is comfortable in his system. The offense was 44th overall in yards per game (387.1) with the split of 159.3 yards with the passing game and the running game with 227.8 yards per game, ranking 13th in the nation. … What a hire of Niumatalolo means: Awakens Arizona’s presence in the Polynesian community, a meaningful one that has not existed in a strong way since Dick Tomey’s last season in 2000. Arizona’s image overall is in a world of hurt with the sexual harassment claims made against Rich Rodriguez, the fiasco with the track & field coach having a disturbing relation with an athlete and the FBI probe that resulted in the arrest of basketball assistant Book Richardson on bribery and fraud charges. Arizona athletic director Dave Heeke sure walked into a mess, and frankly, him sticking around and not leaving himself will be important for the department to rectify itself. If Heeke hires Niumatalolo, it is a sure sign that he is sincere in bringing some sanity and civility back to the department. Niumatalolo, by all accounts from his players to his coaching peers, is as pure as it gets as a human being, a class act. He is a no-nonsense guy who has thrived in the squeaky-clean operation at Navy. …

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Thoughts on Arizona player tweets: Tate tweeted Friday that he did not come to Arizona to run the triple-option (a criticism of Niumatalolo’s offense at Navy). Tate and other players have tweeted their support for defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to get the head coaching job. As a media member, I welcome reading players express themselves, but I also realize that players in the public eye representing Arizona must be careful about what they communicate. “Fans think about theirselves when politicking what a team should be doing… think about it,” Tate also tweeted Friday about the coaching search. The last thing Arizona wants to do is alienate fans with a confrontational tweet while its attendance is dwindling. Tweets sometimes should be kept to themselves. Now, after their Arizona days are done, that’s another story. … Crazy background between Kevin Sumlin and former Arizona basketball coach Fred Snowden. Each were born in the small town of Brewton, Ala., which has a population of less than 6,000 today. What are the odds? Brewton is located near the border of the Florida panhandle, a short drive from Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla. Snowden was the first African-American head basketball coach hired by a major program when he came to Arizona in 1972. Sumlin would be the first African-American head football coach hired at Arizona. Their families have a bond. According to a Snowden family member, Sumlin’s dad was a college roommate of Snowden’s uncle. Their grandmothers were close friends. Snowden’s sister remains good friends with Sumlin’s family. …

Chuck Cecil has not become a serious candidate for the Arizona coaching vacancy, which is unfortunate. He did not get an interview. The school’s administration should have done the right thing and at least met with him to get his views and plans for what should be done to take the program to a higher level. The new coach must make sure he brings in Arizona’s past within his program. Niumatalolo will certainly do that, especially with his background with Tomey, playing quarterback for him at Hawaii. Former players should be welcome at practice and on the coaching staff, where applicable. Cecil would be tremendous for Arizona as a co-defensive coordinator in charge of defensive backs. No question about it. … Niumatalolo does not share a past with current defensive coordinator Marcel Yates, who is the interim head coach and is popular among the current players and recruits. It will be interesting to see if Niumatalolo, if hired, keeps Yates and other defensive personnel on his staff. He may have to in order to keep a bridge going between the head coach and the operation this late in the recruiting game with the signing period coming up in February. The question is, will Yates and others stay? … Interesting to note that if Niumatalolo comes on board at Arizona he will coach against his former defensive line coach at Navy, Shaun Nua, who was hired by Herm Edwards to join his staff at ASU. If retained, Vince Amey, Arizona’s defensive line coach, starred at ASU. Former Arizona linebacker Antonio Pierce appears to be proud of his allegiance with the Sun Devils as the linebacker coach under Edwards with his series of #ForksUp tweets. I think fans and media make more of the roots of these people than those who are directly involved. They turn a blind eye. …

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Former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles is two steps away from becoming the first Wildcat quarterback to start in a Super Bowl game. The Philadelphia Eagles and Foles face the Atlanta Falcons and Foles’ former teammate at Arizona, Brooks Reed, in an NFC divisional-round game today. Reed will try to make it a difficult day for Foles as the Falcons’ defensive end. Reed, in his seventh NFL season and also a Sabino High School alum, started 14 of 16 games this season. That’s his highest total in his three seasons with the Falcons. He started all 16 games as a linebacker with the Houston Texans in 2013. His four sacks this season are the most since he had six his rookie season in 2011. Reed is know for his spin move that makes it difficult for offensive tackles to defend. He gets a fast jump on the ball unlike many in the NFL. … Count former Philadelphia Eagles coach Dick Vermeil, who had Tomey on his staff at UCLA in 1974 and 1975, among those who believe in Foles, who has looked shaky since replacing injured starter Carson Wentz. “I think Nick can play well, I think he can play well enough to beat Atlanta Falcons, I think he can play well enough to take us to the Super Bowl,” Vermeil said to 6abc in Philadelphia. “He’s not Carson Wentz, nor will be ever be. … but at the top of his game he can do a few things maybe Carson doesn’t do as well as he does. I think he’s the kind of kid who will be the best when it’s time to be the best.” … Add Niumatalolo: Former Arizona linebacker Jake Fischer tweeted this comment last night: “My thoughts: Sumlin would bring instant recruiting credibility but if he succeeds, is gone in a couple years.. Coach from Navy would be here for a while and would hire a great staff to bring stability and great recruiting. Either way, Bear Down.” Couldn’t agree more. …

More craziness involving the underside of college athletics: Former Arizona player and assistant coach Josh Pastner, now the Georgia Tech coach, has filed a lawsuit in Pima County against former friend Ron Bell and his girlfriend, Jennifer Pendley, both of whom are from Tucson, claiming they tried to extort and blackmail Pastner and his family. Pastner and Bell met when Pastner attended Arizona more than 20 years ago. In November, Bell provided CBS Sports with text messages, receipts and photos as evidence to back up a claim that he provided impermissible benefits to two Georgia Tech basketball players, Josh Okogie and Tardic Jackson. Okogie and Jackson were eventually suspended for six and three games, respectively, by the NCAA. Bell also claimed that Pastner knew about the violations, which Pastner has denied. According to the lawsuit, Pastner also claims that Bell alleged that Pastner sexually assaulted Pendley and that Bell threatened to put Pastner into the hospital. The extortion claims stem from Bell’s efforts to get Pastner to pay him to keep him from providing the NCAA with any information that he had. “I am disgusted and devastated by the actions of these two individuals to whom I showed compassion,’’ Pastner said in a statement released by his attorney. “My family and I are victims of fraud and extortion and the extent to which these individuals have gone to harm us is truly unfathomable.’’ … Interesting that Pastner is fighting passionately the claim that he knew of wrongdoing. Sean Miller has not been implicated in the FBI probe that made Arizona part ways with Richardson, Miller’s longtime assistant at Xavier and Arizona. Who is telling the truth? Until proven otherwise, the head coaches should be given the benefit of the doubt — innocent until proven guilty. Some think they are above that thinking, including Colorado coach Tad Boyle. He crossed the line last week at Colorado by answering, “Hell, yes,” to the question if the win meant more over Arizona because of the FBI investigation. Boyle had nothing to get out of that comment other than disappoint and outrage other coaches, including Miller and USC’s Andy Enfield. Some believe that Boyle took a courageous stand, telling it like it is, but again, is “like it is” really like it is? Once proven to be the case, then yes, of course Boyle’s stance is a good one. But with nothing proven at this point that Miller and Enfield paid players, it is a callous and unnecessary remark and Boyle should expect the consequences, including Enfield taking a meaningless timeout in the waning seconds of a 12-point win over the Buffaloes to rub it in. …


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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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