Arizona Football

Mazzone’s guys have been ‘receptive and hard working’ in learning new offense

You know you’re in for a good interview when the subject says he won’t talk about the “tax plan.”

All righty then.

But that’s what you kind of expect from new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone, a talkative off-the-cuff type who had a few one-liners mixed in with his straight-to-the-point answers.

We do know one thing: he’s a better football coach than he would have been pool boy (more later). He’s likely too old for the latter – he turned 61 last week – and in a perfect spot as the former as he makes yet another stop on his coaching career that has spanned more than three decades as an assistant coach/ offensive coordinator guy.

Arizona offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone (Screenshot from video from Matt Moreno, goazcats.com)

Arizona is stop No. 14 in the whirlwind coaching tour that is the Mazzone Express and whose offense could be called the same.

For him, it’s all about tempo and “(creating) some space for our athletes and (trying) to get (the ball) into their hands.”

As for all his stops through the years to make him who he is – Arizona State, Minnesota Auburn, Mississippi, UCLA, New York Jets and more – he feels he’s better because of it.

“I’ve had a lot of chances to work with a lot of (good people),” he said on Monday after UA’s practice. “I’ve worked with coach (Eric) Mangini … been lucky enough to be around a lot of good football coaches. Coach (Kevin) Sumlin and I go way back. We kind of cut our teeth on offense. I’ve gotten so old now I’ve been around everybody once or twice. We plagiarize a few things and melded into what you want to do. We’ve done it now eight or nine years and hopefully it works.”

Who knows? Maybe you’ll see some of former coach Rich Rodriguez’s offense a time or two this coming fall. (Insert grumble here.)

Yes, he said Rodriguez has been an influence there, too. In transitioning from Rich Rod’s group to Sumlin’s, Mazzone said the evaluation process has been fun, saying they “are a great group of kids and fun to coach.”

“Obviously, it’s been easier for me because of the carryover,” he said. “There’s a lot of similarities to some of the stuff Rich and I do. In fact, I think I’ve stolen a bunch of his stuff at some point. They’ve been very receptive and have worked hard.”

Still, there is a lot of work to be done. They’ve worked just five days on the field with another 10 left in the spring before the Spring Game happens on April 14. A gaps and B gaps are are still being learned, he said, probably just to point out it’s early in the process of learning.00000

“We’re just trying to get lined up and point 11 guys in the right direction,” he said.

Those are the types of answers Mazzone gives you. Some funny and some very candid. But that’s long been his MO as a coach. Affable and sometimes quippy in response to questions about him or his teams.

Hell, he said had he not gotten a call from Sumlin – or anyone – he would have just been home in Phoenix (he has one there), eventually working as a pool cleaner.

“I said, ‘Yeah, I’m like 97 miles up the road,” he said of getting the call from Sumlin, “(so) I came on down.”

Now, it’s about getting Khalil Tate ready for what many hope is a Heisman Trophy-winning season. High expectations there, huh?

“So, if he doesn’t win, it’s my fault,” he joked. “That’s how it works, right?”

So far, it’s been good working with him. Mazzone recruited Tate when he was at UCLA a few years ago but “he decided not to come because we had a kid named Josh Rosen on the team. So, I knew him but didn’t really know him.

“It’s been awesome to be around him. He’s still young as far as quarterback play goes. He’s a coachable guy, he’s got a lot of energy and he’s fun to be around.”

As are all the quarterbacks, who have varying degrees to go to get better. Backups K’Hari Lane and Rhett Rodriguez have continued to learn. Rodrguez knows a lot, given he’s Rich Rod’s son.

“He’s doing a good job out there,” he said. “He’s a smart kid. He picks it up. He knows. I’m sure it’s genetic. He knows football.”

As for Lane, who was considered to be “raw” as a reporter put it, Mazzone said, “I would say he’s – medium rare right now. Not quite raw, but medium rare.

“If he can get a little pink in the middle, medium … we’ll be good.”

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