The wait is over for Arizona legends and College Football Hall of Famers Ricky Hunley and Chuck Cecil, both of whom have campaigned for years to return to their alma mater to coach.
They will officially return to the program as defensive coaches for new head coach Jedd Fisch. The news of the hiring of Hunley and Cecil was first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel.
Hunley, the best player in Arizona history, is slated to be the associate head coach and defensive line coach while Cecil is to be the defensive backs coach, multiple sources have indicated.
Also expected to join Fisch’s staff are two coaches he spent 2016 with at Michigan — defensive coordinator Don Brown and wide receivers coach Jimmie Dougherty. Fisch and Dougherty also coached at UCLA in 2017 when Fisch finished that season as the Bruins’ interim head coach following the dismissal of Jim Mora.
Dougherty is slated to become the offensive coordinator, working with Fisch on play formations and play calls. Fisch’s coaching background dating to 1997 has been primarily on offense, most recently as the quarterbacks coach of the New England Patriots this year.
Dougherty, 42, played quarterback at Missouri. When Dougherty was a freshman in 1997, Hunley was part of Larry Smith’s staff there. The late Smith, who coached at Missouri from 1994 to 2000 after his time at Arizona and USC, recruited Dougherty.
Dougherty, who played at Missouri through 2001, has coached collegiately since 2002 including stints at Washington, San Jose State, Michigan and UCLA.
An official announcement of the hiring of Brown, Dougherty, Hunley and Cecil could come as soon as Thursday. One source indicated that Hunley will drive to Tucson from his Los Angeles-area home on Thursday.
Hunley, 59, will coach for the first time since 2015, when he finished a two-year stint as the defensive line coach at Memphis.
The two-time consensus All-American and 1983 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year has coached at USC, Missouri and Florida collegiately since his NFL career ended in 1990. Fisch and Hunley coached under Steve Spurrier at Florida — Fisch in 1999 and 2000 as a graduate assistant and Hunley in 2001 as the defensive line coach.
Hunley, the highest drafted player in Arizona history at No. 7 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1984, has also coached in the NFL for seven seasons as defensive line coach at Washington (with Spurrier in 2002), linebackers coach at Cincinnati and assistant linebackers coach with the Oakland Raiders.
Florida’s two-time All-American defensive end Alex Brown, who played nine years in the NFL, told the Tampa Tribune of Hunley (who conducts himself with vigor): “It’s hard not to give your best for him because he gives his best for you. He’s coaching at his absolute best so you do anything for him when you get on that field.”
Cecil, 56, has spent the last three seasons as a senior defensive analyst with Kevin Sumlin’s program. Before that, he coached in the NFL for 15 years, including as the defensive coordinator of the Tennessee Titans in 2009 and 2010.
Cecil was an All-American and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 1987 after entering the program as a scrawny walk-on out of San Diego. He played eight seasons in the NFL before becoming one of the most vicious tacklers in league history.
He was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on Oct. 11, 1993, with the question: “Is Chuck Cecil Too Vicious for the NFL?” His bloodied nose during games became his trademark as a player.
Brown, 65, has coached at the college level since 1982, most notably as Michigan’s defensive coordinator under Jim Harbaugh from 2016 to this season. Under Brown, Michigan’s defense was ranked second nationally (2016), sixth (2017), eighth (2018) and 10th (2019) before dropping to 87th presently this season.
Under Brown, 43 of 44 defensive starters earned All-Big Ten recognition (11 in 2016, 10 in 2017 and 11 in 2018 and 2019). Ten individuals have totaled 14 first-team honors.
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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.