One of the most impressive elements of Jedd Fisch’s developing coaching staff is the mark made by former Arizona coach Larry Smith on three of the members.
Ricky Hunley, Chuck Cecil and Jimmie Dougherty each started their college careers with the late Smith as their coach — Hunley and Cecil at Arizona and Dougherty at Missouri.
“I’m glad (Fisch) hired Chuck as a position coach. Ricky coming back has been a long time coming and I know him coaching at the U of A was a lifelong dream,” said Smith’s son Corbin Smith, who is the head coach at Tempe McClintock High School.
“I’m happy that all three of them have had success in their coaching career and I know my dad would be proud of all three of them.”
Fisch hired Hunley to be the defensive line coach and for Cecil to coach the defensive backs late last week. Dougherty, the quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator, and three other offensive coaches were announced as hires today.
They are wide receivers coach Kevin Cummings, tight ends coach Jordan Paopao and running backs coach Scottie Graham.
When Dougherty was a 6-foot-4 and 190-pound senior at Edwardsville (Ill.) High School in 1997, playing for his dad Tim, who was the head coach, he was recruited by Smith to Missouri. Dougherty did not have astronomical passing numbers, throwing for only 1,234 yards.
What caught Smith’s eye: Dougherty’s 19 touchdowns without an interception. He set an Illinois record attempting 143 passes without a pick. He also ran for 548 yards on 47 carries.
Corbin was part of his dad’s staff at the time at Missouri as the tight ends/offensive tackles coach and special teams coordinator from 1995 to 2000. His dad coached the Tigers from 1994 to 2000 after his stints at Tulane (1976-79), Arizona (1980-86) and USC (1987-1992).
“Jim is a coach’s kid,” Corbin said of the elder Dougherty, who is now the defensive coordinator at Chandler Hamilton High School. “His first two years at Missouri he backed up Corby Jones, who led us to back-to-back bowl games. Jim’s sophomore year he played in every game and I think started most. We were reloading that year so it was a tough situation to step into especially with an offensive coordinator who was more of a play-action and option coach.
“(The younger Dougherty) is super smart and saw the game differently since he grew up around it.”
The Kansas City Star reported on Jimmie Dougherty’s recruitment by Larry Smith to Missouri, quoting the elder Dougherty as saying of his son, “He’s a winner. Coach Smith visited with Jim in our home and he was really impressed with what they have to offer. He likes the direction the Missouri program is going.”
The younger Dougherty persevered through a five-year career at Missouri that was plagued by injury. When he had to sit out because of an injury his junior year in 2000, Smith’s last season at Missouri, Dougherty’s goals started to gravitate to coaching.
“I wasn’t even at practice and I talked with my dad throughout the week, and I would drive back home on the weekends and go to the (Edwardsville High School) games and walk the sidelines,” the younger Dougherty told the Alton (Ill.) Telegram. “It was my first real exposure to the coaching side of it and I loved it.”
Right after his Missouri career, Dougherty joined the coaching staff at Division III Illinois Wesleyan.
Fired up to work with one of the brightest young stars in the game!! Always have respected your work and now we’re on the same team 👊🏻 That passing game is about to be lethal!! Let’s go @Coach_KC84 https://t.co/z0nodk80gs
— Jimmie Dougherty (@CoachJimmieD) January 5, 2021
Arizona is the eighth career coaching stop for the younger Dougherty, who earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies from Missouri in 2002 and a master’s degree in sport management from Illinois State in 2004.
His stops leading up today’s hire:
— 2002 and 2003, Illinois Wesleyan, defensive backs coach
— 2004-2008, University of San Diego, coaching receivers and tight ends and then serving as passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Jim Harbaugh.
— 2009-12, receivers coach at Washington under Steve Sarkisian, now the head coach at Texas after restoring his career as Alabama’s offensive coordinator.
— 2013-15, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at San Jose State.
— 2016, offensive analyst at Michigan rejoining Harbaugh. He also became acquainted that year with Fisch, who served two years as Harbaugh’s passing game coordinator and quarterbacks/wide receivers coach.
— 2017-20, wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator at UCLA under Jim Mora and Chip Kelly.
The elder Dougherty, who won 132 games as head coach at Edwardsville from 1992 through 2007, recently finished his third year as an assistant coach at Hamilton High School.
Congrats to my friend and IHSFCA Hall of Fame Coach Tim Dougherty! 6A Assistant COY (Def Coord) Hamilton High School in Chandler AZ pic.twitter.com/veMuK7V1Qd
— Dave Jacobs (@CoachJacobsFB1) February 2, 2020
He compiled 184 wins in 28 seasons as a head coach in Illinois. He spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons at New Lenox (Ill.) Lincoln-Way Central High School and was 12-8. He then coached at Galesburg (Ill.) High School, where he was 29-38 record in seven seasons from 2011 to 2017.
The elder Dougherty, who earned an education degree at ASU, decided to return to Arizona to continue his coaching career.
“When you’ve been around a while, you make connections and I found out through a friend of a friend that (Hamilton) had made a lot of changes in their football coaching staff,” the elder Dougherty told the Telegraph. “I threw my name out there and we talked on the phone and I ended up getting the job.
“I went to school at Arizona State years ago and a couple of guys I know who had coached in Illinois had moved to Arizona. A couple of head coaches out there were in some associations that I was involved in, so the timing was right. Everything fell into place.”
Everything could fall into place for Arizona in terms of recruiting because of his son’s hire by Fisch. Having a dad coach at one of the state’s powerhouse programs is a significant development for Arizona.
Corbin Smith said that recruiting edge goes beyond Jimmie’s relationship with his dad.
“Jim understands the dynamics of relationships between recruiting and high school coaches because he grew up with a dad who was and still is a high school coach,” Corbin said. “I know my dad really respected Tim.”
— Coach Corbin Smith (@SmithBoys4) October 25, 2020
Corbin, who was known as “Corby” in Tucson when his dad coached the Wildcats, believes he is one of many high school coaches in the state who will build a relationship with Fisch, Dougherty and Arizona’s new coaching staff.
Corbin just completed his fourth season as McClintock’s head coach. Former Arizona standout Kevin Singleton is one of his assistant coaches as the linebackers coach.
Corbin has three sons of his own who have played football. His oldest son Preston, who attended Gilbert Mesquite when Corbin was an assistant there, was a senior free safety at Weber State this season.
Braxton was a standout linebacker at Gilbert Perry who went on to Riverside (Calif.) City College before playing this season for the Gila River Hawks in Mesa as part of the Hohokam Junior College Athletic Conference.
Brody is a burgeoning Class of 2022 prospect as an offensive lineman at Perry.
Corbin has recruited as a coach at Missouri with his dad and with Arkansas State in 2001. He has now experienced his sons get recruited. He has a good idea about what makes a good recruiter and he sees that in Fisch and the younger Dougherty.
“I think Fisch understands relationships and the importance of recruiting the entire state,” Corbin said. “When I say recruit, high school coaches just want their kids evaluated. If their kids aren’t good enough, then ok.
“I just think at some point in the last 10 years, that’s been lost amongst FBS staffs.”
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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.