Rodriguez’s Wild West posse cohesive unit for Arizona Wildcats



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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 73 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.

Rich Rodriguez’s posse in the “Hard Edge” video released yesterday looks like a group bent on ruling the west but they seemed so likable, did they not?

Maybe it’s because of the lack of facial hair from the entire group of assistant coaches and staffers. The group lacked a scruffy look. Rodriguez with a Wyatt Earp mustache … now that’s more like it. Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich’s half-goatee look comes close.

An underling theme is certain in this video and the way Arizona’s coaching staff interacts overall. A sense of camaraderie exists between Rodriguez and his primary nine position coaches. The previous two staffs under Mike Stoops and John Mackovic did not convey this feel-good, I’ve-got-your-back image Rodriguez and his staff has brought to Tucson.

Rodriguez has coached with six of the coaches before at Michigan and West Virginia — Associate head coach/co-offensive coordinator/running backs coach Calvin Magee, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Rod Smith, defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Jeff Casteel, wide receivers coach Tony Dews, cornerbacks coach David Lockwood and Kirelawich.

Two of the coaches — safeties coach Matt Caponi and tight ends/special teams coach Charlie Ragle — are young in their coaching development.

The only long-term coach without a past with Rodriguez is offensive line coach Jim Michalczik, who turned 47 on June 6.

Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich shares laughs with head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona staff at Old Tucson (YouTube)

Defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich shares laughs with head coach Rich Rodriguez and the Arizona staff at Old Tucson (YouTube)

This is his fifth affiliation in the Pac-12, although he has actually been part of three programs during a school year. He played at Washington State and coached at Oregon State and California. He was hired as Washington’s offensive coordinator in 2008 but was lured away before coaching the Huskies by the Oakland Raiders to coach their offensive line.

Michalczik will not come to Arizona set in his ways and not open to new ideas. He told TucsonCitizen.com writer Anthony Gimino that he is eager to learn Rodriguez’s spread-offense principles and be part of a program that has “passion”.

“I’m king of looking forward to expanding and getting into that,” Michalczik told Gimino. “I think Coach Rodriguez is doing a great job of getting the players to buy into something, to believe in something.

“You can see it on film. You have see guys who play hard, play together and believe in what they’re doing. That jumped out at you. Obviously, you’re looking at scheme all the time, but you can tell when there is passion involved in the program, and I know that’s coming from him.”

Interesting elements of Rodriguez’s posse, or staff if you like:

Can Jeff Casteel bring the "CaSteel Curtain" defense to Arizona?

Can Jeff Casteel bring the “CaSteel Curtain” defense to Arizona?

— None of the coaches have a collegiate head coaching background. Only Kirelawich has served as a head coach, from 1970-78 at Cardinal Brennan High School in Ashland, Pa. Kirelawich, 66, has coached for 44 years.

— While coaching the Shepherd University defense at Shepherdstown, W.V., Casteel’s unit became known as the “CaSteel Curtain”. Arizona’s defense ranked No. 118 out of 120 FBS teams in Casteel’s first season last year, but he is not to blame because of a new system and lack of depth. Can the “CaSteel Curtain” begin to drop at Arizona this season?

— Casteel coached defensive ends at UTEP in 2000. When Mike Price resigned as the Miners’ coach after last season, Casteel’s name was mentioned as a possible replacement.

— Smith was South Florida’s offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach in 2005-06. When he left to join Rodriguez at West Virginia in 2007, former Arizona offensive coordinator Mike Canales took his spot with the Bulls. Canales was forced to resign from Stoops’ staff in 2006, paving the way for Sonny Dykes to join the staff.

— Six of the 10 coaches, including Rodriguez, are from either West Virginia or Pennsylvania. Only two are from west of the Mississippi: Michalczik (Port Angeles, Wash.) and Ragle (Playas, N.M.).

Here is the recruiting area of each of the nine position coaches:

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The best No. 73 to wear the Arizona uniform? That honor goes to offensive guard Bill Lueck (1965-67). He was the second first-round pick in UA history — the first in the modern era — the 26th overall in 1968 to the Green Bay Packers. He is also a member of this site’s All-WAC team for Arizona during the Wildcats’ years in that conference.

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.


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