Over the past decade, Arizona football has been plagued by missing bowl games, blowing big games, firing coaches and being the only Pac-10 team never to play in the Rose Bowl. Fans in Tucson expect those titles to change quickly after the hiring of Rich Rodriguez.
However, it will not be easy, as Oregon, Stanford and Southern Cal prowl the top of the conference standings.
Offense, offense and more offense is the norm in the Pac-12. The conference has historically revolved around quarterback play, wide receivers and speed. Then, Oregon began to redefine the pass happy conference with a sleek spread offense. Now, Arizona will attempt to duplicate the Ducks' success under one of the original trendsetters of the spread.
The problem at Arizona has always been the same: recruiting.
While the basketball team pulls blue chip after blue chip, the football team has played second fiddle in its own state. In order for the Wildcats to match up with the conference powerhouses, they have to begin winning battles on the recruiting trail.
However, the good news is that Rodriguez is a master talent evaluator on offense. He has a knack for finding lightly recruited players and turning them into all-conference performers. Look no further than the man Rich Rod built his success around while at West Virginia, Pat White.
White was a 3-star recruit, according to most services, and he headed to LSU to play wide receiver. Rodriguez sold White on West Virginia and the chance to play quarterback. Two BCS bowl games later, and the rest is history.
In addition, Rodriguez has very strong recruiting ties in Florida, a state that could fill multiple NFL rosters with talent every four years. Combine Florida with natural Arizona recruiting pipelines in Texas and California, and Rodriguez will have plenty of talent to target.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez has already locked up two quarterbacks for 2013, signing highly recruited Brandon Cox and Anu Solomon. Rodriguez knows his system struggles without a quarterback capable of making the reads and having the physical tools to be a dual threat. Both Cox and Solomon have those tools.
Despite the offense, it will be difficult for Arizona to win games without a solid defense. Thankfully, Rodriguez was able to hire Jeff Casteel, his defensive coordinator at West Virginia, a move Rodriguez was unable to make while at Michigan.
Casteel frequently had his West Virginia defenses in the top 20 in total defense and scoring defense, with his 2007 unit finishing 7th in total defense and 8th in scoring defense.
However, Arizona fans are going to have to be patient. Arizona’s lack of depth on defense and reliance on young quarterbacks in the near future will make things difficult for Rodriguez to win in the first few years.
Once Rich Rod and his staff have two or three recruiting classes in Tucson, things will change for the better.
Should Rodriguez begin to win recruiting battles against Oregon, USC and Stanford, Arizona will be prowling the top of the standings and could be Pasadena-bound in three to four years.