Arizona Wildcats Football: Top 5 Reasons Rich Rod Is over Michigan Wolverines
The two-year anniversary of Rich Rodriguez's hiring as the Arizona Wildcats football coach is approaching, which means his failed three-year run with the Michigan Wolverines is further in the past.
Rich Rod is moving so quickly toward success with the Arizona Wildcats football program that he no longer can see the Michigan Wolverines in his rear-view mirror.
The Arizona Wildcats football coach, his team bowl-eligible for the second time in as many years already, is over his Michigan Wolverines experience faster than you can say "Ka'Deem Carey".
Although Rich Rod last coached the Wolverines in 2010, his name still surfaces in Michigan media reports and Wolverine fan comments in blogs and articles. Detroit Free Press columnist Drew Sharp wrote Monday that Michigan fans will use Rich Rod as an excuse for the Wolverines' current struggles under Brady Hoke.
While the Arizona Wildcats football coach might still serve as a punching bag for the Wolverines faithful, he is punching his ticket toward savior status in Tucson.
The reasons for why Rich Rod has gotten over the Michigan Wolverines range from his record with the Arizona Wildcats to the quality of Mexican food in Tucson. Carey's national prominence, Arizona's new facilities and the lack of pressure to succeed now are more reasons why his Michigan experience is nothing more than a hidden scar.
The following is a look at the prime examples for why Rich Rod isn't blue about not being part of the "Go Blue" experience any longer.
No. 5: Unparalleled Early Success with Arizona Wildcats Compared to Others
Rich Rodriguez's troubles at Michigan seem like another lifetime with the way he's enjoyed immediate success with the Arizona Wildcats.
Arizona has never had a coach who was hired during its affiliation with the Pac-10/12 who has enjoyed this kind of immediate success. Rodriguez is on the verge of his second bowl with the Wildcats in as many years.
Rodriguez took over a struggling Arizona program that was 4-8 in 2011, and that was left with an interim staff after Mike Stoops was fired midway through the season.
Larry Smith, who took over the head coaching duties in 1980, did not take Arizona to a bowl until his sixth season in 1985, partly because of a two-year bowl ban by the NCAA in 1983 and 1984.
Dick Tomey led the Wildcats to a bowl game in his third season in 1989.
John Mackovic never coached Arizona to the postseason in his three turbulent years from 2001 to 2003. It took Mike Stoops five years to transform the Wildcats into a program good enough to play in a bowl in 2008.
The records of each coach after their first 21 games and where Rodriguez stands now:
1. Rodriguez 14-7
2. Tomey 10-8-3
3. Smith 11-10
4. Mackovic 8-13
5. Stoops 6-15
No. 4: Coaching Ka'Deem Carey
The more yards Ka'Deem Carey rushes for the Arizona Wildcats, the more positive recognition Rich Rodriguez and his team receive from the nation. With every 100-yard-plus performance by Carey, Rodriguez builds for a successful future with his spread offense, instead of thinking back to why things did not work out in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Rich Rod was fortunate to inherit Carey from the previous staff with Mike Stoops, but Carey's amazing success has much to do with Rodriguez's spread offense principles.
UCLA coach Jim Mora, whose team faces Arizona in an important Pac-12 showdown this Saturday in Tucson, told the media Tuesday that he is impressed by the Wildcats' running game despite the belief Rodriguez's offense is predicated on spreading the ball over the field via the pass (via InsideSoCal.com).
"You look at them as a casual observer, you see the four wide sets, you think they’re just going to sling it all over the yard," Mora said. "Really, they just do a great job of spreading you out and running it. They're a great rushing offense."
Rich Rod also did not take shortcuts by disciplining Carey earlier this season for off-the-field transgressions following last season (via Arizona Daily Wildcat). Rodriguez placed the onus on Carey to grow up instead of forsaking that valuable lesson to win immediately at all costs.
He has never allowed his Michigan experience to pervade how he does things at Arizona.
No. 3: Promising Recruiting Results with Arizona Wildcats
One sure reason that helped Rich Rodriguez get over his past troubles with Michigan is his ability to recruit impact players with the Arizona Wildcats.
He is selling Arizona to recruits rather than recruits buying that he is not good enough because of his troubles with the Wolverines.
Six of Arizona's 22 listed starters on offense and defense came to the program after Rodriguez's hire on Nov. 22, 2011.
The list includes three highly valuable true freshmen: wide receivers Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant and linebacker Scooby Wright.
Grant, a 5'9", 173-pound target, leads the Wildcats with 33 receptions that includes 255 yards and a touchdown. Phillips, 5'7" and 177 pounds, tops the Arizona receivers with 312 yards on 21 receptions. He has four touchdown receptions of 21, 44, 7 and 57 yards.
Wright leads the team with 61 tackles and 7.5 tackles for lost yardage.
Arizona's starting quarterback B.J. Denker was a late signee out of junior college as part of Rodriguez's first class with the Wildcats in 2012.
Denker has emerged as a threat alongside Ka'Deem Carey in the backfield, completing 91 of 144 attempts in the last four games for 1,057 yards. He also has seven touchdowns and only one interception in that span.
TucsonCitizen.com reports Arizona has a bevy of committed players for the upcoming Class of 2014, which includes seven players who have earned a four-star rating by at least one of the major recruiting services. Rodriguez and his staff took two of those four-star athletes—linebackers Jamardre Cobb and Marquis Ware—from UCLA and USC's backyards.
The list of 2014's newcomers will also include a trio of major college transfers from the Class of 2012—receiver Davonte’ Neal from Notre Dame, and receiver Cayleb Jones and quarterback Connor Brewer from Texas.
Rodriguez's appeal and the completion of the Lowell-Stevens football facility have positively impacted the Arizona Wildcats' recruiting efforts (via Arizona Daily Star).
No. 2: Winning at a Swifter Rate Than at Michigan
If the Arizona Wildcats defeat UCLA on Saturday, Rich Rod will improve his record at Arizona to 15-7 in less than two years in Tucson. The win total would match his 15 victories at Michigan in three years.
He was fired with a 15-22 record after only three seasons in Ann Arbor.
At this point in his Michigan career, after 21 games, Rich Rod's record was 8-13. He is 14-7 with the Wildcats; another reason why his time with Michigan is a distant memory for him.
The Wolverines lost their last five games in Rodriguez's second season. In his second season with Arizona, he is building hope instead of being mired in a cloud of doubt.
The Wildcats are in the hunt for the Pac-12 South entry to the conference's championship game in the last month of the season, with three of the games in Tucson.
Rodriguez's mission at Arizona is not being undermined by detractors who want to bring him down, as reportedly was the case at Michigan. Rodriguez did not receive the same kind of support from Lloyd Carr at Michigan that he received from Mike Stoops, his predecessor at Arizona (via TucsonCitizen.com).
Minor infractions at Michigan were brought to the NCAA's attention by someone. Rodriguez labels those infractions as "B.S." (via Detroit Free Press).
His immediate success at Arizona, including two bowl-eligible teams in as many years, has everybody on board in Tucson.
No. 1: Coaching His Brand of Football with a Relaxed Lifestyle
As Sports Illustrated reported upon his firing in 2011, Rich Rodriguez was not a "Michigan Man" in so many ways. He does not have to concern himself about being an "Arizona Man" because such a tag does not exist.
The Wildcats welcome any type of offense as long it gets them to their first Rose Bowl appearance. Dick Tomey even introduced the run-and-shoot offense to Tucson upon his hire in 1987 and was not met with rabid resistance by Arizona's fan base or ridicule by previous coach Larry Smith, who utilized a pro-style offense.
Rodriguez's spread offense was a drastic departure from Michigan's three-downs-and-a-cloud-of-dust offense instituted by Bo Schembechler and Carr.
Rodriguez took over an Arizona program that already became pass-oriented with spread principles under Mike Stoops. Sonny Dykes was an Arizona offensive coordinator under Stoops who built a resume that led him to the Louisiana Tech job. The wide-open attack with the Ragin' Cajuns landed him the Cal head coaching job.
Rodriguez is a much better fit with Arizona, a coaching job that is not a high-pressure situation. Michigan is on a different planet as far as that is concerned.
However, the Wildcat fan base still stands for something, as in beating arch-rival ASU (something Rodriguez failed to do at Arizona Stadium last year), but they will allow Rich Rod the four to five years he needs to build Arizona into a program that can make that ever-elusive trip to the Rose Bowl.
Imagine if that happens and Arizona plays Michigan. That is the one and only time Rich Rodriguez will think seriously about the Wolverines program again.