clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What Jedd Fisch said at Pac-12 Football Media Day

arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-pac12-media-day-comments-expectations-2023-recruiting Photo by Louis Grasse/Getty Images

Arizona was picked to finish eighth in the Pac-12 this fall, according to a preseason media poll. Jedd Fisch doesn’t necessarily disagree with that prediction, but he also doesn’t seem to concerned with what outside expectations are for his third season in charge.

“We’re never going to be recognized from preseason honors,” Fisch said Friday during Pac-12 Football Media Day at Resorts World in Las Vegas. “Doesn’t matter what people think now. Talking season’s over, football season’s gonna begin.”

Fisch said he felt “different” speaking at Media Day compared to his previous two trips, not just because the venue moved from Los Angeles to The Strip.

“I’ll tell you, it’s our best team,” Fisch said when asked by Pac-12 Network’s Ashley Adamson about expectations for 2023. “It’s our best team and we’re not going to shy away from that. I don’t know what that means in regards to wins. But I do know what it means in regards to the type of players we have, the quality of players we have, the talent we have. If they play at the level that I think we’re gonna play at, I think we’re gonna win a lot of games this year.”

Here’s what else Fisch had to say Friday:

On his coaching staff: “What I’m most excited about is the continuity that we have in our program. We have 10 of 11 coaches returning from last year. Arizona went eight years with eight different defensive coordinators, and we had the chance to bring our defensive coordinator back, and I feel like that’s gonna make huge strides in our system. Our entire offensive staff is back. We’re coming off one of the best offensive years Arizona football has had. We went from 123rd to first in explosive offense. We went to #11 in the country, from 107th, in yards per Play, and a top 20 offense in the country.”

On the importance of coaching stability: “The biggest thing that adds stability is that people in your second year are always better than in your first year. And where we’ve had such a great challenge is that, none of our kids over the course of last eight years, were able to play in the same (defensive) system twice. And when you can’t do that, you’re going to end up being in a situation where you’re never going to be as good as you possibly could be. And I think that’s proven in college, in pro football, it doesn’t matter. I mean, Blaine Gabbert went through seven offensive coordinators in seven years in the NFL, and then they wonder why you didn’t make it in the league. It’s almost impossible. These guys are great players, great players, and to be able to have some stability in your life and stability in your coaching, is gonna make a huge difference.”

On CB Treydan Stukes, one of two player representatives at Pac-12 Media Day along with QB Jayden de Laura: “Treydan is sitting there now in a position where he was a walk-on in 2020 as a freshman, weighed 168 pounds with no offers. He’s now our defensive captain, weights 194 pounds and is our starting nickel. He’s also a 4.0 student and does everything right on and off the field.”

On the returning talent: “Offensively we have nine of 11 returning starters. Defensively, we have what I would say, six returning starters. We’ve got nine guys that are on watch lists this year. Most we’ve ever had since I’ve been here. Jacob Cowing, Tanner McLaughlin, Mike Wiley, Jordan Morgan all decided to return for their last year, all got their degrees, and all are now sitting there in a place where they can really thrive on offense. Jonah Savaiinaea, Jonah Coleman, Tetairoa McMillan, Jacob Manu are some of the best freshmen I’ve ever been around last year, and they’re now going into their sophomore year.”

On how the school responded to the sexual assault allegations against de Laura: “I can certainly address what I’m allowed to address when it comes to this. Legally there’s not much that I can say, but I can tell you that the university, our football program and I were all made aware of a juvenile and civil action that was brought against Jayden (in) September of last season. We were not able to get much of information. We did as much due diligence as humanly possible. And what we learned was that Jayden never pled guilty or was ever found guilty of any crimes. And really, for us, that’s what we can live off of. And that’s what we could understand, that we can’t make decisions, or it’d be unfair to make decisions based upon information we don’t have. And there is no information, there won’t be any information that is available under Hawaii law. Everything is sealed and expunged. So there really is nothing for us to learn. And what we can ask for is for Jayden, every day, to be the best possible leader he can be for us. Our culture is very important, as I mentioned, and all we can do is listen to the people that knew him the best, that knew the most amount of information. And when he and I and his family all found out about this lawsuit in September, our university acted as quick as possible.”

On Year 3 vs. Year 1 of the program: “I’m really excited about where we are as a program. Offensively, we made a big commitment a year ago. We were coming off being a 1-11 program, really 1-23 over the course of 24 games. And we felt that if we didn’t get good on offense, we were never going to be able to recruit defense. No one’s gonna want to come to a team that couldn’t score. And we committed, I think our our offensive staff, with Brennan Carroll and Jimmie Dougherty leading the way, have done an amazing job. We’ve had the same offensive staff for all three years I’ve been there, and they’ve recruited great players and they built great players there. For us, then it was a matter of saying okay, now that the offense is in a good place, what can we do defensively? And in that case, what we did was we committed to both the portal and playing young. Last year we played, at one point in time, six freshmen were starting on defense, true ... first-year college players. And we were able to get those guys bigger, stronger and faster this offseason, complemented with guys like Justin Flowe. Daniel Heumil, Tyler Manoa. (Taylor Upshaw) out of Michigan, Orin Patu, and some of these great players that we were able to bring in, and I think that will make a huge difference in our defense.”

On recruiting success: “We’ve had over the last two years, two of the best recruiting classes Arizona has ever had. First time in the history of Arizona football they’ve finished in the top 40 twice in a row. My expectation is that we finish even higher this year. Our goal is to keep kids in Arizona at home. Our goal is to keep kids from Tucson at home, and we’re working very hard to achieve that goal.”

On his recruiting philosophy: “I would say this about high school recruiting: that’s the most important thing for us. We’ll sign 28 high school kids every year. That’s kind of been what we’ve done the last two years that I’ve been there, that will be our goal moving forward. We’ve had our two best recruiting classes, this one should be better than that. And we’re always going to focus in on the high school kids. We’re going to use the transfer portal to supplement. We’re going to use it, if we need a player here or there, to fill a hole or fill a gap. But we’ve been in this weird world for about a 6-year window from 2019’s class up through 2025, where we’re going to have to figure out guys that have that (extra) year of the COVID, that (extra) year redshirting, and how are you going to handle that 6-year window? We’ve gotten to a point now that we’re pretty close to being able to bring in about 25 to 30 new players every year. I think that’s what your goal should be as a program. If you’re a little bit less, a little bit more. I don’t think I want to be any more than 28 to 30 new players. And hopefully with roster management, it’s a big part of coaching in the NFL, and I think it’s a good experience that I’ve had in the past. I’m trying to understand and learn how to bring in, how to supplement your draft with free agency, but not live off of it.”

On the types of HS players he recruits: “It starts with where we go. We go to programs that win games. I want to bring in as many winners into our locker room as possible. If you could see some of the high school programs that we’ve recruited from recently, they’ve all been ones that have won state championships, all been ones that have competed at the highest level. That know what it takes to win games, know what it takes to work hard. I want those kids coming into our program. They have to know that we have a standard. Our goal is a 3.0 GPA or higher for our entire football team, all 85 scholarship players. You can’t come in here and not expect to be held at a very high standard academically. It really doesn’t matter to me what eligibility means. It doesn’t matter to me, when people talk about well, if he gets to this he can get in. No, I want someone that’s committed to being a great student. My dad went to Wharton, my mom has a PhD, academics is very important to me. So our kids understand that if you show up Arizona, you’re gonna have a great degree. And then you have to be able to be willing, and want to be willing, to give to the community. Community service is gonna be a big part of it. It’s a privilege to play football. 50,000 people watch you play. If it was easy, 11 would watch 50,000 play. So for us, you got to understand that privilege and you’ve got to give back.”

On the offensive line, particularly sophomore Jonah Savaiinaea: “I don’t know if you know our offensive line coach, but it’s a guy named Brendan Carroll. And he has done an unbelievable job of bringing in, not only talent that maybe not everybody thought was great, but then when they got here developing them into something special. Our left tackle, I believe, will be a first round pick. Jordan Morgan, he returned to us for his final year, got his degree and decided to be a graduate and stay with us. Jonah Savaiinea, Coach Carroll found a really very not recruited player, underrecruited, and he was a freshman All-American last year. I’ll never forget this: Chris Foerster, the offensive line coach of the 49ers came to a practice (last year), and he’s been a 30-year coordinator and offensive line coach. And he goes, that’s an NFL player. And I go, that’s a high school senior. The amazing thing about a guy like Big Jonah, and we’re moving him out the right tackle this year, is that if he can play as well at (tackle) as he did at (guard), this is a kid that’s going to be a 15-year NFL player. And him and Jordan are going to be able to do a heck of a job protecting Jayden. And we sort of like to throw the ball in Tucson, so if we can protect that quarterback that’s going to give us a great chance.”

On what rules he would change in college football: “I want to move the hash marks, I want the hash marks look like the NFL. That’ll be number one. And number two is, I don’t want to throw players out for targeting. I lived a terrible situation in 2015. The team captain at Michigan, Joe Bolden, starting linebacker from East Lansing, Michigan, and we’re playing Michigan State and it was Senior Day, and the first play the game he went to hit a guy they called targeting, and he got ejected Senior Day from the game. A it wasn’t targeting and B, at that point in time it was a hit that was a meaningless hit. And I just think if we could just look to see if there’s a way we can find a common ground of not ejecting a player, but penalizing a player unless it’s obviously done with malice. That would be a great rule.”

On why Arizona plays on artificial turf: “Here’s the deal. This is what I was told. We used to have the greatest grass field, I was told, out there. And then ... Coach (Rich) Rodriguez wanted the field to always be recruit-ready, and always look great. And a grass field is not always gonna look great. So we went to the turf. And then, when we made a decision after the six years, when the warranty was outm on what type of field we were going to have ... when you go to a grass field, you limit your amount of opportunities you can use the field. And our university campus doesn’t have a ton of grass fields or intramural fields available. We brought in 2,800 Kids in June for camps, and I love people in our building, and I love high school kids. We do camps for youth, we do camps for children with cancer. We do every camp known to man, to be able to welcome ... open up our building. And if I was on grass, I don’t think we’d be able to use it as much and be able to open it to the community as much as we do with this turf.”