Since the Arizona Wildcats announced that Jeff Casteel was not returning to the coaching staff in 2016, we've already seen a mixed bag of reactions, including from current and former players.
Now we give our thoughts, where it's also a bit mixed:
How do you personally feel about Jeff Casteel's departure?
David Potts: I think it was a mistake. The defense has been awful this year, but by and large, we've actually fared pretty well under Casteel. Ignore anyone who cites total defense stats - they're meaningless given Arizona's pace - but by S&P+, Arizona's defense was ranked 56th nationally in 2012, 31st in 2013, 48th in 2014, and 110th in 2015. It's pretty clear 2015 was an outlier, probably caused by the zillion injuries the defense suffered. I wish Casteel got another year to right the ship.
Gabe Encinas: Right now, I don't think it was the right move. Arizona's defense was plagued by injury, playing without their three top linebackers all season long. You just have to completely scrap this season when it comes to evaluation. And like David mentioned, the pace of play skews every defensive statistic for Arizona, and the Pac-12 is all about offense, so those are going to be drastically different when you compare them, to say, Big Ten schools.
I'm not sure how people expect a standout defense to go along with a high-powered offense. That's just not where the program is. People want to complain about the scheme, but I'm not even sure that Arizona has the working pieces to run a 4-3, 3-4, 4-2-5, or even a 3-3-5. But that's where Rodriguez' recruiting comes to play.
Recruiting has already taken a hit, as expected, but we'll see how much more damage there is. I'm a firm believer that players commit to a coaching staff, not a school, especially when you're being recruited at a school like Arizona. Casteel was the X's and O's guys when talking to recruits, explaining the versatility of the scheme and telling a kid how they fit in.
From the players standpoint, it seems as if 60% of them seem a little discouraged, while the other 40% are accepting and looking forward to whatever comes next. But everything needs to happen soon because signing day and spring practice are less than a month away.
James Schlittenhart: My bad, everyone. This one's on me. Also, looks like I may have also been right about another item on this list. I'm genuinely sorry. I assume scurvy is next. Truthfully, I think the short-term ramifications in the form of decommitments and lack of identity will sting, but this is the right move for the long-term health of the program. Bear in mind that this was not a Jim Tomsula style one-and-done type of firing; this scheme and coaching regime had a reasonable amount of time to put together quality results and failed to do so.
Alec Sills-Trausch: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I'm in the boat where I don't blame the 3-3-5 because it's not that different of a defense when you get down to the nitty gritty details, but I also understand that our defense has gotten progressively worse since 2013 (but last year we had so many injuries that you almost need to throw it all out the window). So I'm pretty meh when it comes to the decision. Let's just make this a solid pick and make sure to open up the wallet so we don't let a great hire slip through due to money issues.
Ryan Kelapire: It was surprising because of Rich Rod's relationship with Casteel. That said, I'm kind of in "wait and see" mode. Arizona's defense wasn't good this season, but injuries and the lack of depth (who's fault is that?) were the biggest issues, not necessarily the schemes. At the same time, the schemes weren't necessarily the greatest either though, so it's very possible that Rich Rod can find someone that can improve the team in that aspect. Hopefully that's the case and this turns out to be the right move.
Jason Bartel: I'm similar to Ryan in that I don't think this was entirely based on scheme. I get the feeling that was a small part of it, but the larger issue has been player development. There just hasn't been any, and essentially cleaning house on the defensive coaching staff was needed in this case. I disagree that this will hurt recruiting too, because Casteel wasn't necessarily a huge part of that, and there was only one commit he was the lead recruiter on, and now he's gone. This was the time to make the move, and kudos to RichRod for actually doing it and not letting loyalties hamper the development of the program.