For the second consecutive offseason, the Arizona Wildcats have had a little bit of a shakeup on the defensive assistant staff.
In 2017, two position groups will have new coaches, while two groups will still have that same voice in their ear.
Many fans weren’t enthused by the hiring of new linebackers coach Scott Boone, but what do we think about that as a group?
Well, here are our thoughts on whether or not the changes give us more optimism on the defensive side of the ball for Arizona in the coming year:
Gabe Encinas: Not entirely, although a good chunk of the defense returns for 2017 which is nice. Recruiting put aside, I would think Donte Williams is still a better coach to have on the field with this group. Although, I was pleasantly surprised to see Marcel Yates and his lineage of defensive backs that are now in the NFL. But Scott Boone isn’t inheriting much at linebacker and I’m not entirely sure he’s a guy that can just come in and revamp a group that will be without Michael Barton and Paul Magloire. I’m not worried about Jahmile Addae with the bandit and free safeties because he has a load of young pieces including Tristan Cooper and Isaiah Hayes, who started much of last season as freshmen. Anthony Mariscal, Chacho Ulloa, and Jarrius Wallace round that out too.
The defense needs a lot of help still, and Rich Rodriguez has said this recruiting class is going to come in and play early. Slowly, he’s losing a lot of those prized pieces. Arizona has lost six commits in this class, five on the defensive side, four of which were enrolling early. Four-star corner Greg Johnson and three-star JuCo linebacker Delshawn Phillips would have been immediate starters as well, with two-star defensive tackle Elijah Watson coming in to contribute immediately before they parted ways with him.
Drake Horner: I think so, the loss of some key commitments hurts, but Yates moved back to corners which is what he is used to coaching. Boone is very experienced and recruited a lot of kids on the roster and a lot of kids committed now, so they are familiar with him. Addae and Amey will continue to coach the same positions. I think it gives a bit more optimism that Boone can come in and revitalize a thin linebacker group, Yates can coach up Dane Cruikshank and Jace Whittaker after a year of experience, Amey continues to make strides with the line, and Addae does the same with the safeties.
Brandon Combs: I'd say yes. Marcel Yates has a good track record when it comes to coaching up CBs/DBs. He has some solid young guys already on the roster who will help Cruikshank and Whittaker. Scott Boone is experienced and can help develop talent in the LB corps. It helps too with recruiting. Even though he was at Nevada he wasn't afraid to recruit higher level guys. He also has a knack for finding talent. I also really like Vince Amey and Jahmile Addae. They don't always get the credit they deserve but they have done some wonderful recruiting and, in my opinion, solid development of their groups.
David Potts: Moderately. I think Boone is a solid addition, but I can’t help but think that the Wildcats are spinning their wheels a little bit. Jeff Casteel and crew were fired in part because of problems recruiting, and losing Williams (and a lot of the recruits he landed in the process) has me worried that things aren’t getting better. I’m cautiously optimistic going forward, but with a heavy emphasis on the “cautious” part.
Jason Bartel: I, for one, am not entirely sold on bringing in a guy that’s almost in his 60s that only has three years of FBS-level coaching experience, especially when the group he’s going to be in charge of is arguably the weakest on the 2017 Arizona defense. I do like Yates moving back into the secondary, since that’s all he’s known prior to last year. I also like what Amey was able to do with last year’s defensive line, and given another year with that group, I think he’ll be able to do a lot. But I think there are a lot of issues that remain unaddressed, and to go off David’s point, Arizona’s just kind of spinning its wheels on some of this.