The Arizona Wildcats aren’t thrilled that offensive line coach Jim Michalczik is leaving for Oregon State, but they hold no ill will toward him.
“It’s a business,” said senior guard Jacob Alsadek. “You can’t be mad at someone wanting to do better for themselves, so that’s how I see it.”
“I’m upset about it. He recruited me and I’ve been with him for a while and I was really close with him, but at the same time, I’m happy for him because it’s a better opportunity for him and I wish him the best of luck,” said sophomore center Nathan Eldridge.
Michalczik called for a group meeting to inform his players of his departure. They appreciated that, even though Eldridge described the setting as “emotional.”
“He could have just left without saying anything,” Eldridge said.
A native of Port Angeles, Washington, Michalczik has been on Rich Rodriguez’s staff at Arizona since 2013, and helped engineer an Arizona ground game that led the Pac-12 in rushing the last two seasons.
Arizona has not recruited offensive linemen particularly well throughout Rodriguez’s tenure, but Michalczik effectively maximized the talent the team did have.
“He’s a fantastic coach,” Eldridge said. “We obviously had a great rushing season. That was because of him. He was the one that was on us with our technique and our footwork and all that stuff. It showed that he was a great coach.”
Graduate assistant Kyle Quinn and analyst Glenn Parker, both former Wildcats, will coach the offensive linemen during bowl season in Michalczik’s stead. (Analysts generally aren’t allowed to coach on the field, but Rodriguez said he received approval for Parker to do so in the interim.)
Quinn, who has been a GA since 2015, played center at Arizona from 2008-2012, and was a two-time All-Pac-12 selection. He previously coached the offensive line at Liberty High School in the Bay Area.
Parker starred at Arizona from 1988-1989 and earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors as a senior. He was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the third round of the 1990 NFL Draft, and enjoyed a 12-year career in the league before pursuing a career in broadcasting.
Alsadek has been impressed how Quinn and Parker have handled their interim duties.
“They’re doing a great job,” he said. “Kyle could coach us now if he wanted to. He doesn’t have very much credentials, but he’s doing a great job.
“I’ve been working with Glenn for a while, he’s doing a great job. It seems like those two guys together right now, just watching them today being part of that today, it seems like they mesh well. Everybody was responding well and everyone wanted to work.”
Rodriguez has already started searching for Michalczik’s permanent replacement, but would not rule out Quinn or Parker taking over the job full-time.
“I’m considering everybody,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly the word gets out. Now, and it’s OK I’m used to it, but you get inundated with phone calls and messages and not just the people that are interested but people that know people that are interested. I’m vetting that out a little bit, Coach (Calvin) Magee is going to help me and we’ll have a good coach.”
Arizona cannot officially hire someone until 10 days after the job is posted, per state policy, but Rodriguez said he wants to fill the vacancy before Arizona’s bowl game on Dec. 27.
He said the ideal candidate does not need coordinator experience, even though some of his most recent hires — Scott Boone, Brian Knorr, etc. — have had some.
“Offensively with myself, Coach Magee, and Rod Smith, I need a line guy,” Rodriguez said.
An NCAA rule change will allow programs to carry 10 on-field coaches (instead of nine) starting in January, so Arizona is actually on the hunt for two new assistants right now.
“I have an idea what I want to do with the 10th coach and where I want to put him at but I’m a little flexible on that, so we’ll see,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez said he does not anticipate any other assistants leaving the program, but admitted he always has to be prepared for that.
“There’s so much movement now,” he said.
An uncertain future
A redshirt senior, Alsadek doesn’t like being reminded that his days as a Wildcat are coming to an end, but he knows what he wants his legacy to be.
“I just want to set an example. I want them (the other offensive linemen) to remember me as the guy that they looked up to for the rest of their lives,” he said.
“I want all of those guys in the room, I want them to be at my wedding. That’s the way I feel about them. They’re my brothers. And I want them to do the same for me. And I want them to know that I will go to war with them. I want to let them know that I will die for them. That’s who they are to me.”
Alsadek is one of four starting offensive linemen set to move on from the program at season’s end. And now the unit will have a new position coach, so it faces even more uncertainty heading into the 2018 campaign.
“That’s going to be the one position next year that we don’t really know about,” Alsadek said. “A lot of young guys, a lot of guys that came in. You got a guy like Michael Eletise, you got a guy like Bryson Cain, you got a walk-on like Josh McCauley, who I think can play now. Josh is a great player.
“I think that they’re fine, they’re just not going to have a lot of experience. But they’re going to have the guys. They just need to develop them.”
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire