When Tony Dews decided to leave the Arizona Wildcats for West Virginia right before spring practice began, this forced Rich Rodriguez to take over the wide receiver coaching duties.
So he needed to move fast to find Dews’ replacement, and move fast he did.
“It really happened pretty quick,” new wide receivers coach Theron Aych explained on Monday. “I think I had about 24 hours to leave UTEP, pack up, and just move to Tucson. It happened on Thursday, and I was here on Friday.”
“He kinda stood out early in the process with some of the staff that were helping me vet the candidates,” Rodriguez said of picking Aych. “We brought him in for an interview, and not only do I think he can help our wide receivers, but I think he can help us in recruiting, particularly in the Houston area, but also with some of the ideas that he can help bring to the offensive staff scheme-wise.”
Monday was already Arizona’s fifth practice out of fifteen in the spring, so Aych also has to move quickly on getting accustomed to how things work under Rodriguez.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge for me personally just because as a new position coach coming in trying to learn a brand new system, I mean it’s a little bit of a challenge,” Aych admitted. “But at the same time this offense is so established that it’s just a matter of me plugging in terminology, so for me it’s a challenge I was ready for.”
“The system here has been in place for a while, so the good news is that I have veteran players around me,” added Aych. “I’ve really been relying on them and the coaches that got me coached up through the weekend, so it’s just a matter of me plugging in. We play fast, and that’s my style of play.”
“He’s a quick learner,” Rodriguez tacked on. “We’re kind of doing business as usual. The system’s not that difficult. He’ll learn it pretty quick.”
“Today (Monday) was our first real practice with him,” Zach Benjamin said about his first impression of his new position coach. “We met him the other day, but so far I think he’s a really good guy; I think he’s going to be a really good coach. We had a good time with him today — it seemed like he knew what he was talking about — so looking forward to it.”
When trying to get himself acclimated with the current Wildcat players, Aych singled out one guy that’s stepped up as kind of the leader of the group.
“Shun Brown is a guy I’m relying on right now not only from just a physical standpoint on the field, but he’s a leader and obviously a guy that has a good grasp of the offense,” said Aych. “So he’s been a guy I’ve spent time with just to help me familiarize myself with the terminology, so he’s really been my bell cow.”
“Pretty much it’s just what I’ve been telling the younger guys,” Brown said of what he’s told Aych. “If they need anything, knowing the offense or what to do, just come to me and ask; don’t be scared to come and ask me a question or anything, and when we go through drills, just watch what I do if you’re unsure. Just watch what I do and try to immitate me out there.”
Brown, like many people, found out about Aych’s hiring on Twitter the night before Rodriguez held a team meeting.
“To be honest, I found out on Twitter and then when we came to the facility, RichRod had told us,” Brown explained. “So pretty much when he hired him, we knew that RichRod was interviewing him, but we didn’t know if he was gonna be the coach or not. But I guess that night he was like I’m coming to Arizona, and that’s when I found out.”
“The next day he came to the meeting and stuff,” Brown continued. “I read up on him. He’s from Louisiana where I’m from, so that’s pretty nice. We talked about (the Louisiana connection) a little bit after practice and a little in here (Lowell-Stevens Football Facility), but then you guys took him.”
The only time Aych had been in Tucson was when Arizona beat Washington back in 2003. But now he’s going to have to adjust quickly to the team and the city that he’s only spent about a day in his life around.
“I really enjoyed it,” coach said of his short time in the Old Pueblo so far. “I’ve had about three days to get ready for practice, learn the personnel, and obviously new playbook, so it’s been fun. It’s exciting, and obviously wouldn’t have it any other way.”
This also means that Arizona’s wide receivers won’t be exclusively coached by Rodriguez anymore.
“I didn’t think it was that bad,” Benjamin said about having Rodriguez as the WR coach the past two weeks. “A lot of the defensive guys were like ‘what’s RichRod like during practice?’ and I told them all the time it wasn’t that bad with RichRod. I liked him as a coach, and obviously he knows what he’s talking about. I know for the remainder of the spring he’s going to be kind of in and out with us, so I didn’t think it was a big deal. I liked having him as a coach.”
“I don’t think Rich will ever leave us alone,” Brown said while laughing. “It’s just he’ll be with offensive line one period, and with the wide receivers three periods, so I don’t think we’re gonna get rid of him.”
“Our new wide receiver coach is trying to learn the offense, and coach RichRod is kind of helping him out, so it’s a growing process right now.”
It’ll be interesting to see how much Aych can take in during ten practices, and how much he’ll be able to coach a brand new group of guys after getting thrown into a brand new system.