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Q&A with new Arizona offensive coordinator/QBs coach Noel Mazzone

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The UA’s new OC talks Khalil Tate, spring practice, steaks, and more

The Arizona Wildcats new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone met with the media after Arizona’s fifth practice of the season.

Here’s what he had to say.

Arizona Football’s new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone talks spring practice, Khalil Tate, steaks, and more

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Monday, March 26, 2018

How does it feel to be back in Arizona, but on the other side of the rivalry?

Awesome. What school are you talking about?

ASU.

What, where was that? No, I grew up in New Mexico so I have a lot of friends in Arizona. It was great to get back, great to get back here to the University of Arizona and with Coach Sumlin.

How would you describe your style of offense?

Um, now it’s kinda like everybody does it, you know, tempo. Create some space for our athletes and try to get it in their hands.

You have a quarterback in Khalil Tate who was a Heisman candidate last year, what has it been like to work with him?

So if he doesn’t win the Heisman it’s all my fault, is that how it works? No, it’s been good. I recruited Khalil when I was at UCLA and he decided not to come because we had a guy named Josh Rosen on the team. So I kinda knew him, but didn’t really know him, and it’s been awesome to be around him. He’s still learning a lot. He’s still young as far as quarterback play goes, but he’s a coachable guy. He’s got a lot of energy and he’s fun to be around.

How quickly is he picking up the (coaching) style?

Good. But you know what offense he was running before was very similar. A lot of the stuff we do is very similar so there is a ton of carryover from what he had done before to right now.

One criticism about the offense here before was that it was so fast it put a little bit too much pressure on the defense. Is your offense different from what's been here in the past with the uptempo that you are saying everybody does?

So were you a defensive coordinator in a past life? Is that what it was? No, I mean that’s kinda the style of the offense’s, that’s what you are when you are a tempo team. You know that’s kinda a question that I don’t know how to answer at this point, because every game is different and how you attack every game is different.

Coach Sumlin does a great job of managing the game that way. We obviously understand that it’s a team sport and there is an offense and a defense. I tell you what has been great is going against Marcel Yates so far, because he gives us a lot of great looks that we need to work against and see. But we might come up with a little play to remedy some of those things.

Last couple of years Arizona has been super run-heavy. If you had the ideal split between run/pass, what would that be for you?

Yeah I always get that. ... So in my mind balanced is like, when I want to throw it I can complete it and when I want to run it I make yards. So that would be a balanced offense.

I don’t think there is a magic number to that. I’ve had seasons where we have thrown for 4,000 yards and then I’ve had seasons where we’ve had 15- to 17,000-yard rushers, so the offense kinda takes on its own personality. Hopefully we are strong enough as coaches to play to the strengths of our offense and our players.

What are your strengths that you have seen?

I don’t know. It’s just the fifth day of practice. We are still trying to figure that out.

How is the evaluation process going?

This is a really great group of kids, they have been fun to coach and obviously, like I said, it’s been easier for me because of the carryover. There is a lot of similarity to some of the things that Rich (Rodriguez) and I do. And in fact I think I stole a bunch of his stuff at one point, but they have been very receptive and are working hard to get better.

At this stage are you game planning the defense or are you just running your base stuff?

No. At this point we are just trying to get lined up and hopefully point 11 guys in the right direction.

At this point how is Khalil doing at reading defenses and figuring out where to be?

I think it’s a process. I think he gets a little better every day at it. It’s true in all offenses, right? I mean flanker drive is flanker drive. I don’t care if you are the Dallas Cowboys or us or Saguaro High School.

But what changes is terminology. The hardest part for players is learning the new language. I mean it’s that concept and then they have got to process it in their head. That’s probably the toughest part. That’s the part we are going through now. That is them speaking the same language that I am speaking.

You coached Philip Rivers and Brett Hundley. They all had special qualities. What are some qualities that Khalil has?

Well, I mean they are all different on their own ways, but there is one common denominator in all the ones I have had a chance to coach and that is they all have a lot of passion for the game and they play with a ton of energy. I’ll figure out the rest.

You’ve been a lot of places, how has that helped you become who you have become offensively?

Well I have had a chance to work with a lot people. I’ve worked with Coach (Eric) Mangini and Coach (Marty) Schottenheimer and Coach Bill Callahan. I’ve been lucky to be around a lot of really good football coaches.

Coach Sumlin and I go way back. He and I kinda cut our teeth on some offense and you know I am so old now I’ve been around everybody at least once or twice. So yeah we’re kinda like that, you know we plagiarize a few things and meld it into what you wanna do offensively. But I’ve pretty much been doing what we do here for the last eight or nine years and, you know, hopefully it works.

When did you first meet Kevin (Sumlin) or start working with him?

Back in Minnesota I want to say back in the early 90s. Oh wait a second, I should say in 2002 when we were, you know, 30 years old in 2002. You know, both of us.

Does (Nathan) Tilford have a long way to go? He didn’t play a lot as a freshman.

Who?

Nathan Tilford, No. 33.

Oh, tell me numbers I know. Yeah, I mean right now he’s just trying to figure out the “A” gap from the “B” gap. The great thing about that is that he has got coach Chris Mack with them so they will be alright.

If Kevin hadn’t taken this job ,what were your plans for 2018?

Well I still have a home here in Arizona and you know there is a guy that owns a pool company up there and I was gonna be cleaning pools. No, I have no idea.

What was the process like for you to come to Arizona?

Well I still have a home here so I was actually on my way moving when it all kinda fell together with coach Sumlin. He gave me a phone call, and I said yea, I’m like 97 miles down the road.

Which backups are standing out?

I think (K’Hari) Lane is doing a nice job, and Rhett (Rodriguez). He had been hurt so I think that was the first time he got any team stuff. We got a ways to go but I like the direction we are going in now.

I assume you have been in a situation where the backup quarterbacks don’t have a lot of experience, how do you prepare for the scenario for when that guy might have to play?

That's an age-old problem, right? How many reps do you give the backup quarterback? Usually a backup doesn’t get his reps until you have to throw him in the game. This is the time you try to do that, obviously, and during camp. But once you get close to camp and during the season you start to put 80-75 percent of all your reps on your starter, so that’s the hard part of being a backup quarterback.

One of the major talking points the last couple years is use of tight ends, what is your philosophy on use of tight ends?

I like the guys we got, Bryce Wolma and Jamie Nunley, I like them.

You know their names.

Yeah I know their names. You know how it is, the guys that catch a lot of balls in practice I learn their names. No, I really like them and it’s been a few years since I’ve had a couple guys like that, so yeah they will figure into our offense. We need to get those guys on the field.

Who does (Khalil) Tate remind you of?

Wow. Probably as plain style more like, he’s definitely not Brock (Osweiler), more like Brett (Hundley). Cause Brock is 6’ 7” you know what I mean.

From the little we got to see at practice and then the video they put out the other day, when you were mic’d up, you were putting a lot of emphasis on footwork and fundamentals. Is that how you kind of start the process with new quarterbacks that you are working with?

I coach feet and eyes. If your feet ain't right it’s hard to be right. If your eyes aren't right you aren't ever going to be right. So that’s mostly what we spend our time on.

Is there anything that Khalil has done maybe in these first few days that you have seen that you were surprised or unexpected or impressed?

Yeah, when everybody is covered he takes off running, he can run. Obviously you guys know all that.

The other day you mentioned Aaron Rodgers, is there a quarterback that you have coached in the past that is kind of the gold standard when you are teaching your quarterbacks?

Nah, it’s a little bit from all the guys. Come on I’ve spent 35 years coaching these cats, right? There is like little things that I like about everyone of the guys I’ve coached and those are the things that I think are important to be a successful quarterback so those are what I try to share with my guys here.

How important is it to have stability and depth at that position for overall team success?

You gotta have depth, especially for the type of team we are in this league. Stability? Does stability come with depth? I don’t think you have stability until you have depth, so this is the time of the year during spring and during the first couple weeks of camp when you try to build the depth of your football team.

How is Rhett Rodriguez doing now that his dad’s not there?

He’s doing a good job out there. Yeah. He’s smart, that kid knows. He picks it up, you know, he knows. I’m sure it is genetic, ‘cause he knows football.

He knew the previous offense from when his dad was here, so he’s picked things up pretty quickly?

Oh yeah, very quickly.

K’Hari Lane was portrayed as kinda raw coming in here last year, what have you seen out of him so far?

I would say he’s medium rare right now. Yeah, not quite raw but just medium rare. If we could just get a little pink in the middle, like medium, slightly rare, we’ll be good in two more weeks.

Coach Sumlin said that he did not watch a ton of film of guys before spring started..

No I haven’t either.

Not quarterback related, but how do you cook your steak, now that we are on to it?

Oh, I’m a medium guy all the way.

You played a pretty big role in Kevin Doyle signing with Arizona, I guess there was a relationship with their coaches, can you explain how that all came together?

Well his head coach and I are good friends and his athletic director and I are really good friends. You know they call, we talk all the time anyway, and then they had been sending this film, and then when this happened, and we ended up coming here. He had some other schools he was looking at. We were watching him on film and got a chance to meet him. He came out and visited us, and I really liked the kid, so that's how he ended up here.


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