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What Arizona players said about Marcel Yates’ firing, Chuck Cecil’s promotion to defensive coordinator

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 08 Arizona at Houston Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

A select number of Arizona Wildcats players were available to the media Tuesday for the first time since defensive coordinator Marcel Yates and linebackers coach John Rushing were fired and replaced by analysts Chuck Cecil and Hank Hobson, respectively,

Here is what they had to say about the move. More can be read about it here.

Junior safety Jarrius Wallace on Yates’ firing: “Shocking at first. Not expecting that but it’s kind of understanding that it’s a part of the business and those type of things happen...and we have the rest of the season to focus on.”

Wallace on Cecil’s message to the team: “The message he gave us was we can’t control will happen and let’s go and try to win these last few games.”

Wallace on the changes he expects Cecil to make: “I don’t think nothing will change defensively. The big change is that we just need to win. Play better, play with more chemistry and make things better.”

Wallace on Cecil’s legacy: “When he first got the job (as an analyst), I got to find out who he was and I watched his highlight tape. He was a good football player and everyone knows that he went to the league. So it’s good to have that person come on staff with that experience, and plus he played here so it’s kind of cool.”

Wallace on his relationship with Cecil: “I talked to him a lot. I always used to go ask him questions about other ways I can do things as a defensive player that will help me. He used to be standing on the sidelines or coming around and I see him in the facility, so I asked him questions and we’ll talk. He’ll ask me personal questions, like he got to know me, asked what my nickname was and things like that.

Senior cornerback Jace Whittaker on Yate’s firing: “Nobody saw it coming. It’s hard when you develop a relationship with somebody like that, you have respect for somebody like that who taught you so much about the game. But you understand it’s a business aspect and it’s what’s best for the team.”

Whittaker on if the players feel responsible for Yates losing his job: “No, it’s a business. You have a job to do. If I don’t perform the way I’m supposed to, I get replaced. It’s a nasty nature of the business. ... I believe what Coach Sumlin did was for the best of the team. And it was in the best interest of the team, to protect the team. That’s the number one rule. Protect the team at all costs. Was the performance its best? No. Could we have done better? Yes. Is it on the coaches? Not 100 percent. It’s on the players, and a lot of it goes hand in hand.”

Whittaker on Cecil’s message: “Four games left. Fight. It’s football, still. Things change here in our facility, but things don’t change outside in between those lines. The team is coming into our home field and we still gotta play football.”

Whittaker on Cecil: “It’s something about his his aura. And the energy he brings every single day. I mean, he’s a legend everywhere you look around campus, his name in the space is on it. So that’s somebody to look up to.

“I ask him questions all the time. His door is always open. He’s always giving you tips on how to get better, so the transition process isn’t too difficult when you’ve had somebody here who you trust. And now he’s in the position to lead the defense. It’s kind of nice.”

Whittaker on what kind of questions he asks Cecil: “Being a leader. Two years ago, he told me I needed to get on special teams.”

Whittaker on how the team can stay focused amid the coaching changes: “Try not to follow you on Twitter. You go through the routine you’ve set up at the beginning of the season. The routine is watch film, you watch film, you watch film, you practice, you watch film, you watch film, and it’s staying on track. You control the things you can control. It’s that simple.”

Junior safety Scottie Young Jr. on Yates’ firing: “It was shocking to me because he recruited me, he recruited a lot of guys here. It was shocking, but we just gotta get ready for Oregon State this week.”

Young on if he has talked to Yates since his firing: “I have not. I know his phone is probably been getting blown up a lot since Sunday, but no I’m just trying to focus on the game this week. I plan on reaching out to him as soon as possible.”

Young on how he heard the news: ”I found out through Colin (Schooler). Colin had told me and then it kind of spread like wildfire after that.”

Young on if the players feel responsible: “For sure. I mean, as Coach Sumlin explained in his meeting, we’ve given up 141 points in the last three games, so obviously we’re on the field. It’s never good. I talked to the players after the game against Stanford and giving up 41 points, that ain’t gonna win us nothing. So it’s not always on the coaches. Sometimes you got to take responsibility as a player too.”

Young on Cecil’s message: “He just told us he didn’t really plan on changing anything. Obviously with four games left you can’t really change nothing. Just keep everything simple. I mean, just keep on playing hard and let’s just get ready for these next few games.”

Young on what he wants to see from the defense moving forward: “Consistency. I mean, a few weeks ago I came up here and told you guys that I believe that we can be a dominant defense. I mean, we put it up there on film. And I still believe that to this day. I mean, we just gotta be consistent in what we do. Execute, that’s the biggest thing.”