New Arizona Wildcats coach Jedd Fisch met with the media Saturday from his home office in snowy Foxborough, Massachusetts.
It hasn’t fully sunken in yet that he’s the head coach of a program in sunny Tucson, Arizona, but that will start to charge Monday when he will arrive at the UA and begin the second phase of his transition to his new job.
“Which would be going from being all virtual and talking to the team virtually and talking to some coaches virtually and talking to some recruits, to being on campus and being able to really start that next phase of building up our staff and meeting with the coaching staff,” he said.
Here’s a rundown of what Fisch discussed with the local media.
Arizona, California and Nevada will be UA’s primary recruiting areas
Under Kevin Sumlin, the Wildcats renewed their recruiting efforts in Texas and developed a nice niche in Louisiana.
Fisch, however, wants to return to mining the more traditional area of UA’s geographical footprint—Arizona, Southern California and Nevada, especially Las Vegas.
“We need to make sure that we have to do a better job in the state (of Arizona), first and foremost,” he said. “I think there were 57 Division I players that were signed (from Arizona), we didn’t sign enough of them. I know the starting quarterback at Oklahoma (Spencer Rattler), I recruited him when he was an eighth grader and freshman at Pinnacle High School. The starting quarterback at Oregon (Tyler Shough), another Arizona guy. There’s too many Arizona guys that are slipping out.”
For context, the Wildcats have landed just nine Arizona recruits in the last four cycles. Fisch could have also mentioned that USC starting quarterback Kedon Slovis is an Arizona kid too but was never offered by the UA.
“We gotta own the state. We’ve got to put a lock down on the state,” Fisch said. “We’ve got to do a good job in Southern California. We just do a good job there. It’s too critical of a situation in that scenario. So we’ve got Southern California or California itself. We got to do a good job in Nevada. Nevada is a huge part for us.”
Fisch said Arizona will consider recruiting in Utah and Texas, too.
“But we don’t want to start going too far away from our core,” he said.
There are an “endless” number of candidates interested in joining Arizona’s coaching staff and any new hires will have to be “great teachers, educators and recruiters.”
When I asked Fisch when he plans to start filling out his coaching staff, he said he wants to meet with the existing coaches first. That will happen early next week.
Once the time comes to make some hires, Fisch said he will be seeking candidates who are “great teachers, educators and recruiters.”
“We have to develop here,” he said. “We have to be people that understand that we have to be a player development program, first and foremost. We have to develop from the inside out and we’re going to recruit everybody we possibly can to come join our program, but we’re not going to try to rely upon a 17- and 18-year-old’s Hudl tape.
“They also have to be able to evaluate talent. They have to be able to find talent. They have to be able to do a great job of recruiting that talent, and get them to be a part of our program. Believe in what we’re talking about here.”
Some Arizona fans have been concerned about Fisch having 15 jobs over the last 23 years, but the upside to him making all those stops is they allowed him to make connections.
He said an “endless” number of people have already reached out about joining the Arizona program in a coaching and/or operations capacity.
“Now it’s up to me to be able to find a way to get the right people in here that understand what we’re trying to do to accomplish success,” Fisch said.
In a previous interview, Fisch said Arizona will have assistant coaches with NFL and college experience—and that recruits should be excited about that.
“What I think the number one thing that we’ll be able to say to these recruits is take a look at the staff we’re about the hire, keep a very, very close eye on Twitter and on Instagram and some of the announcements that will be coming their way,” he told Yogi Roth of the Pac-12 Network. “And when they start seeing what we’re going to build here at the University of Arizona, and they start seeing the type of player, type of coaches, the experiences of the coaches that we’re hiring, they’re going to see a lot of variety but a lot of experience. They’re going to see a lot of energy. They’re going to see a lot of passion. They’re going to see guys that know how to coach in the NFL, know what it looks like to coach a No. 1 overall pick.
“And they’re also going to understand why there was such a passion for me to come back to college football and they’re going to see an incredible family atmosphere from every member of our coaching staff. And I think that when people start looking in that portal, and they start deciding what team they’re gonna pick, I think the University of Arizona should be very high on their list and they should start doing some research and we look forward to talking to many of them.”
Fisch began evaluating Arizona’s roster on Saturday
Fisch spoke to the team Wednesday and began evaluating Arizona’s roster on Saturday. He said he will use the next five days to “really connect with our current players, get to know them, get to know what they’re thinking.”
Then he will hit the recruiting trail for the first time, not exactly easy to do when in-person contact has been prohibited due to the coronavirus crisis.
“It’s a situation where this is the way the college football landscape is, this is what happens when you get hired as a new head coach Christmas week in a program that you’re 3,000 miles away,” Fisch said. “And when I arrive on campus on Monday I think we’ll get going more and more, but unfortunately due to COVID it’s very difficult to be able to meet or see people in person.”
Arizona will use the transfer portal like NFL free agency
Fisch understands how important the transfer portal will be for the Wildcats this offseason. They not only to dissuade more of their own players from entering it, they also need to use it to add talent to their depleted roster.
The good news is the transfer market should be more expansive than ever this offseason because of COVID-19 and new NCAA legislation that is expected to make all transfers immediately eligible at their new schools.
Once Fisch is done evaluating Arizona’s roster, he’ll have a better idea of what kind of players he’ll be pursuing.
“We signed, it sounds like, 16 or 17 [high school recruits], and then we have 10 or 11 scholarships available still moving forward,” he said. “And with those numbers, be able to see where our depth is, what’s needed right now, and then use the portal in a similar fashion as you would use free agency in regards to you go out there and you look to see who can figure need to help your team win, but also be a part of your culture and make sure that you don’t bring in guys that necessarily won’t help your team, even though they might have a certain skill set.”
Why does Fisch think he will have success as a recruiter? The relentlessness that’s allowed him to climb up the coaching ladder plus relationship-building skills, what he thinks are his best traits.
“I try very hard at it,” he said. “It’s very important to me, building a trust, building a respect with the players, with the coaches, with the people around me. And to make sure that when players believe in you and trust you and like you and want to not let you down, and they know you feel the same about them, you start being able to really build something special. And when you can start building something special you got a chance to have sustained success.”
Fisch is a good Nike spokesman
It’s fitting that Arizona is a Nike school. The brand has helped Fisch develop the mentality to get to where he is now.
“My dad always used to say, ‘Hey, just do it,’” he said. “You want to do something, just do it. I remember when the Nike slogan came out for the very first time and he bought a T-shirt that said ‘Just Do It, and he always said to me is, ‘This is the greatest marketing slogan in the history of marketing slogans.’ My dad was very educated. He went to Wharton School of Business, was a successful attorney in New Jersey, New York and he just said, ‘just remember this slogan for the rest of your life. If you want to do it, just do it.’ And sometimes it’s not as easy as you think, so you have to be relentless.”
Arizona needs to learn how not to lose before it can win
Every coach says they want to build a winning culture, but Fisch said Arizona, losers of 12 straight, cannot do that until it learns how not to lose.
“We have to have that mentality of not turning the football over. We have to have the mentality of not being a penalized football team. We have to find a way to understand time of possession. We have to find a way to understand field position,” he said. “And if we can start educating our players on situational football and start educating our players and how to win some games by not losing them, I think we’ll be able to start the change.”
Fisch is not phased by criticism, says Arizona fans will be ‘excited’ about direction of program
Based on the reaction on this site and our social media pages, there are a lot of people who are angry about Arizona’s decision to hire Fisch. But he said the outrage “hasn’t really affected me” and thinks he will prove them wrong.
“It’s a privilege to be a head football coach in any college level or any high school level, so the opportunity to be a head coach is just fantastic for me,” he said. “I’m thrilled. I’ve had unbelievable experiences my career, I’ve had every job that you could have in the profession. And it always has worked out in this profession that if you pay your dues and you work really hard and you find a way to be successful in what you’re doing, that the next opportunity comes. And this is a thrilling opportunity for me and I cannot wait to be a part of the University, Arizona football, I think that you guys will be very excited to see who our coaches are, I think you’ll be excited to see who wants to be a part of our program. And as we open up our practices in the spring, I think everyone will feel really good about where we’re heading and what we’re going to get done.”