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Jedd Fisch discusses Jordan McCloud, familiarity with UCLA and walk-on tryouts at weekly press conference

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arizona-wildcats-football-jedd-fisch-ucla-bruins-jordan-mccloud-walkon-tryouts-pac12-2021 Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Arizona is back in action this Saturday, hosting UCLA after getting a much-needed week off. But while the Wildcats didn’t play last weekend, several other winless teams did and a few picked up their first victory of the season.

Coach Jedd Fisch expects his team to experience that soon, assuming it can fix its own mistakes.

“The wins are gonna come, they always do,” Fisch said Monday. “And it’s just a matter of when they come. We have to earn the right to win. And if we earn the right to win we’ll win. That means we have to play good on all three phases, that means that we have to not turn the ball over excessively, we have to not have penalties that can possibly change an outcome of a game. We have to be able to play for 60 minutes.

“When that happens and we earn that right then we’ll start winning, and then usually like turnovers are contagious, winning it becomes contagious as does takeaways.”

Here’s what else Fisch discussed Monday:

On the timing of the bye: “I thought it was a good time for a bye week. We played one Pac-12 game so we have eight Pac-12 games left. I told our team it’s like hockey, the first period’s over we got the second and third period left to play. We’ve got to do a good job on those periods to continue to improve. Really you hadf like eight weeks of football when you talk about training camp and the season. So now you take a little break for a weekend and then you get to go do it again for eight weeks, so it kind of came at halftime, even though it was only (after) the first four games of the season.”

On what Jordan McCloud gained from practice during the off week: “Experience would certainly be No 1. As he was the third quarterback, really for the two games, let’s call it the San Diego State and BYU game, he was getting limited to zero, almost no reps on our offense. NAU week he became the No. 2 quarterback, and he got a little, some reps. Then he went in the game, had 12 plays. Then he had all the reps for Oregon. He had all the reps with the starting group ... Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and then he had all the reps on Sunday. So I think that experience were really helpful.”

On his team’s play so far this season: “We’ve done some good things, but we haven’t won enough games yet. We recognize that we played three very, very good teams, two top-10 teams, San Diego State will end up being in that group as well. That’s a very good football team. But individually. I love the way Stanley Berryhill has played, I love the way Anthony Pandy has played, I love the way C-Ro (Christian Roland-Wallace) has played. I think that we’ve got some really good football players, as individuals, now we have to continue to play better as a team.

“I showed our team some statistics over the bye week. We’ve outgained our opponents three out of four times, we’ve had time of possession better three out of four games. Our red zone deficiency showed up against BYU and against Oregon with turnovers. But we’re excited about where things are headed, and we believe that if we continue to be a tough, physical football team, what Arizona football is based on, made of, we’ll have a chance to have a good remaining year and many others after that.”

On recruiting during the bye: “All the coaches were on the road recruiting. I think we hit 50 games, 50 football games as a staff, be able to go to a bunch of halves of different games and travel all over the place and get to a bunch of schools. And it was great to watch those kids compete for the first time live and great to meet their high school head coaches, which a lot of times we weren’t able to do because the COVID, other than through the computer.”

On his recruiting schedule: “I think I saw five of our committed players. You don’t get to talk to the players, but the players certainly came out and were very happy that we were there. I was able to be in the state of Arizona, which was very important to me, on Friday night. It would have been easy to stay at some other games out West, but I didn’t want to do that, I wanted to make sure I was in the state of Arizona at at least two games, which I was able to accomplish, and be able to see some really good teams, and really good football. Excited, where things are headed with our recruiting class. All of our committed players are very public committed, they’re all over the internet, continuing to recruit others, and that’s always the best thing you can do. We’re excited about where we’re headed.”

On having a ‘White Out’ against UCLA: “So, just like at Penn State, true to form we’ll be in our navy blue jersey, the fans will be in white. We’ll be now back into our normal routine of white on the road, blue at home, now that the summer month of September is by us.”

On having familiarity with UCLA: “We know this team very well. Certainly a lot of the guys on there, their starting skill guys, I’ve recruited there when I was at UCLA, with Dorian (Thompson-Robinson) and Kyle (Phillips) and Chase Cota, I know those three guys extremely well. Chip (Kelly) has done a great job of building that team over a 4-year span, and he’s playing with a lot of seniors now. There’s a veteran team, they’ve been in the system now for all four full seasons, and we know that we got our work cut out for us on offense and on defense against that team, and we’re excited about that opportunity.”

On his time at UCLA: “UCLA good, it was a short time. I love Jim Mora, Jim Mora is a great guy, and Jim Mora called me when I was at Michigan and asked me to come run the offense. They were just coming off the only losing season he had. And Josh Rosen was our starting quarterback. Went out there and I think we beat Texas A&M in a crazy game, heat Hawaii, I think we scored nine touchdowns in a row. And then we had an unbelievable game against Memphis where we lost 55-52. Had some good games throughout the year, went to a bowl game, became the interim head coach, had a lot of great memories. After we beat Cal to go 6-6 they hired Chip, and then I stayed on and coached the bowl game against Kansas State, where went up 17-0 but last 30-17. Loved the kids, enjoyed coaching Josh, and Josh was drafted 10th overall, so that was a pretty cool thing.”

On being the Bruins’ interim coach in 2017: “It was great to be able to lead a team, it was not the type of circumstances you’d ever want to do it in. Love Jim, didn’t want it to be a short tenure, wanted to help Jim, turn it back around. He’s, I think, a great coach. He got to another bowl game, I consider it his team getting to the bowl game, so in his six years they got to five bowl games. Took over for Rick (Neuheisel), who recruited extremely, extremely well, so there were some really good players on that roster. It was a good couple games to be the head coach, but I saw myself as the offensive coordinator there.”

On his interactions with Chip Kelly: “I’ve crossed paths at different times throughout our careers. I think I met him, originally, when I was at the University of Miami. I was the offensive coordinator and he came down for a couple of days. We spent probably about a day and a half together at different times throughout the day. And then in 2013, we spoke about me going to work for him in Philadelphia. I took the offensive coordinator job in Jacksonville. But we had really good conversations. We played them in ‘14 when I was in Jacksonville and he was in Philly. And then I came across him plenty of different times throughout the years, we have mutual friends. I really like Chip, I think he’s a great coach and a great guy to be around.”

On QB coach Jimmie Dougherty coming from UCLA: “Yeah, Jimmy knows everything they’re going to do (smiles). I think it’s certainly an advantage because Jimmy was there for four years. He was with me at first, in ‘17 I brought him from Michigan. And then he was our wide receiver coach, and then Coach Kelly kept him, and he was there for three years, so everybody on that team, he was a part of either recruiting or practicing against or coaching. So he has a good feel for what they do or what they’re doing. He obviously recognizes the talent of a Kyle Phillips and a Chase Cota, they got an outstanding tight end. He saw what they can do. I think he can certainly share with us some of the things that he knows, but Coach Kelly knows that also. We’re not going to certainly rely upon anything but film study and really recognize what we’ve seen the last four weeks.”

On having walk-on tryouts during the season: “So, normally you have a walk on tryout sometime either in the spring or right at training camp at some point, if you have a roster spot open. You can’t bring them on the team the team until you hit your first game. We were having the COVID vaccine situation, I wanted to get our whole team vaccinated before we allowed anybody to come try out with our team. Once we got that done, then we had to have a roster spot open, because with Title IX, we had X amount of roster spots. We wound up having two guys go in the transfer portal, which allowed us to have two spots open, which allowed us to ... try out a couple players. With that being said, you can’t really just say, hey we’re looking for XYZ position.What you have to do is you have to post it for NCAA compliance purposes, and you have to say it’s a tryout, if anybody wants to try out, you’re available to do so, and then we’ll see what the roster looks like. We’ve done this at Miami, we’ve done it at Michigan. Both of those times were in season. I remember watching, I think South Carolina or Clemson did a kicking tryout a couple years ago. It’s all the same thing, You can’t do it like the NFL, where you say, hey, every Tuesday we’re gonna bring a couple guys in to work out. You just have one tryout during the year, if you have a roster spot open, which we happen to have one, maybe two open. Let him try out and then see if there’s a spot open to help us practice.”

On choosing to run plays to the short (boundary) side of the field: “The boundary run game and the boundary passing game in college is very different than in pro football. In pro football you very rarely would ever run into the boundary. In college football you get so much field pressure that a lot of times, most of those plays were alerted away from blitz. So if you had blitz coming to the field, you would run into the boundary, if you had blitz coming from the boundary we would run to the field. So there might be some times that we’ve called some jet sweeps or we’ve called a wide receiver screen or two, and we were just throwing away from the pressure, or running away from the pressure. Not necessarily in terms of ideal at every time, but there’s plenty of good plays that can be made it to the boundary, especially if you’re going fast. If you’re going fast, you don’t really want to run your guys on both sides of the field, you just kind of live with the formation that’s built.”

On choosing to return kickoffs or down them: “That’s a great decision you have to make going into the game. Teams don’t really practice covering kicks like they used to, because you can fair catch a ball anywhere inside the 20, and get your touchback, so you don’t have to necessarily constantly cover, where normally it would just be only if the ball landed in the end zone. So sometimes we make a decision on, do we feel like our return game could give us an advantage over just, let’s call it the traditional take a knee, get the ball at the (25-yard line). So each week we look at it, and we say, is this a team that is accustomed to just kicking touchbacks all the time, so therefore they don’t cover as much in practice, they don’t work (on) it as much. We also look at, do we feel like Tayvian or Michaael, do we have a speed advantage. Do we have a return, schematically, like we had against Oregon. We didn’t execute the return. We practiced for two weeks to throw back with Jamarye throwing it back to Michael . We just threw it forward a yard and a half instead of backwards. Those type things, you have to practice and you have to take it out the end zone sometimes otherwise it always looks like it’s a gimmick if you don’t.”