Jedd Fisch brought a slogan to Arizona upon his hiring: It’s Personal.
You see it in graphics and in tweets put out by the school, coaches and players. It has been said numerous times during interviews and press conferences.
As far as slogans go it isn’t bad, with the words encapsulating the mindset the new coaching staff has brought to Tucson.
The jury is still out on exactly how good this new staff will be, with the verdict being delayed until games are actually played. It’s so far so good, though, with the coach doing pretty much all he can up to this point.
“I am very excited to re-establish my connection to the Arizona Football program,” Bruschi said in a statement. “Coach Fisch, and his vision for the program, is the main reason for my new level of involvement. I look forward to assisting Coach Fisch and the program in any way I can as we develop the next generations of Wildcats who are purposeful, resilient and original. Bear Down!”
What Bruschi said regarding Fisch’s vision leading to his return sums things up rather nicely. The Arizona great, along with the rest of a pretty respected staff, wouldn’t have landed in the Old Pueblo to guide a team that has not won a game in more than a year and whose last performance was a 63-point loss if they were not confident in the coach they would be working for.
Adding coaches is one thing; bringing in players is another.
College football is one of the few sports where superior coaching can make a substantial difference. Put together a scheme that your opponent can’t figure out and yes, a less-talented team can compete and even win.
But it helps to have better players than your opponent.
It’s tough to argue that the roster is not in better shape now than it was when Fisch was hired. Many of the players who put their names in the transfer portal returned, a couple who opted out of the 2020 season are back and the talent added in the most recent recruiting cycle is promising.
Much of the 2021 class signed after Kevin Sumlin was dismissed and before Fisch was hired, and those players should be celebrated for wanting to be Wildcats more than anything else.
But what about the players who signed this week, the ones that chose to play for the new coaches?
The obvious selling point from Fisch and his staff was playing time and the chance to compete for it, but there is more to it than just that.
Plenty of teams — likely better teams — could have used transfers like Treshaun Howard, Gunner Cruz or Isaiah Rutherford. Gunner Maldonado, Drake Anderson and Jordan McCloud could have found snaps at other schools, too.
They all chose to play for a new, untested staff.
“We feel in a short period of time we could build a pretty personal relationship — we also believe that we can help these kids get to where their personal goals are,” Fisch said when explaining the pursuit of transfers. “And with it with that mentality, what we’re asking them to do is to trust us in regards to helping them become a pro on or off the field.”
Trust is a funny thing. As one cliché goes, it is earned, not given. Another thought on trust is that it is hard to win, but easy to lose.
Credit to Fisch and his staff for earning trust despite the head coach’s lack of a track record — both of success and of longevity — and the program’s recent struggles to get players to the next level. There is a growing belief that Arizona Football is moving in the right direction, and players want to be a part of it.
There is also a confidence that regardless of who recruited them or where they came from, the best players will see the field.
It’s certainly the case for the quarterbacks. Fisch said the plan is to “roll the balls out” and let the best man win.
That’s exactly how it should be, for the quarterbacks and the rest of the team. Arizona has not won a game since September 2019 and when a program is riding a 12-game losing streak, the only loyalty should be to whoever helps you win football games.
With every day that passes and every move that’s made, it’s looking more likely that Fisch very well could be the coach who gets Arizona to where it wants to be. You can point to the impressive coaching staff he’s assembled or the quality players that have been brought in, but from any vantage point the program looks to be in much better shape than it was and likely anyone expected it would be.