There is a thing called Occam’s Razor, which essentially means if there are competing theories as to why something is happening, the simplest is most likely the correct one.
Arizona football, losers of 12 straight games and thought of as one of the worst programs in the country, is on a roll.
Along with bringing in some high-quality transfers over the offseason, new coach Jedd Fisch and his staff have earned commitments from some very intriguing recruits, with the legitimate possibility of more — some with a good amount of stars attached to their names — on the way.
Wildcats fans know all to well that until the players officially sign and arrive on campus, there’s a chance they end up elsewhere. But for now, the Fisch era is off to about as good a start off the field as one could have ever hoped for.
But how is Fisch, who has never led a program before and did not seem to be at the top of anyone’s list to take over at Arizona, doing this? How is the career assistant making Tucson an appealing destination?
It’s simple: He’s trying really, really hard, and his effort is refreshing.
Looking back, Rich Rodriguez and Kevin Sumlin both arrived in Arizona with big-time reputations.
In different ways, each relied very heavily on those reputations, believing their names and history guiding higher-profile programs would bring talent to Tucson.
Fisch didn’t have the background of a Rodriguez, who had great success at West Virginia and was perhaps on the verge of turning things around at Michigan before he was cut loose.
Fisch also didn’t have the track record of Sumlin, who excelled at Houston before moving on to Texas A&M, where he had an uneven tenure but produced winning teams and a considerable amount of early NFL Draft picks.
What Fisch did have was a long NFL background and a level of enthusiasm that has revived a program, energized an apathetic fan base and brought about an optimism that has made people believe he just might be the guy to turn things around.
While it’s one thing to convince fans and media, it’s another to successfully make that pitch to recruits. Without on-field wins and game film to point to everything the staff is selling is hypothetical, which figures to be a bit of a challenge when competing with the likes of UCLA, Oregon, USC and more.
That’s where the first-year coach’s effort has made a world of difference.
Fisch knew he had to take a different approach than his predecessors, either due to his own history or simply the way college football recruiting has evolved.
Arizona has produced flashy videos. Recruits have taken part in photo shoots, donning the Desert Swarm era uniforms. Rob Gronkowski returned and caught a football dropped by a helicopter, setting a world record that has already been broken but was likely still superior because it was Gronk.
It’s not all about flash, either, as there is some strategy involved. Take the ability to land an early pledge from Servite QB Noah Fifita. While he may be a bit undersized, the 3-star prospect is one of the best QBs in the country. Not only has he put up some incredible statistics, but his reputation as a leader has put Arizona in the running for two of his outstanding teammates, tight end Keyon Burnett and receiver Tetairoa McMillan.
Arizona put on quite a show for the trio during a visit back in June, coming up with a very clever “Juice County” approach that had to stand out.
Fifita’s mother has also been trying to help, in a uniquely hilarious way. Seriously, even if Fifita’s high school teammates don’t end up joining him in Tucson, it’s hard not to appreciate the fun his mother her social media approach.
Her desire to get involved is surely welcome, and it is another credit to Fisch. Not so much that he asked her to do this, because that is unlikely the case. Just, her son is an elite prospect and both he and his family are all in on Arizona because the new coach has sold them on what can be accomplished in Tucson.
Fisch and his staff have been brilliant since arriving in the Old Pueblo, doing pretty much everything right. We won’t get to see any on-field results for another seven weeks or so, but that hasn’t stopped the Cats from earning some wins.
A.J. Jones, a big receiver with plenty of potential, flipped from UCLA and committed to Arizona. Hamilton High School’s Russell Davis II had offers from Iowa State and Boston College, among others, but chose the Wildcats.
Their commitments were followed by pledges from defensive back T.J. Hall, who spurned the likes of Oregon State and Colorado, and Chandler defensive lineman Isaiah Johnson.
The 28th-ranked player in Arizona in the 2022 class, Johnson was also being pursued by Colorado, Idaho and Utah State.
Oh, and the Cats are in the top 5 for four-star LB Sterling Lane.
Now, this is not the first time Arizona has received commitments from solid players nor is Arizona new to having a chance at elite prospects. So, simply doing what they’ve done is not a guaranteed recipe for success. Fisch and his staff will still need to coach up whoever they have and develop schemes that maximize — and hopefully enhance — the talent on the roster.
But while doing that it is imperative that the program be infused with more talent and better depth. That seems to be happening, and not a moment too soon.
To that end, it’s not a stretch to say whatever Fisch is doing, it’s working.
Because he is.