Speaking from experience, in a perfect world honeymoons would never end.
They are a magical time where all is not only right in the world, but good. Relaxation is not only a possibility, but part of the deal. You smile, you laugh, you enjoy; there’s nary a thought given to what could go wrong.
Jedd Fisch’s honeymoon with Arizona has officially come to an end. In fact, the coach himself cut it short.
Back in December 2020, when Fisch was hired, it was understood by all that rebuilding the Arizona program would take time. Not to get to the top of the division and Pac-12, but to simply be competitive. Years of struggles on the recruiting trail and with player development left the Wildcats at a serious disadvantage, the kind no coach could come in and fix right away.
True to form, Fisch’s first team struggled to all of one victory. They were competitive in most games and were a handful of plays away from at least a few more wins, but nevertheless going 1-11 in 2021 did not exactly portend to greatness in 2022.
Then Offseason Fisch returned, and suddenly hope is rising. Arizona has added an incredible amount of talent both through traditional recruiting and the NCAA transfer portal, with the result being the top overall haul in the Pac-12 according to 247 Sports.
The Wildcats have even become a bit of a national story, with plenty of praise being heaped upon a coaching staff that found a way to capitalize on an intersection of some fairly unique events.
A lack of stability with conference rivals led to more top players being available, and Arizona was able to combine a vision, the opportunity to compete for playing time and a plan when it comes to NIL in a way that is as impressive as it is surprising.
It’s not just that Arizona upgraded its talent, either, but that it added impact players at positions where they were desperately needed. If Fisch had a shopping list, he’s already checked most of it off.
Quarterbacks, playmakers, speed, size, length, depth—Arizona has added it all, and because of that the team should be improved when it next takes the field.
The question, of course, is how much improvement there will be.
It’s fair to expect the returning players to be more comfortable with the system, although the defense may see some changes with new coaches coming in on that side of the ball. That many of Arizona’s freshmen are early enrollees is huge, because being with the program now can only help them be more ready to contribute in the fall.
In many ways, things have fallen into place about as well as Fisch or anyone could have hoped, though there are still apparent holes along the offensive line and, let’s be honest, the roster could afford to add talented depth at pretty much any position.
Which brings us back to that honeymoon, which has abruptly and joyfully ended prematurely.
While few who follow Arizona are expecting greatness in ‘22, Fisch’s offseason success has begat a strong belief that better days are ahead. Unfortunately, the upcoming schedule is not particularly forgiving, with the first three games all having a chance to see the ‘Cats enter as underdogs.
From there the conference slate is no picnic either. To wit: Arizona’s Homecoming game, the kind ideally reserved for a lesser opponent, will be against USC. That’s not exactly ideal, though to be fair the task of finding a “lesser” opponent may be impossible.
Despite Arizona’s victories off the field, it has struggled to earn them on it. Until that changes, it would be unwise to count on it. Fisch cannot do anything about that for another eight months or so, which means for now all one gets to do is enjoy one of the best recruiting stretches the program has ever seen.
With it, how could you not get excited about what’s transpired and wonder what could be? How could you see the kind of players that have been added and the enthusiasm they have for Arizona Football and not think better days are on the horizon?
That’s the problem Fisch has created. With apologies to Uncle Ben (or Aunt May, if you will), with great recruiting comes great expectations. Now that the talent level has improved, it’s time to show that it can be developed and coached to victory.
Sooner or later Fisch will have to win games. About this time a year ago later — much later — was the more talked about and accepted option, and for many that’s still the case.
It should be.
However, the clock has sped up a bit with each flashy, highly-rated addition, which means for Fisch and his staff the work is just beginning.