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Arizona football notebook: Dino Babers reportedly hired as offensive coordinator, OL Raymond Pulido withdraws from NCAA transfer portal

Also, ABOR approved Brent Brennan’s contract

arizona-wildcats-football-dino-babers-robert-pulido-ncaa-transfer-portal-danny-gonzales-chip-viney Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

When Dino Babers was part of Dick Tomey’s staffs at Arizona in the 1990s he was one of the hot young names in college football. Now, after three stints as a head coach, he’s coming back to Tucson to help an old colleague.

Multiple reports, including GoAZCats.com, have Babers set to be hired as the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator, completing Brent Brennan’s first staff. He is expected to also coach Arizona’s quarterbacks.

Babers, 61, spent the past eight seasons as head coach at Syracuse where had a 41-55 record with two bowl appearances including a 10-3 record in 2018. That teams averaged more than 40 points per game.

He was also head coach at Bowling Green (2014-15) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13), compiling an overall 78-71 record.

Babers was previously at Arizona from 1995-2000, coaching wide receivers the first two years and running backs the third before serving as offensive coordinator from 1998-2000. Brennan was a GA on that 2000 squad, while new UA wide receivers coach Bobby Wade was on his way to becoming the school’s career receiving leader.

Once Babers is officially announced it will complete Brennan’s staff, as two other coaches were introduced Thursday: special teams coordinator/linebackers coach Danny Gonzales and cornerbacks coach Chip Viney. All others were announced Tuesday and Wednesday.

Gonzales was head coach at New Mexico from 2020-23 and has also been a defensive coordinator at ASU and San Diego State, while Viney was Brennan’s defensive backs coach at San Jose the previous two seasons.

Pulido set to return for 2024

One of the first Arizona players to enter the NCAA transfer portal after Jedd Fisch’s departure was offensive lineman Raymond Pulido, and it seemed like just a matter of time before he’d head to Washington to re-unite with offensive line coach Brennan Carroll.

Instead, he’s coming back to Tucson.

Pulido has withdrawn from the portal, giving the Wildcats four returning starters on the line for new offensive line coach Josh Oglesby.

The 6-foot-6, 335-pound Pulido started five games in 2023 as a true freshman, including the final four. He started four times at right guard and started the Alamo Bowl at left tackle, where he is expected to play in 2024. A bicycle accident shortly before the season opener last September kept Pulido from starting from the outset, and after coming back for one game he missed four more due to injury.

Pulido is the fourth different UA player to enter the portal but ultimately return to the program. The others are quarterback Brayden Dorman and tight ends Dorian Thomas and Keyan Burnett.

With his return Arizona’s line for 2024 could look like this: Pulido, left guard Wendell Moe, center Josh Baker, right guard Leif Magnuson and right tackle Jonah Savaiinaea. Joe Borjon also has starting experience at guard and tackle and JT Hand started a game in 2021.

Latest portal entries

While Pulido came out, a few more Arizona players entered the portal on Wednesday. If neither return it means the Wildcats’ ultra deep defensive line will need some major reinforcements.

Edge rushers Russell Davis II and Isaiah Ward are in the portal, doing so after combining for 46 tackles (10.5 for loss) and 7.5 sacks in 2023. Ward started 10 games last season while Davis was a key part of the defensive rotation up front.

Arizona already lost edges Taylor Upshaw and Jeremy Mercier and defensive tackles Tyler Manoa and Sio Nofoagatoto’a to graduation, while defensive linemen Jacob Kongaika and Tia Savea entered the portal. As of now, the front four player on the roster with the most defensive snaps in 2023 is edge Ta’ita’i Uiagalelei, who saw about 40 percent of the action and has six career starts.

Brennan’s contract approved by ABOR

At a special meeting Thursday in Tempe, the Arizona Board of Regents formally approved Brennan’s 5-year contract. He will earn an average of $3.62 million per season including $200,000 annually from Nike and Learfield, the UA’s broadcast partner.

Brennan’s contract also calls for a $250,000 retention bonus if he’s still at Arizona at the end of January in 2026, and he can earn up to $1.2 million in performance and academic bonuses.

The contract buyout is $10 million if Brennan leaves during his first year, $7 million during the second year and down to $500,000 during the fifth year. He gets 100 percent of what he’s owed if fired without cause during the first two seasons, down to 70 percent at any time over the final three years.