It didn't take long for Tevin Hood to figure out where he stood.
Five minutes after the Arizona Wildcats beat Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, a game that featured a nationally televised sideline skirmish between Hood and teammate Cody Ippolito, the defensive lineman Hood got a call from his position coach, Bill Kirelawich.
Kirelawich had a message for one of his favorite players.
"He told me he would go to bat for me," Hood said. "He said it was going to be all right."
Hood and Ippolito exchanged punches early in the second quarter of the UA's 49-48 win. Both were eventually told to leave the sideline, and they returned to Tucson on their own.
Both players are still with the Wildcats, and Hood is getting a second chance thanks in part to the relationship he has built with Kirelawich.
The player and coach are the team's resident odd couple. Kirelawich, 65, is a cigar-smoking, plain-spoken Pennslyvanian. Hood, 20, sports dreadlocks and is covered in tattoos.
"I like Tevin," Kirelawich said. "I love the way he plays. I think he's every good thing you could say about a football player. He's smart, he's a good guy - a real good guy. I'm glad he's on our team."
Kirelawich "brings an interesting flavor to everything," Hood said.
"He and I hit it off really well and have the same dry sense of humor," Hood said. "We see eye to eye on a lot of things."
Before the sideline incident, Hood was really coming on for the Wildcats. He entered the season finale against Arizona State with 14 tackles in 11 games and one tackle for loss.
Against ASU, he had 10 tackles, one for a loss, and was a presence in the middle of the Wildcats' three-man front all game.
Hood and Kirelawich are both hoping the strong on-field play near the end of the season will carry over to Hood's senior campaign.
Hood, a former Duke and University of San Diego player, admits it took him some time to adjust to the Wildcats' 3-3-5 "odd stack" defense after playing in a standard 4-3 most of his career.
"I definitely think we're making progressions chemistry-wise," Hood said. "Last year, switching to a 3-3-5 was a learning experience for all of us.
"We've got a lot of work to do, but I think we've come together as a unit this spring."
The defensive line features several familiar faces in Hood, Reggie Gilbert, Dan Pettinato, Kirifi Taula, Sione Tuihalamaka and Justin Washington.
Dwight Melvin and Kyle Kelley both redshirted last season as true freshmen; they're both competing for playing time this spring.
For a defensive line that combined for just five total sacks last season, the message this spring has been to get more pressure on the quarterback.
"We're not getting enough pressure, not near enough as we should be," Kirelawich said.
The undersized Hood, listed at 6 feet and 302 pounds, will likely never be a guy with big sack numbers.
As the nose tackle - the man in the middle - of a three-man front, Hood is usually getting double-teamed by the center and a guard. His job is less about getting sacks and tackles and more about occupying the two linemen and stuffing the middle of the field.
"It's physically demanding," Hood said. "Once you have time to focus on it and learn, it's rewarding."
Kirelawich's hope is that the other members of the line will learn from Hood and be complete football players.
"He comes out and plays hard all the time," Kirelawich said. "He gives you everything he's got. He's an all-around guy. He's good in the weight room, he's good in the classroom, and he's good in the meeting room."
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk
On StarNet: Keep up with the Cats through the offseason at azstarnet.com/uafootball
• April 13: Spring game at Kindall/Sancet Stadium, 1 p.m.
• Aug. 30: Opener vs. NAU at Arizona Stadium, time TBA