UA football: Rodriguez pick stirs anticipation

UA students, city impressed by new coach's comments
2011-11-23T00:00:00Z 2013-09-17T15:54:17Z UA football: Rodriguez pick stirs anticipationMichael J. Craven Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Like many UA students who've watched the football team struggle all season, Jeremy Courtney was concerned about who Greg Byrne would find to ultimately replace Mike Stoops.

When Courtney, a 19-year-old business major, heard about Rich Rodriguez's hiring, that concern didn't exactly dissipate.

"I had mixed emotions, mostly because my immediate family is from Ohio," Courtney said, "so we saw him a lot at Michigan. We saw the defensive struggles he had at Michigan.

"He can play offense, that's for sure, but his defense was a concern of mine."

Still, Courtney, along with a few hundred other UA fans, came to McKale Center at noon on Monday (an odd time for a hiring, Courtney thought, because most students were in class at the time) to watch Rodriguez's introductory press conference.

Courtney's reaction to Rodriguez's comments matched the consensus among fans: this East Coast guy didn't seem too bad.

"I was impressed," Courtney said. "He seems like a great leader and somebody players can look up to. He's a big name in college football. A lot of recruits are going to want to play for him."

Several times during Rodriguez's speech and then the question-and-answer session with media that followed, Arizona's new coach had the small crowd on its feet.

"Every day, I'll look forward to that rivalry game with ASU," Rodriguez said at one point.

"I want them sitting on (each other's) laps in the Zona Zoo," he remarked shortly after.

"I think he has a lot of good stuff going," said 17-year old Dominic Pettinato, whose brother, Dan, is a redshirt freshman at defense end this year. "He talked a lot about recruiting around the area. He had good goals for the future."

Rodriguez's future goals are also what impressed 70-year-old Mike Kooken, who played for the Wildcats under Jim LaRue from 1962 to 1964.

"I think this man will pick up the ball," Kooken said. "I personally believe, because he has had the trials and tribulations he's had, he's going to come here and really do what he said. He's going to try to make this the best program it can be."

Those trials and tribulations have been a point of speculation for many fans. While Rodriguez holds a career coaching record of 120-84-2, he went just 15-22 in his last job as the head coach at Michigan.

"I was kind of undecided on him," 36-year old Tucsonan Louis Newell said. "But hey, you've got to give the guy an opportunity. I heard some stuff in the news and on the radio, but I want to give him a fair chance."

The new coach seemed to win over many UA fans with promises of an exciting new offense.

"You won't be bored," Rodriguez said of his spread style, which should resemble that of Chip Kelley's at Oregon.

"I think Matt Scott and Ka'Deem Carey could probably flourish in his offensive system," Newell said.

Courtney too felt that Rodriguez's offensive style would provide a high level of excitement for UA fans.

"The spread is fun to watch, and it's hard to stop," Courtney said. "Like Oregon's offense, if he's running that style, it's going to be fun.

"I really think the student body is going to be excited about seeing our new offense and seeing what he does with it. I know I am."

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