Feldman confident in Rodriguez

CBS Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman is confident in Arizona's decision to hire Rich Rodriguez. Read on to see why he thinks it is a good hire, the expectations he now has for Arizona, and more.

Arizona's hiring of Rich Rodriguez did not come as a surprise to CBS Sports college football columnist Bruce Feldman, who in an interview with Wildcat Authority shortly after the firing of Mike Stoops made a case for the former Michigan coach to be hired.

After Greg Byrne wrapped up the search and named Rodriguez the new head coach of the UA football team, Feldman sees a nice fit in Tucson.

"I think it's a good hire for them," Feldman said. "You have a guy who's a proven winner; he did great things at West Virginia. He obviously had a rocky three years at Michigan, but I really thought they were on the right track. I think he left the program in better shape than he got it.

"The other thing when you have a guy like this who is still young, whose been out for a year, having been through what he's been through with Michigan and the time out, it's going to help him perspective wise. I think this was a huge success for Greg Byrne and Arizona."

Rodriguez simply never fit in in Ann Arbor with the Michigan football team, and that chasm with the fan base eventually cost him his job with the school. Feldman, while he believes there was more to the situation than a lack of chemistry, does not foresee Rich Rod having any of the same problems he did as a head coach of the Big 10 power.

"I do think he's a better fit at Arizona," Feldman said. "All of the rough things that people around Michigan didn't like about Rodriguez, there were people I had spoken to who played for Bo Schembechler who saw a lot of parallels. The discipline, the intensity, that mentality, that mindset, there were a lot of people who played for Schembechler who really connected with Rich Rodriguez.

"I think he if he another year or a better defense, people would've looked at it and said this is what we need. It didn't work out, but I think at Arizona people will probably appreciate him more. I think part of it too was when he left West Virginia, it was such a grease fire that I think a lot of people in Ann Arbor were frustrated that kept coming up. I don't think he's going to have to deal with a lot of that in Arizona."

With the potential for distraction much lower at Arizona, Feldman believes Rodriguez takes over in Tucson as one of the top coaches in the conference despite not coaching a game yet.

"Chip Kelly wasn't a proven head coach before he took over and he's done really well," Feldman said. "David Shaw jumped into a great situation because Jim Harbaugh had done wonders for Stanford. I think the perception of Lane Kiffin has changed dramatically among the media within the last month because he thumped Notre Dame on the road and won at Oregon.

"You have uncertainty at Cal, uncertainty at Washington State, UCLA, Arizona State. I think Steve Sarkisian is a good coach, and Dennis Erickson has won two national titles and not a lot of guys can say that. Rich Rodriguez has taken a program to BCS bowls and won them. West Virginia is nowhere near where it was when he had it going. I think he's at the top of those guys right now."

Fans of Arizona are worried that Rodriguez may struggle on the recruiting trail with a lack of west coast ties. Not only does Feldman not believe it'll be a problem for UA's new coach, but he also thinks he's entering the Pac-12 scene at a very opportune moment.

"I think he'll be successful in recruiting because he has a proven track record of exciting offenses, there's an identity to it," Feldman said. "He's a really charismatic guy. I can say this from covering him at West Virginia and Michigan, and spending a lot of time around him, he will do well when he sits in front of people and high school coaches.

"The challenges will be relationship building with the his staff, but it remains to be seen who else will end up on his staff. It'll probably be a lot of guys who have worked with him before at Michigan and West Virginia, and some of them have recruited California and Arizona.

"I think he'll adapt there and there will be a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. I think it also helps that USC is going to be dealing with the sanctions for a little while, UCLA is going through a coaching change, same thing at Arizona State. He's walking into a situation where he couldn't ask for much better timing."

While Feldman does see some growing pains on the horizon for Arizona in 2012, his predictions for the future of UA football under Rodriguez are sure to make fans excited for what's to come for the Wildcats.

"I think it's going to be some time because you don't go from missing a bowl to playing for a conference title over night," Feldman said. "I can see there being some growing pains the first year, but if (Matt) Scott really embraces this and is as athletic and tough as I've been told he is, I think there's a chance they could be a bowl team next year. Four years from now though, I would be surprised if they're not a top 15 team.

"My prediction is that within six years, they will have been to a Rose Bowl. I will be very surprised if they haven't because I just think he's too good of a coach. He still has a ton of energy, this isn't a guy with health issues or a guy who is sixty, this is a guy who is in his prime.

"I do think he's got himself into a good situation in terms of a young athletic director who is very smart, very aggressive, who wants to make a statement here. I think it's a home run hire for those guys."

If Arizona is able to be as successful as Feldman believes it can be, he knows that UA's good fortune comes at the expense of his former employers, especially Michigan, for letting him go.

"If I'm a West Virginia fan I feel bad he's no longer our guy," Feldman said. "If you're a Michigan guy, it's easy to take shots, but I think you're going to see that the people that felt he was over his head at Michigan are going to look and say, ‘maybe we should've give him more time', or wonder how much he could've done if he stayed around.

"I think Arizona is just lucky Michigan didn't give him the fourth year."


Wildcat Authority Top Stories