One-on-One with Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez is trying to make the most out of his time in Tucson. Read on for his thoughts on the coaching staff, recruiting, and more.

He's been in town exactly two weeks, but even amongst the excitement of moving to a new conference, region, and position, newly anointed Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez is enjoying himself.

"Things in Tucson have been good so far," Rodriguez said. "I'm still in the honeymoon, so it's all good. I haven't gotten around much because I've really spent all week getting to know our players and it's been good so far."

It's not just the student-athletes that will comprise his 2012 roster that he's trying to interact with and get to know, as evidenced by his sitting in the ZonaZoo student section for the second half of the men's basketball game versus Northern Arizona.

"The students were terrific," Rodriguez said. "The student body is so critical for us from an attendance and support standpoint. Our players are part of them, and I want the student body to know that. Their attendance at the games, their passion for the program is critical to our success."

The first official business of the Rich Rodriguez era was announced on Monday with the hiring of Tony Gibson, Tony Dews, and Calvin Magee from Pittsburgh. While his staff is still far from complete, Rodriguez is pleased with the first three appointments he's made.

"They're guys I've known for a long time and worked with, so I know how they can coach, I know how they can recruit and what kind of people they are," Rodriguez said. "They fit everything I want as a coach: greater recruiters, outstanding teachers, good people. I'm in a hurry to get them down here to work in recruiting and hopefully by the end of the week I'll have some more guys hired both on and off the field."

Up next for Rodriguez is the hire he even acknowledges is perhaps his most important one, defensive coordinator of his famed 3-3-5 scheme.

"I've got to hire a defensive coordinator, that's a big hire for me, I think everybody knows that," Rodriguez said. "It has to be a person that understands what I want to do and what we want to do defensively and also can help us win a lot of games in the Pac-12; which is going to be a challenge because there are so many good offenses.

"I've talked to some really good ones, and they're all a part of really good programs right now, but there's a lot of interest; which is really good because it tells you a lot about this place."

While some of his former assistants during his stops at West Virginia and Michigan are in the running for vacant positions, Rodriguez insists that won't be the only pool he'll be drawing from.

"I also want to talk to a couple members on this staff, there's a couple of guys I'm really interested in," Rodriguez said. "There's a couple other guys that know the area as far as west coast and recruiting that I'm very interested in. There's no shortage of candidates, it seems like I get a stack of them every day.

"I wish I could hire them all because there are some unbelievable coaches that want to be here. That speaks well of this place and I think it also speaks well of the guys that I'm hiring because they want to be here with me."

Speaking of the west coast connection on his staff, Rodriguez believes he can assemble a staff, with or without one, and effectively fill the roster with talented players year-in and year-out.

"That west connection is important somewhat, I've got to have some guys on the staff that have at least a familiarity with recruiting Arizona, California, and Texas," Rodriguez said. "In some respect, it sometimes is probably a little overrated because if a guy is a good recruiter you can put him anywhere and he can sign guys.

"I've done that with guys at Michigan, I've done that with guys at West Virginia. The best recruiters can go find players and involve themselves in a certain area. That being said, I want to have some guys on the staff that can help us hit the ground running, that know this state, that know California and Texas, and I'll have some of those guys as well."

When he is able to get his staff in place, Rodriguez will move full speed ahead and get to work on Arizona's 2012 recruiting class.

"We can sign a full class of 25, but it's more important to get the right guys," Rodriguez said. "I'm still figuring out our needs, and when I get the whole staff together we'll talk about that. When everybody is opening up Christmas presents, I'll be watching film of our team to see exactly what we have coming back.

"I think our recruiting will improve each year, because recruiting is usually a year or two-year kind of relationship you have to build. Now we're relying on some of these guys in just two months, so always the first year is more difficult. I think we can put together a great class, there's a lot of good players committed and there are a lot of good players that are interested and we'll take it from there.

"The guy that committed here before, I hope the things they liked about Arizona are still here. Certainly the campus, the community, the university and the academics, and the north end zone project will be a big selling point for us. Hopefully they'll realize when they meet the new staff how comfortable they'll be with the new staff as well."

With respect to the players already on his roster, Rodriguez looks forward to wiping the slate clean and giving everyone a clean slate.

"It's too early for me to evaluate what we have," Rodriguez said. "We have a lot of guys that are going to be good players and I like the attitude of the team so far. I told them that even though they've played some, that's good because they have experience, but everyone has a fresh start in spring practice. Everyone has to prove themselves all over again, and that's how it should be anyways."

With new beginnings in the future of each of Arizona's players under Rodriguez, the long standing tradition of camping at Fort Huachuca is something that will remain in tact despite the coaching change.

"I know all about Fort Huachuca," Rodriguez said. "I've talked to the players about it and I've talked to Mike Stoops about it because I've had a couple of dinners with Mike, and we're going to do that again. I don't know exactly when in camp or how long, but we will be back down there again."

Even though the out of conference schedule for Arizona is mostly full beyond the 2015 season, Rodriguez did offer some insight as to how he hopes to shape the Wildcats' schedule with the available vacancies.

"I think our out-of-conference schedule is pretty full, but going forward, talking with our athletic department and Greg Byrne, obviously we have to try to get as many home games as possible because that pays the bills," Rodriguez said. "Outside of that, we need to find non-conference opponents that will be appealing to our fans. The way the Pac-12 is set with nine league games, most teams have eight league games, our schedule is already attractive from that point." Rodriguez even addressed the notion that part of his accepting of the Arizona job was conditional on Byrne's scheduling of his former employer, Michigan.

"I teased him about that, it was really just something I teased him about," Rodriguez said. "But I do not anticipate that happening."

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