Sadly, I missed four seasons of Arizona football. One of my last memories of the Wildcats as I boarded a Jumbo Jet to Auckland, New Zealand from Los Angeles was reading a little snippet in the LA Times about a hot new QB recruit from LA's Lynwood High School who just committed to the "Cats. One Charles "Chuck" Levy.
I missed the early years of the original Desert Swarm- I never saw the great Daryll Lewis patrol the corners with such abandon and precision, I missed the great games against Miami and some of the classic 90's UA-ASU tilts. When I returned home in late 1993, I had the pleasure of watching that same hot recruit from Lynwood High, Chuck Levy, rip the Miami Hurricanes defense in a stunning 29-0 victory. As the final gun sounded, NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth's last words that still echo through my mind -"Welcome to the Big Time Arizona Wildcats".
The "Big Time." Fast forward to that magical 1998 season, the "Leap by the Lake" and the hammering of the vaunted Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Holiday Bowl along with the 288 yd-three TD rushing clinic put on by Trung Canidate against ASU. So much hope for The Big Time, so many expectations that optimism over the next two seasons slowly eroded in a shower of frustration and missed field goals.
I was again out of the country (in Vancouver BC) when I learned of the appointment of John Mackovic to replace the departed Dick Tomey. My immediate reaction- Excitement combined with a quiet optimism. Why? I remember as a lad when Coach M was the O-Coordinator and also remember watching his stable of running backs and wide receivers. Guys like Willie Hamilton, Derral Davis, Jimmy Upchurch and the great "T" Bell, all led by the incomparable Bruce Hill ripped apart WAC foes for two straight 9-2 seasons. I remember footballs sailing through the air. I remember so many 400 yard passing days that they became the norm.
Now after several successful stints at the likes of Texas, the Kansas City Chiefs and the University of Illinois, John Mackovic is back at the University of Arizona. The Cats now have a coach who a lot of experts consider one of the foremost offensive minds in college football. Also, wasn't Mackovic the guy who recruited and trained such QB's as Jeff George, Mark Hermann and Jason Verdugo? Lets not forget a runningback out of Southern Cal named Ricky Williams.
Offense? At the U of A? Stay tuned…