Defense continues to progress

Arizona's defense made progress throughout the season and will continue to get better now that it is over. Read on to see what Jeff Casteel says about its performance, future, and more.

Arizona defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel recalls his first practice at Arizona not being the best one the Wildcats could have had.

"It was rough," Casteel said. "I think if you asked the kids they would say really rough. It is a little easier for the coaches. We know what to expect and were are trying to get it where the kids are like ‘Where did these guys come from?’

"I think they have adjusted and we have adjusted a little bit, but I am really proud of our guys. I am proud of the way they go about practice and I am proud of the way they handle themselves."

One of the biggest obstacles that any new coaching staff has is trying to get the players from the previous regime to buy in.

"I think the thing that gets overlooked is when there is a coaching change, the kids that are in the program, that’s not who they signed up with," Casteel said. "That’s tough and I think that is really tough on the kids.

"That is why you are proud to see a Jourdon Grandon and Dan Pettinato and these guys that hung in there, because that’s not easy to do. It wasn’t the system they were recruited for, but they hung in there and bought into it."

The difficulty in trying to get everybody on board is not something that surprised Casteel.

"When you go to a different place that is part of the deal," he said. "It is fun to get with a new group of kids and get adjusted to them.

"I think the first year it was a serious adjustment for the kids. We are who we are and I think they understand who we are now. We get on them a lot, but I think they understand what we are trying to do when we push them."

Casteel recalls when he was new to the system as well, going back to when he first learned the 3-3-5.

"Ours goes back to Wake Forest with Dean Hood and he was down with Jim Grobe and they had played it for the last three or four weeks of the season because they were a 3-4 team and they had a couple kids get hurt," Casteel said.

"They had gone to see Charlie Strong at South Carolina and gotten it from him. We went through the spring and went down and saw Dean and they were more than accommodating for us.

"We went down there two or three times and just kind of went from there. I had never heard of it, but I figured if I wanted to continue to coach I better listen to the head coach and go learn it."

Now that Casteel has had nearly 15 years to work on it, he has been able to put on some of his own touches.

"I think the spread teams that you see, it allows you to plug in different things," he said. "Personnel wise, as we continue to grow at Arizona, it will be a little easier for us to do that to some of the teams that are going to be a little bit more power.

"I think from a terminology standpoint, the kids are now accustomed to that, so that’s easier. They know how we are looking the game and what we are trying to do, so I think all of that is much easier.

"Kids that did so many things to try to help improve the program and mesh the new staff with the kids, there are a lot of things that go on that nobody really sees."

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