February 11 Football Notebook

Rich Rodriguez held a press conference on Wednesday in which he discusses changes to the defense and more.

Rich Rodriguez met with the media on Wednesday in anticipation of spring football starting on Friday.

* Sharif Williams had to medically retire and although he never played a down at Arizona, Rodriguez expressed sadness over the news.

“He had not played,” Rodriguez said. “I think he was a big guy who can move, I just feel bad. He was a really good player and when he had that devastating knee injury in high school he never recovered. 

“We honored his scholarship, which we should have. He worked his tail off to get back, but he was never able to get back to 100 percent and that is unfortunate. He keeps his scholarship and hopefully will graduate with his degree and move on with his life.”

* There won’t be any position battles won in the spring, but it remains important.

“I think spring is important from a fundamental standpoint and for our players to prove we can win with them,” Rodriguez said. “They aren’t going to win a starting spot in the spring, they have to wait until August to do that, but they can prove they are good or talented enough to win with. From an answering all the questions standpoint, spring is a part of that, but not the most pivotal thing.”

* Rodriguez continues to get asked questions about having to change his defensive staff and gave some clarity on his thought process.

“It wasn’t just after the season and it wasn’t just one game,” he said. “It was a combination. I want to make one thing really clear: those guys that were with us on defense were really, really good coaches. Great people, really good coaches, and very sound in our scheme. 

“It just didn’t work. I think we needed to blow the whole thing up and start over again. That was a very difficult decision because I have respect for those guys as people and coaches.”

* In addition, Rodriguez wanted to make sure that the previous defensive staff did not take full blame.

“You can’t say it was just their fault, it would be a poor approach,” Rodriguez said. “It is a start over for us defensively. Scheme standpoint, recruiting standpoint, all across the board. I think we needed to do it. 

“It is going to be painful at first because they are going to be learning new terminology and getting accustomed to different techniques, but I think I hired really good full-time coaches on defense. 

“We’ll still struggle on times because we’re not going to be as talented as we need to be on defense, but in the future we’ll be talented and I think we will get this defense where our fans want it to be.”

* Implementing the new defensive scheme will be important, but not the top priority this spring.

“Implementing the new defensive system is further down the list of importance,” Rodriguez said. “We will have a practice where we don’t do anything but block and tackle and teach the fundamentals, the why, and how and the techniques of it. 

“That is something we would never do before in August or before the season. The fundamental part is the most critical part of the spring and then the implementation is further down.”

* When hiring Marcel Yates as defensive coordinator, Rodriguez knew exactly what he was looking for. 

“I knew about him before and saw him up close and personal when we played him in the Fiesta Bowl,” Rodriguez said. “After doing a little bit of research and then interviewing and talking to him, I was looking for someone that was strong enough as a coordinator that he could teach and develop a system or scheme, but also flexible enough in his thought process that he was open to new and fresh ideas. 

“You want somebody that didn't want to come here for the job, but that wanted to come here and make a difference. I told him I will give him parameters and stick my head in there and give some ideas, but I’m not calling the defense or teaching the scheme, they are going to do that.”

* Another new hire is Jahmile Addae, who will coach the safeties.

“I didn't hire him because of loyalty, I hired him because I think he is a really good football coach and a great recruiter,” Rodriguez said. “He’s been down the hallway from the coaches for the last couple years and I think he is special. 

“He has turned down full time, well-paid Division I coaching jobs to stay on here as an analyst waiting for an opportunity. I told him when he turned the last one down that I appreciate his loyalty, but he was going to be full times pretty quickly.”

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