Cats add enthusiastic assistant

It hasn't been made official yet, but Mike Stoops informed the media yesterday that he has added a second coach to his coaching staff at Arizona. Eric Wolford, North Texas' offensive line coach, will come to Arizona in the same capacity. He joins Mark Stoops as the first two assistant coaches on Mike Stoops' inaugural staff.

Eric Wolford has ties to the Stoops family dating back to Kansas State. Bob Stoops recruited Wolford when he was an assistant with the Wildcats. Wolford hails from Youngstown, Ohio, the same hometown as the Stoops'.

"I have known him for some time," Stoops said during a teleconference on Thursday. "Bob recruited him to Kansas State. He played at a rival school in Youngstown.

Wolford has competed in Tucson before. He played at Arizona Stadium as a member of the 1993 Kansas State Copper Bowl squad.

"It was the first bowl game under coach Snyder," Wolford said. "It was such a good time. Such a good reward for the hard work we put in."

Stoops competed against Wolford's club this past season. The Mean Green hung with Oklahoma in the season's first game. The Sooners eventually prevailed 37-3, but Stoops obviously saw something he liked in Wolford's offensive lines.

"He has done a great job at North Texas State and what they have done," Stoops said. "He has great energy and passion for working, great with kids. I think he will bring a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to our program, something I think we desperately need and a guy the players will relate to."

Wolford's enthusiasm comes through immediately. Here is a guy who loves the game and loves working with young athletes. If the Cats need a guy to instill a little passion, Wolford's seems to be a coach who can do that.

"I have a passion for working with young people," Wolford said. "I was cut by the Arizona Cardinals and Buddy Ryan and I realized if I can't play the game anymore, I better coach it. I try to be a father figure to these guys. A lot of young people need that."

Wolford was a grad assistant at his alma matter before taking a job at small-school Emporia State. Wolford moved from Emporia to South Florida, where he helped build a program from the ground up. In his first year Wolford had to guide an offensive line that did not have a collegiate start among them. Within two years the team was averaging over 400 yards a game.

It was at South Florida that Wolford had a chance to work with Mark Stoops.

"Mark and I developed a close relationship at South Florida," Wolford said. "He's a great coach."

After the South Florida experience, he moved on the Houston where he coached on both sides of the ball and some special teams. It was with the Cougars that he developed a number of recruiting ties in a city that has been vital to Arizona's success.

From the recruiting scene he is already familiar with a number of current Wildcats, which should make the transition easier for both parties.

It stands to reason that Wolford will continue to coach the offensive line, but that is not set in stone. Stoops has indicated that he wants to hire people first, position coaches second. There is a good chance that coaches could be shifted around as the staff is assembled.

"I am not going to name positions," Stoops said. "The puzzle has not been put together on how we are going to work the staff. I will name positions as I finalize those. Nothing will be finalized until the whole staff will be in place." Recruiting areas are not set either, but Wolford has great ties to Texas. He's recruited all over the Lone Star State and has great ties with high schools and JUCOs. He has also recruited in Florida, Ohio and most importantly the Kansas junior colleges. Arizona has fared well at times in the Kansas JC ranks, pulling a handful of players from those schools.

Wolford is thrilled to be making the move to Arizona. He's had great success at North Texas, but the chance to coach in the Pac-10 and with two of the Stoops brothers was just too great an opportunity to pass up.

"I consider him a friend," Wolford said of Mike Stoops. "But I'm not on the staff because I'm his friend, I'm on the staff because we had the right fit. With all of the contacts you make in coaching you can't hire all your friends. You have to hire those that just fit. I have a passion for working with and teaching young people and I think he saw that."

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