With the Arizona Wildcats off to a pathetic 2-6 start the Fat Irish Bastard decided to give his 13 ideas to fix the program. These ideas will bounce around from short term to long term. Some are geared to fixing this season and some are more geared to the long term health of the program as the humble Fat Bastard sees it. So without further ado let's Git-R-Done.
1- The process of sitting some of the older players in favor of the younger ones has already started. Nic Grigsby is the starter at running back, Ricky Elmore is playing more and more at defensive end and Kaniela Tuipulotu saw his most action to date on the defensive line against Stanford. This process is for the long term health of the program and needs to continue.
2- Two seniors have had their chances to produce and contribute and now their time has passed. Senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson should not see the field for the rest of the season. Nobody has ever doubted the physical abilities of Johnson and he has made some big plays for the Cats in his career but the only thing consistent about Johnson is his consistency in being inconsistent. From dropped balls to the fumble against Stanford, his time is passed.
3- The other senior is defensive end and 5-star head case Louis Holmes. Holmes came to Arizona with all world talent and an ego befitting that of an old world English King. Holmes, like Johnson, needs to, at a minimum, see his time on the field disappear. With rumblings that he has sort of done his own thing, not given 100% and played by his own rules, he is setting a bad example. At this point his presence around McKale is only hurting the younger guys since they see him taking liberties fit for a King all the while he is still not producing. Holmes is a distraction and if he and he needs to go for the good of the 2007 season and the long term health of the other defensive ends in the program.
4- There is a big disconnect between coaches and players on the offensive side of the ball. There are no leaders coming from the player's ranks as nobody has yet to step up and lead the overall unit. Junior quarterback Willie Tuitama needs to be a leader. He needs to be a vocal leader and he needs to lead by example. As it stands, none of the quarterbacks go the extra mile, spending extra time with the coaching staff other than what is expected or scheduled. Fellow junior Mike Thomas needs to develop more leadership as do at least two offensive linemen. Sophomore center Blake Kerley should be the leader of the unit as he is truly the centerpiece of a very promising young line. Junior right guard Joe Longacre has great leadership abilities but he has yet to consistently show them. Leading is not just showing up and doing YOUR job, it is sticking around and putting in the extra effort to make sure EVERYONE is doing their job. Right now the offense is leaderless and if the Cats have any hope of salvaging this season then a few guys absolutely need to step up and lead. Leaders emerging now will also help as the Cats move towards next season.
5- Mike Stoops needs to set up a leadership council of some kind. The council should be made up of a minimum of two guys from each class. There should be at least two seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and two freshmen. Right now there is very little, if any, communication between players and coaches and that is not a good sign for the program. The players and coaches get along and there is not really any bad blood between the two groups, but there does seem to be a lack of trust between the two groups. A leadership council is a good step towards opening the lines of communication more in order to save the program.
6- The team needs to do something fun together. I know this idea may sound very Pop Warner but it can work. Going to movies or eating dinner together is the norm and the team needs to step outside the norm and mix it up a little bit. Even if Stoops has to cancel an entire practice so the team can go to Colossal Cave or Old Tucson together, something needs to be done to shake things up in a good and happy way. The football players may be older and may have ‘outgrown' this sort of thing, but something needs to be done. Nobody is having fun and smiles are rare anymore.
7- Mike Stoops needs to take more chances. Stoops needs to be a more open coach and he needs to start having some fun. The Wildcats are playing ‘not to lose' and instead they need to be playing to win. If you take chances and are firm and solid in your decision to take a chance then whether it works or not the players will gain some trust. Stoops has the pressure already, coming from every direction, so there should be no need to freeze up and take your time in making decisions. Have some fun and take some big gambles and if they don't work, oh well, the pressure cannot get any greater for Stoops or his staff. It all starts at the top and if Stoops and his staff start having some fun and taking legitimate chances and move away from their own comfort zones more then the players will take note and follow the example of their coaching staff.
8- This is one thing that has been bothering me. The Cats entrance into the stadium this season is terrible. The fireworks are still there but gone is the huge inflatable football helmet and more importantly, gone is Metallica or any music as the team enters the field. I don't know if it will help the team or the program but it will help get the fans pumped up at least. There is no pageantry to Arizona Football anymore and there needs to be something. Fireworks are fine but there needs to be more, much more.
9- Athletic Director Jim Livengood needs to hire an outside consultant to come in and help with just about everything. From helping Stoops to talking to players, a consultant will only help. It has been talked about a lot and now is the time to bring in a guy like Larry Smith to hang around the office and help with things. Even if he just sits around and tells old war stories from the UA-ASU rivalry, it will shake things up a bit. I am sure the current players and coaches would love to hear the story about how Smith threw the bird to ASU fans one year. Or the story of the Chuck Cecil 106-yard interception return for a touchdown against ASU. Smith has been a winner as a head coach as he won at Arizona, USC and Missouri. Bringing in some help is healthy and Smith, I am sure, would be more than willing to come in and help out.
10- Just to shake things up a little more for this season, maybe Mike Stoops should coach the next game from the booth upstairs, just for giggles. In baseball sometimes a manager moves from the dugout to coach third base and more often than not it works and it sparks the team, so why can't doing the reverse work? Coaching one game from the booth would change Stoops' perspective and maybe it would force the assistants and the players to be more ‘on their toes' during the game. The rest of the staff and the players are more than capable of making things happen. It also wouldn't hurt the Pac-10 officiating crews either as they would only have to deal with one screaming Stoops instead of two. For one game Stoops should trade places with linebackers coach and associate head coach Tim Kish. For one game Kish should be on the sideline and Stoops should be in the booth.
11- At one practice, for a limited time, the Cats should play a different sport, like kickball or something. Just for a little fun shake up the Cats should shed the pads and the seriousness and play a little offense vs. defense game of kickball or dodge ball or something fun from elementary school. You can even pit the seniors against the coaches just to see if the coaches still have it.
12- During the Washington game, at some point no matter how the game is going, senior quarterback Kris Heavner should be given a series or two. Tuitama is the starter and will be the man in the offense, but giving him a different perspective can only help. If he sits, uninjured, for a series or two during a game he will be able to stand next to Sonny Dykes and watch things from a different angle. It is no secret that Willie has been absolutely terrible the last two games. He has not made a ton of noticeable mistakes but to those in the know, he has been just awful. Pull him for a series or two and see how he reacts.
13- There are four games left in the 2007 season and it is time to just flat out let everything hang out and it is time for Arizona Football to just go for it. Trick plays, going for it on fourth down, onside kicks, who cares just go shock the hell out of people and have some damn fun. If the Cats lose, they lose, nothing different, at least you lost having some fun. On the first play of the Washington game the Cats should run a double reverse, no matter where on the field they are. I don't care if they are on their own 2, run a trick play. Dykes should scrap any script he has and just start calling plays from the beginning. There should be a minimum number of times the Cats throw more than 15 yards downfield. The Cats should make a point to go downfield a minimum of 15 times against Washington. There should be a minimum of 5 trick plays run in each half of the game. On defense the Cats should blitz a minimum of 40% of the time.
In the end it is time for Mike Stoops and the rest of Arizona Football to listen to a little old school music and ‘Shake It Up'. Ric Ocasek may have been ugly and awkward looking but however he shook it up in his own life he still managed to marry Supermodel Paulina Porizkova so shaking things up can work and for the Wildcats what is the worst that can happen, another loss?