Arizona today announced the hire of ex-West Virginia and Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez as the successor to Mike Stoops (if you discount Stoops’ interim successor, Tim Kish, who coaches his final game Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette).
Interesting hire, one made by Greg Byrne, the relatively new AD who had ties to the University of Oregon and also to Mississippi State, where he had been the Bulldogs’ AD.
Rodriguez brings name familiarity, although not all of it was positive at Michigan. He did attract Denard Robinson to the Wolverines’ program, but there were all sorts of problems, probably starting with whether Rodriguez was ever really a fit for Michigan.
Byrne surely took into account that Rodriguez could have a chance to hit the ground running competitively, because the UA is redshirting quarterback Matt Scott. He’s the dual threat who had some solid moments in relief of an injured Nick Foles last season. Husky fans will recall that one of them came against Washington, when Scott completed 18 of 22 passes for 233 yards and ran seven times for 65 yards in a 44-14 victory.
That sounds a lot like what Rodriguez likes. At West Virginia, he had Pat White, the only quarterback in history to start four straight bowl victories.
Two concerns: Rodriguez’ spread-option is heavily run-based, and it’s difficult to make a transition in and out of it. Even with Scott, there will be some growing pains after the Foles-dominated throwing offense Arizona has been running.
Second, Rodriguez is making the jump to the West. That’s not insurmountable, but it’s another challenge in staff hiring and targeting recruits.
Still, this is one case in which an early firing may have helped, giving Rodriguez extra time to hit the recruiting trail. Of course, it only works if you hire a coach who isn’t already on another staff.