By Michael Felder
Late yesterday evening the Arizona Wildcats let the college football world know that they were going to make the first coaching move of the 2011 season. Firing Mike Stoops, head coach of their 1-5 ball club in a move, that for me, is a bit of a head scratcher.
Yes the Wildcats are 1-5. Yes they have lost 10 straight games to BCS opponents. Yes they have been blown out twice by Oklahoma State, Stanford and Oregon in the last year. Yes this is a team that lost to the woefully bad Oregon State Beavers this season. Yes this team has scored 10 total points in their last two bowl appearances combined.
Yes this is a ball club that, given their schedule with Washington and Arizona State still looming large, would likely miss out on a fourth bowl trip.
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes to all of those things.
Oh and yes the Wildcats are 115th in total defense and 117th in scoring defense this season.
But that said, where do they go from here?
The Chris Petersen rumor has become an interesting topic for folks. Arizona's side is selling the friendship between Wildcat athletic director Greg Byrne and Petersen while folks on the outside are thinking "what the hell" in regards to Petersen taking the Arizona gig. Arizona has improved but this is the same Chris Petersen that has resisted inquiries and overtures from other big time jobs. This is the same Chris Petersen that has said there is nowhere he'd rather be than Boise, Idaho. Sidenote, and nothing legitimate but message board fodder, Chris Petersen's name has actually surfaced for much of the same reasons at UNC; his friendship with Tar Heel AD candidate Bubba Cunningham from Tulsa.
We next get to the super terrific awesome case of Mike Leach for Arizona. As you know if you've been following the website I'm not exactly a mega-fan of the swashbuckling coach and most definitely was not in favor of Leach getting the Maryland gig or any of the other more recent openings such as Miami or now probably open UNC. Maryland is hyper political, Miami requires some legitimate recruiting chops when a guy is asked to battle Will Muschamp, Jimbo Fisher plus all the coaches dipping their cups into the pool and UNC has a fanbase that needs their egos stroked in a magnificent way that the Pirate just doesn't fit.
For the first time in awhile I can actually say Mike Leach seems to be an alright fit for this gig. The Wildcats are desperate for wins and after Stoops' failure to move the program beyond the eight win plateau it is clear the fans have grown weary of the middle Stoops' routine. They're looking to "make a splash" somewhat and Leach ultimately does that for the folks in Tucson. He's a name. He'll put butts in seats. He brings an exciting brand of football that will fill up the stats sheets and keep offense lovers entertained.
Now the downside, does Leach actually fix any of the football problems this team has?
The infrastructure for a squad who wants to throw the football and be an Air Raid offense is already there. That is the type of offense that the Wildcats already employ in Tucson. Check this out; 28th in total offense to the tune of 454.8 yards per game and 3rd in passing offense thanks to their 383 yards per game.
They are already doing what Mike Leach does; moving the football through the air. Nick Foles has the most completions per game in the FBS world; the senior is also 25th in quarterback efficiency, second in total passing yards and third in passing yards per game.
So outside of a little bump in efficiency, maybe scoring the football where exactly is Mike Leach being hired going to do anything but be a media show that doesn't exactly solve the issues that Arizona has; defense. Defense is not what Mike Leach does. Defense is not what his teams have ever done. In fact, defense is not what any of the Air Raid head coaches have done. Kevin Sumlin at Houston can attest to this where his Cougs are 71st in total defense. Kevin Wilson now at Indiana has the Hoosiers sitting at 97th offensively. Hal Mumme, the originator of the concept doesn't exactly bring defense to his high flying parties.
This Arizona Wildcats team has issues; unfortunately offense is not one of them and bringing Mike Leach on will not shore up this squad's defense. Mike Stoops, being the defensive mind that he was, or more aptly put that we thought he was, has failed on his side of the football. This defensive unit is not very good at stopping the run or the pass or keeping folks out of the end zone. For the Wildcats to improve they have to get more from the defensive side of the football.
I'm all for hiring Leach; the infrastructure is already in place for the Wildcats to make a seamless transition to the Pirate, Leach will sell tickets and Arizona folks will continue to sling the football around and score points.
He's not going to fix their defense and he's not going to elevate their recruiting but the college football world is dying for the opinionated quirky Leach to get back into the game, so, why not Arizona?
Get more great college football analysis over at In The Bleachers.