Arizona is close to completing its first coaching staff of the Jedd Fisch era, after the Wildcats officially announced the hiring of strength and conditioning coach Tyler Owens. Here's who the UA has hired so far, which is a blend of NFL and college experience, seasoned and youthful coaches and former UA stars.
Title: Head coach
Last Stop: Quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots
Coaching history: Leaving notes on Steve Spurrier’s windshield every day for 400-plus days sparked Fisch’s coaching journey as a graduate assistant at Florida. Then the offensive-minded Fisch took his talents to the NFL between 2002-08 and worked under the minds of Super Bowl-winning coaches Brian Billick (Baltimore) and Mike Shanahan (Washington).
Fisch returned to the college ranks in 2009-10 at Minnesota as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, before joining Pete Carroll’s first staff with the Seattle Seahawks in ‘10, followed by a brief stint as the offensive coordinator with the Miami Hurricanes. Since taking the Miami gig, Fisch has worked as an offensive assistant at Michigan (2015-16) under Jim Harbaugh and UCLA (‘17) under Jim Mora. His other NFL jobs over the last decade were with the Jaguars, Rams and most recently the Patriots. Between Bill Belichick, Shanahan, Billick and Carroll, Fisch worked for head coaches that won a combined 11 Super Bowls.
He said it: “I know none of us like to have time and patience, but I think time and patience in the short term. And then trust. Trust that when I say that our family will be completely ingrained into the community, I don’t think it’ll take long for people to see us as University of Arizona (representatives). … It’ll take some time. I understand that. But it won’t be out of reach. We’ll make sure that we get there. We’re gonna have a brand of football people are going to want to be a part of.” — Fisch
Title: Offensive coordinator / Offensive line coach
Last Stop: Run-game coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks
Coaching history: Speaking of Uncle Pete, the son of the Seahawks — and former USC — head coach tagged along Fisch to Tucson as the Wildcats’ next offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. The 41-year-old Carroll has mostly coached under the elder Carroll, whether it was at USC from 2002-09 or with the Seahawks as a run-game coordinator from 2015-20. In 2018, the Carroll-coached Seahawks rushing attack finished atop of the league with 2,560 yards. Carroll first coached with Fisch in 2011, when they were offensive assistants on Al Golden’s Miami staff.
He said it: "Having the opportunity to be reunited with Coach Fisch and his family was something my family and I had always hoped for. I have always had tremendous respect for the Pac-12 Conference and loved my time competing in this league. The opportunity to be a part of the growth of this program was something I could not pass up. This is a great time to be a part of the Wildcat family, and my family and I can't wait to get to Tucson." — Carroll
Title: Defensive coordinator
Last Stop: Defensive coordinator at Michigan
Coaching history: The 65-year-old “Dr. Blitz” has been a defensive coordinator at Dartmouth (1984-86), Yale (‘87-’92), Brown (‘96-’97), UMass (‘98-’99), Maryland (2009-10), Connecticut (‘11-’12), Boston College (‘13-’15) and Michigan (‘16-’20). Brown went down the head coaching path at Northeastern of the FCS and UMass (2004-08). Under Brown’s direction, Michigan and Boston College never finished below 12th in national total defensive ratings, except for the 2020 season when the Wolverines were ranked 56th in that category, leading to Brown's dismissal.
He said it: "Today is a huge day for Arizona football as we have the opportunity to welcome Dr. Blitz to our football program. ... He is incredibly passionate and a phenomenal teacher. He brings an energy and enthusiasm to play an attacking style of defense, one in which all former and current players, football alumni and our fan base will be proud of and genuinely excited to watch on Saturdays in the fall." — Fisch
Title: Quarterbacks coach / Passing-game coordinator
Last Stop: Wide receivers coach at UCLA
Coaching history: Between 2002-16, the Peoria, Illinois native has held position, coordinator and analyst titles at Illinois Wesleyan, San Diego, Washington, San Jose State and Michigan. Dougherty was recently a wide receivers coach at UCLA from 2017-20, and coached the Bruins’ corps to a school-record 4,478 passing yards in his first season.
He said it: "He is a great teacher and technician that brings tremendous creativity and understanding of the game. I've seen how players connect to him and gravitate towards him, which makes him stand out in all facets of coaching and recruiting. Jimmie builds his relationships with players and recruits through trust and by connecting with them like they're part of his family. He will be a tremendous addition to Coach Fisch's staff and the Arizona football program." — Former UCLA head coach Jim Mora
Title: Running backs coach
Last stop: Associate athletic director at Arizona State
Coaching history: The most inexperienced coach on Fisch’s staff was recently a senior associate athletic director for student-athlete development at ASU. Prior to his stop in Tempe, Graham, 51, never worked at the collegiate level. Graham was a former star running back at Ohio State and was drafted by the New York Jets in 1992. Graham’s NFL career lasted five seasons with the Jets, Vikings and Bengals.
He said it: "Coach Graham played at the highest level for a long time, as a running back in the National Football League. He also worked for the NFL Players Association in key positions. His mentorship and his ability to help our student-athletes achieve their goals to become professionals, both on and off the field, is a critical part to bringing him on staff. I am so excited to welcome Coach Graham and his family to Tucson!" — Fisch
Title: Defensive line coach
Last stop: Defensive line coach at Memphis (2015)
Coaching history: One way for Fisch to make a splash on the coaching staff was to hire arguably the greatest player in program history, and he did just that with Hunley. The former All-American, Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year and all-time UA tackles leader (566) started coaching in 1992 as a graduate assistant. Since then, Hunley held defensive coaching titles at Missouri, Florida and Memphis, while also coaching in the NFL with Washington, Cincinnati and the Raiders.
He said it: "Working for the University of Arizona has always been my destination, and I can't say enough how much I appreciate the love and support of my family, friends, football alumni, the university and the Wildcat family. My goal is to Bear Down and be as good of a coach for the young men in the program now as I was as a player for this great university." — Hunley
Title: Defensive backs coach (safeties)
Last stop: Senior defensive analyst at UA
Coaching history: Speaking of UA greats and celebrated players, Cecil, who’s lived in Tucson since taking a defensive analyst job at Arizona in 2017, was hired as the defensive backs coach with a focus on safeties. The 1987 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year was a secondary and defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans and finished his pro-coaching career with the Rams in 2016. Cecil was Arizona’s interim defensive coordinator for four games in 2019, after Marcel Yates was fired midseason. After Paul Rhoads was hired as UA’s defensive coordinator in 2020, Cecil returned to analyst duties.
He said it: "The University of Arizona and the Tucson Community is home to me, and I am proud to serve the Wildcat football program and its incredible student-athletes as defensive backs coach. I am grateful to Coach Fisch for the opportunity to work alongside him and the entire UArizona coaching staff as we bring back the grit, toughness and character of Arizona football." — Cecil
Title: Defensive backs coach (cornerbacks and nickels)
Last stop: Cornerbacks coach for Cleveland Browns (2019)
Coaching history: Another seasoned addition to UA’s staff, Walker began his coaching career at Mt. San Antonio College in 1988, when Fisch was 12 years old. Since his first stop at the Los Angeles-area junior college, Walker weaved between the college and NFL ranks as a position coach or defensive coordinator, and four years as a head coach at New Mexico State. Between 2013-19, Walker was a cornerbacks coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he first crossed paths with Fisch, and the Cleveland Browns.
He said it: "We talked about (Fisch) eventually becoming a head coach of his own program while we were together with the Jaguars, and it's a special moment to see that dream come to fruition. I believe this is where I belong because coaching and developing young men in the college game is where I started and it's my passion. I can't wait to get to Tucson to coach alongside Jedd and his outstanding staff to work with the young men in the program to be successful on the field and in life after football." — Walker
Title: Wide receivers coach
Last stop: Wide receivers coach at San Jose State
Coaching history: The former Oregon State wide receiver, 30, was a quality control coach at his alma mater from 2014-16. From 2017-20, Cummings coached San Jose State’s wide receivers under Dick Tomey disciple Brent Brennan. Cummings, a Los Angeles native, coached All-Mountain West wide receiver Tre Walker, who entered the transfer portal last week.
He said it: "When we started our search for a wide receivers coach, we were looking for a great developer of talent, a great fundamental coach, a relationship-builder and someone who has been productive wherever he has been. KC is that guy!” — Fisch
Title: Tight ends coach
Last stop: Special teams coordinator / tight ends coach at UNLV
Coaching history: The Oceanside, Calif. native has coached in the Pac-12 at Washington and Stanford. At UW, Paopao coached three NFL tight ends: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Will Dissly and Drew Sample.
He said it: "Jordan has been an unbelievable developer of talent and will help us produce more NFL tight ends, hopefully similar to the one who is currently playing for the Buccaneers (Rob Gronkowski). Bringing Coach Paopao back down the west coast, close to his alma mater and hometown, is going to be critical to our success. As we build our offense and incorporate the tight end, Coach Paopao will be integral.” — Fisch
Title: Strength and conditioning coach
Last stop: Assistant strength coach at Alabama
Coaching history: Owens was a former walk-on linebacker at Alabama under Nick Saban from 2011-15, before joining the Crimson Tide's strength staff.