Head coach admits he’s no miracle man
Mike Stoops, at a critical crossroad in his Arizona career, still looking for his first winning season, admits he has learned one thing.
“I found out I’m not a miracle worker,” said Stoops, entering his fourth season as head coach of the University of Arizona football team.
“Everyone thinks they are. But football is an ultimate team game.”
Stoops is a high-energy, hands-on coach, but he can’t be everywhere, do everything. This is the ultimate team game. That means trusting your coaches, your players, your secretaries, your managers. . . .
Stoops needs to step back and be The Decider.
Which is why he’s had an impressive offseason.
He was bold in deciding to remake the offense with the kind of passing-heavy spread offense not seen in the Pac-10. This isn’t a change of oil and air filter. He’s putting the whole offense on the blocks and installing a new engine.
Although it is his neck in the noose, Stoops is handing the keys to four new offensive coaches plus holdover Dana Dimel.
Fellas, take good care of the offense. See you in the end zone.
“Less, a lot less,” Stoops said of his involvement in the offense as spring practice began Wednesday.
“I haven’t been in one offensive meeting. I have so much confidence in what they do. And that’s an attitude. That is something these guys bring.
“It’s just like how I believe in our defensive system. It’s a good feeling to me. It lets you do some other things you should be doing as a head coach instead of worrying and telling them to do this or do that.”
Some of his former assistants might have accused Stoops of meddling last season when Arizona, hamstrung by quarterback Willie Tuitama’s concussion problems, finished 115th out of 119 teams in total offense.
The time to assign blame has come and gone, but for whatever reason, there was nothing distinctive about the UA offense under the collaboration of Stoops and former coordinator Mike Canales.
“It’s been a struggle since we’ve been here getting first downs and moving the football,” Stoops said.
“That’s just been our Achilles’ heel: finding an identity offensively. This system, with the coaches we have, gives us a great chance to win with our personnel.”
Stoops claims to have given just one piece of advice to new coordinator Sonny Dykes, who helped teach Arizona’s new offense at Texas Tech for the past seven seasons.
In addition to all the four-receiver passing sets, Stoops wants the offense to practice with traditional running formations, serving two purposes.
It emphasizes the physical nature Stoops doesn’t want to lose and it ensures the defense sees the kind of plays it will have to stop against most teams on the schedule.
“We will not become a soft football team just because we spread the field,” Stoops said.
Other than that, Stoops will focus on his first love – defense – and let his offensive coaches coach.
Dykes leads a coaching group that includes offensive line coach and running game coordinator Bill Bedenbaugh, receivers coach and passing game coordinator Darrell Wyatt and running backs coach Michael Smith.
Bedenbaugh came from Texas Tech with Dykes, and their experience will, in Stoops words, “accelerate the learning process.” Wyatt, too, has a background in this kind of system from his days at Oklahoma.
Texas Tech has finished in the national top 16 in scoring each of the past six seasons.
“That’s no guarantee,” Stoops said. “That is what I tell my players. That’s because of hard work.”
As former UA coach Dick Tomey used to say, “There are no geniuses in college football.”
The spread offense, after all, is just a remodel of old ideas. The system won’t make a genius out of Stoops, who is 12-24 in three seasons.
What gives him a chance of looking good is being committed to his coaches and a plan. It just so happens that this plan likely includes throwing 50 times a game.
How’s that for an identity?
If it gives the Wildcats their most elusive commodity – long-term success on offense – fans might have to disagree with Stoops.
He’d be a miracle worker.
Anthony Gimino’s e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.