Grid squad primed to end its 1-39 mark since ’04
AuBura Taylor has been through this before.
The summer before his senior season, Taylor transferred to Santa Rita High School, where the football program was coming off an 0-10 season.
With new life injected in the program after the hiring of a new coach with a winning tradition (Jeff Scurran), Taylor helped carry the Eagles to an 11-2 season in 2007 and an appearance in the Class 4A Division II semifinals.
A year removed from high school, the former star running back who helped with one monumental turnaround season wants to be part of an even bigger one at Pima Community College.
“I see some similarities,” Taylor said Monday night as the team practiced at Tucson High. “The big thing is getting people to forget about what has happened here. We weren’t a part of that. This is a new start and the coaches, especially (head coach Pat) Nugent, are doing a good job getting this thing turned around.”
Nugent, who went 41-9 in the past four years at Canyon del Oro High, took over a Pima football program that hasn’t beaten a college team in that span. The program’s 1-39 record since the 2004 season includes one win against a noncollegiate, semipro team from Prescott.
“They haven’t won a game here in four years, but that’s in the past,” Nugent said. “Our job is to find a way to change the attitude, the culture around here. It’s going to be a long road, but I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think we could get this thing turned around.”
He’s started by filling his roster and lining his coaching staff with names that read like a Who’s Who of southern Arizona high school football. He hired former NFL player and University of Arizona/Desert Swarm defensive star Brandon Sanders to coach the secondary.
“Turning this thing around isn’t going to be about talent; we have some talent,” said Sanders, who played three seasons for the New York Giants. “It’s about changing the attitude.
“When I first started (at UA under then-coach Dick Tomey), we went 4-7 that first year. But then the Desert Swarm started and guys like me and Tedy (Bruschi), we took coach Tomey’s lead and started to do what we could to change the mindset. That’s what we need here.”
Pima already has more football talent than at any point in recent years.
Among the players at spring practice is 2007 Tucson Citizen Player of the Year Dan Nicholas, who was the starting quarterback under Nugent when CDO went to the 4A-I state championship game in 2007. The program has averaged 50 players per practice, which includes current high school seniors who plan to play in the fall.
“I knew right away when he was hired I would come here,” said Nicholas, who signed with Glendale Community College after high school but never enrolled and took the 2008 season off. “After taking the year off, I had an offer from Adams State (College in Colorado), but the familiarity with coach (Nugent), and knowing he’s the type of guy who will make me a better player, I knew this was what was best for me.”
The Aztecs start their 2009 season with a home game Sept. 5 against Eastern Arizona.
TOUGH HILL TO CLIMB
New Pima CC football coach Pat Nugent takes over an Aztecs team that hasn’t beaten a college team since 2004.
Sept. 5 vs. Eastern Arizona College
(home games played at Tucson High)
PIMA CC COACHES
Pat Nugent – head coach, offensive coordinator, quarterbacks
Jeff Green – offensive line
Glenn Howell - strength and conditioning
Jim Paul - receivers
Pat Ryden - defensive coordinator, linebackers
Philo Sanchez - running backs
Brandon Sanders - secondary
Mark Texeira – secondary
Shawn Wasson - defensive line, special teams
Jeff Watson - equipment manager
Matt Willard - offensive line