Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Stoops hires ‘a rising star’ but figures to be more involved with secondary

Mike Stoops says he will be a bit more hands-on in the secondary, as he was here in 2010 camp with Josh Robbins.
Photo by Brad Allis, Wildcat Sports Report

Arizona Wildcats coach Mike Stoops has had his brother, Mark, as his secondary coach. He had a veteran college and NFL assistant in Greg Brown. He hired the widely respected Duane Akina.

In his fourth hiring of a secondary coach, Stoops went in the other direction. He didn’t hire someone with an accomplished resume. He hired someone who is looking to build an accomplished resume — 25-year-old Ryan Walters.

“The thing with Ryan, I knew instantly he was going to be a rising star in this profession,” Stoops told TucsonCitizen.com.

“I can tell with speaking with somebody the grasp of the knowledge they have. It doesn’t take me long to figure that out, and he had a grasp of what we were doing very quickly. He gets the big picture. …

“He’s ahead of the game. There are a million people who are qualified and who would have been good for us. But I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t have trust in Ryan.”

Walters’ knowledge of the UA system following his year as a defensive graduate assistant, plus his maturity, more than balanced the scales, in Stoops’ mind, against Walters’ youth and inexperience.

Walters replaces Akina, who spent only a few weeks on the job before returning to his former position at Texas. Akina had replaced Brown, who spent one season with the Wildcats after bringing Walters with him from Colorado. Walters played safety for Brown with the Buffaloes.

Stoops said he “strongly considered” Walters for the full-time job when Brown left in December.

“Then the thing with Duane kind of took on a life of its own,” Stoops said.

“Ryan, with the way he handled everything, he was just very professional. Duane was really appreciative. Ryan helped Duane through the first couple of weeks. He can explain our system as well as I can.

“I wanted some stability with our secondary, and our players really like him. That was important as well.”

Yeah, well, the players like him now. There is a difference between a player liking a graduate assistant coach and a player liking/respecting/responding to his position coach. Walters will have to adjust his style in that regard.

“When you’re the second in charge, you can be a little more friendly and have a little different relationship with the player,” Stoops said. “Now that you’re in charge, it changes. I think he will make that transition easily.”

Stoops was 31 when coach Bill Snyder gave him his first full-time position, coaching defensive ends at Kansas State in 1992. Stoops says he looks at Walters and sees a reflection of himself at that age.

Others on the Arizona coaching staff can relate to Walters as well, as the age issue isn’t so out-of-whack with their own experiences.

Defensive coordinator Tim Kish was 25 when he become the assistant secondary coach at Purdue and 28 when he was the quarterbacks coach at Ball State.

Special teams coordinator/defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt was 26 when he coached Arizona’s defensive backs in 1994.

Offensive coordinator Seth Littrell was 27 when he became the running backs coach at Texas Tech.


But for those who are thinking Stoops hired a young guy so he could have more control of the secondary … well, that’s partly true. That might not have been the reason to hire Walters, but it is one of the effects.

Part of the reason Stoops was comfortable hiring Walters is that they worked closely together for preparations for the Alamo Bowl after Brown left.

“It’s harder to intervene with someone who has been around like Duane or Greg. It was easier for me to be involved with a younger guy,” said Stoops, who helped make his reputation by coaching the secondary at Oklahoma.

“I watched it more. It kept me in coaching. I liked that part of it. I imagine I will take on more responsibility with them (the defensive backs).”

Walters, in an interview with us earlier this week, said he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind last season as a graduate assistant, so he won’t be shy as a full-time assistant. At 25, though, he’s savvy like a veteran when he says:

“He’s the head coach, so whatever Mike says goes, and rightfully so,” Walters said. “His track record speaks for itself.”

Given that, the last word goes to Stoops. Regarding the secondary, perhaps you can interpret this as encouragement or a warning to Walters:

“He is responsible for those players and the way they play.”

Search site | Terms of service