The Arizona Wildcats football team, without any fanfare or announcement, tweaked its offensive coaching staff this spring.
The shuffle moves inside receivers coach Garret Chachere to running backs, puts outside receivers coach Dave Nichol in charge of the inside receivers as well, and frees up coordinator Seth Littrell to focus on play-calling and take a bigger-picture look at the entire offense.
Littrell last season was the running backs coach and shared the coordinator duties with now-departed offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh.
“Everybody got a chance to do something they kind of wanted to do,” Chachere said after Wednesday night’s practice.
“It just fit perfectly. It is like anything else, any job you’re in. If you get a new challenge, it kind of gets your batteries charged again. I really have been loving every minute of it.”
After last season, Chachere was intrigued about the possibility of coaching running backs. Independently, Littrell had been thinking of a similar shuffle. When they realized they had the same idea, they took it to head coach Mike Stoops after signing day … and Stoops put his rubber stamp on the changes.
“I’ve coached inside before and I have been in this system forever,” Nichol said. “I’m excited. I think it’s good because we’re on the same page with all that kind of stuff. (The receivers) all hearing one voice — I think that will probably help.
“I think we all feel really good about it.”
Chachere, 42, had coached the inside receivers at Arizona for the past two seasons. He has coached on both sides of the ball during his career, but the bulk of his experience before arriving in Tucson was on defense.
“I always wanted to get back on offense,” said Chachere.
“Running backs is something I always liked and was interested in. But what it really allows me to do is be more involved in the front and the protection, and that was my main focus. I really wanted to be more involved in the protection concept and how offenses decide to block things. The running backs allow me to do that more than the receivers.”
Chachere was a running back at Tulane in 1987 and 1988, although he says he was the kind of running back “who didn’t play.”
He was a walk-on who had to give up football after suffering a neck injury the summer before his third season.
“I always tell people I played the position of running back at Tulane, but ‘play’ is too strong a word. I was ‘at’ the position of running back,” he said.
“But I think that has helped me in coaching for the past 19 years. It has helped me at times to coach kids who maybe don’t have the best skill but have the desire, and to coach kids who do have great skill but don’t have a lot of motivation because it’s come easy to them.”
Overall, the changes are part of Arizona’s new plan to simplify.
“There are some new things to the guys, but it’s simpler,” Nichol said. “Nothing drastic, but we have tried to simplify terminology and formations.”
Last year, the Wildcats tried to balance a spread offense with power running sets … and late in the season, even Stoops talked about how hard it was to recruit ample personnel to drive both of those philosophies.
Given the team’s skill at quarterback and receiver, Arizona is going to be more spread-heavy this season while testing new ways to run the ball out of its power sets.
Littrell, Chachere, Nichol, quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo and new offensive line coach Robert Anae will be in charge in finding ways to make it all work.
“It’s been good — really, really good,” Chachere said of switching to running backs. “It’s really got me going.
“Hopefully, we’ll run the ball better, catch the ball better and block better.”
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