The Arizona Wildcats have three returning starters on the offensive line and a new position coach with no preconceived notions.
Jim Michalczik, most recently the offensive line coach at Cal, arrived in Tucson on Wednesday and has begun the process of meeting his players, studying video from games and practice, and forming initial opinions.
“But I’m a big believer that every year is a new year,” Michalczik said Thursday morning in a brief meeting with local media.
“Offensive line, this is the one area where there is so much growth and development over the course of a career. … I always want to go into spring ball and say every job is open and let’s go see who can do what and go perform because that’s what it’s all about.”
Arizona loses center Kyle Quinn and guard Trace Biskin, and backups Addison Bachman and Shane Zink. Left tackle Mickey Baucus and right tackle Fabbians Ebbele, both juniors, are in line to be third-year starters in 2013. Chris Putton, who can play guard and tackle, is the other returning starter.
Cayman Bundage saw ample time at guard as a true freshman. Sophomores Jacob Arzouman (torn ACL in fall camp) and Lene Maiava (torn ACL in the fourth game) should return by the start of next fall camp to resume promising careers. Arizona redshirted three freshman offensive linemen this season and has a few other backups hoping for bigger roles.
Center Steven Gurrola from Glendale Community College is expected to sign next month to add a veteran competitor at the position.
“I’m excited,” said Michalczik, who replaces Robert Anae, who left to return to BYU as offensive coordinator.
“It’s going to be a learning process as they get to know me. They’re probably wondering who the heck I am a little bit, probably calling friends they know who know me. In some respects, we’re starting new, and that’s a fun thing.”
Michalczik has ample experience in the Pac-12, having played on the offensive line at Washington State in the late 1980s, coaching at Oregon State from 1999 to 2001 and having spent a total of nine years at Cal in two stints under Jeff Tedford.
Tedford and Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez are good friends, and that’s the connection to Michalczik. The Cal coaching staff spent a few days visiting RichRod’s West Virginia staff in 2006, and Rodriguez visited with Tedford at Cal in his year out of coaching in 2011.
Since meeting with Rodriguez in 2006, Cal has sprinkled some read-option offense into its attack.
“I’m king of looking forward to expanding and getting into that,” Michalczik said.
Arizona hasn’t played Cal in the past two seasons, but Michalczik said he saw plenty of the Wildcats as he scouted game film of other opponents.
“I think Coach Rodriguez is doing a great job of getting the player to buy into something, to believe in something,” he said.
“You can see it on film. You have see guys who play hard, play together and believe in what they’re doing. That jumped out at you. Obviously, you’re looking at scheme all the time, but you can tell when there is passion involved in the program, and I know that’s coming from him.”