UCLA Football Preview: Arizona's Coaches Are Familiar to Bruin Fans
Both of Arizona's coordinators are former UCLA assistants and that may bode well for the Bruins.
This week, the UCLA Bruins will get a primetime slot when they take on the Arizona Wildcats at the Rose Bowl at 5 pm PT on Fox. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the Wildcat coaching staff and special teams.
Somehow, Kevin Sumlin is still the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats despite just a 9-15 record over his first two seasons in Tucson. Of course, that’s just a few wins more than Chip Kelly over the same timeframe. Both coaches enter this week’s game with two losses so far this season, though Kelly also has a win while Sumlin remains winless so far.
This season, Arizona has lost to Southern Cal and Washington so far this year and had their game against Utah canceled due to COVID. Unlike the Bruins, Arizona did not get a replacement game.
After Sumlin arrived in Tucson two years ago, he led the Wildcats to a 5-7 and followed that up with a 4-8 record last year. That means that Sumlin has lost at least five games six years in a row and a loss to UCLA this weekend might just guarantee another five loss season for him, even though this season has just seven games. The only thing which stop that from happening is COVID. After all, the ‘Cats had their game against Utah canceled cutting their season to six games. Regardless, Sumlin will need to start winning games if he wants to be around in Tucson much longer.
Of course, Bruin fans might argue that one of Sumlin’s biggest deficits is his propensity for hiring former UCLA assistants. Arizona’s offensive coordinator is still Noel Mazzone. Mazzone was Jim Mora’s offensive coordinator before he left to work at Texas A&M under Sumlin and he followed Sumlin to Tucson. Expect a lot of the famous Noel Mazzone bubble screens this Saturday.
While Noel is the Wildcats’ offensive coordinator, his son Taylor, another former Bruin coach, is Arizona’s outside receivers coach.
But the Mazzones aren’t the only former Bruin assistant on Sumlin’s staff.
After last season, Paul Rhoads left his job as UCLA’s defensive backs coach to become Arizona’s defensive coordinator. I’m really not sure how that happened. UCLA’s DBs were pretty bad the past two seasons under Rhoads, yet, somehow, he managed to fall upward into the role of defensive coordinator for Arizona.
While Chase Griffin may not get the start this week, it would seem to be a good offensive move for the Bruins to throw a ton of short passes this week as Rhoads’ defensive backs will likely play ten yards off the ball, leaving UCLA receivers alone initially. It makes it look like Sumlin chose his new DC based on whether or not his scheme would allow Mazzone’s bubble screens to be effective.
The Wildcats’ kicker is senior Lucas Havrisik. Havrisik grew up in Southern California and played his high school football at Norco High School. So far this year, he’s hit three of four field goal attempts and made six of seven PAT tries. Over his collegiate career, Havrisik has made 22 of 36 field goal attempts (61.1%) and 67 of 72 PAT attempts. Havrisik is most effective between 20 and 29 yards and his field goal percentage drops to 55% from 30 yards and beyond. On kickoffs, 10 of his 12 kickoffs this season have gone for a touchback. So, don’t expect the Bruins to get much in terms of return yardage.
Freshman Tyler Loop is handling the punting duties this season for Arizona. UCLA may have an opportunity to return some punts this weekend. That’s because only three of eight of Loop’s punts so far this season have been fair caught. That’s more of a reflection of Arizona’s punt coverage rather than Loop’s punting, though it may also be due to the fact that Loop is averaging just 41.1 yards per punt.
Senior receiver Tayvian Cunningham is the only Wildcat to have return a kickoff this year. So far, he’s returned six kickoffs with a long of 24 yards and an average of 19.2 yards per return, meaning Cunningham isn’t a dangerous return man. Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Jamarye Joiner has returned the only two punts Arizona’s opponents have had to make. That bodes well for the Bruin offense even if UCLA’s offensive isn’t quite as good as Southern Cal’s and Washington’s offenses.
And, that wraps up our look at the Arizona coaching staff and special teams.