Rich Rod-Arizona

Rich Rod lets his team have it after lackluster practice


(Photo Courtesy: USA Today Sports)

Spring has sprung, and you know what that means: A bunch of angry coaches nitpicking every little mistake, error and missed tackle their team makes.

That is the case nationwide, but apparently an even larger issue at Arizona than most schools, where second-year head coach Rich Rodriguez actually took time out of his busy to come down hard on both his team and the reporters who cover them, following a lack-luster practice on Monday.

The Arizona Republic’s Anthony Gimino was on the scene and shared this on Wednesday:

“I have been too nice,” he said.

Rodriguez dressed down his team after Monday’s practice, his voice carrying across the Kindall/Sancet practice facility, and he was still agitated when he met with a small group of reporters.

Did you take a closer look at the scrimmage from Saturday?

“Oh yeah. We evaluated it, in all its ugliness. Wasn’t pretty.”

Was it effort or technique?

“Yep.”

You don’t seem particularly happy with the team right now.

“Nope. It’s all right. They might not be happy with me either, so the feeling’s probably mutual.”

For anyone who has followed Rodriguez’s career, this is hardly news. The man has ground his way from the head coaching position at tiny Glenville State all the way to the highest levels of FBS levels by simply out-working people. Because of it, he expects the same from the players and teams he coaches.  

That attitude has of course had mixed results in a head-coaching career which now spans close to two decades. It had great success at West Virginia, where he was one bad night away against Pittsburgh from playing for a BCS title, but didn’t work nearly as successfully at Michigan, where he was fired after three years. Then again, we learned from the brilliant book “Three and Out” by John W. Bacon, Rich Rod’s lack of success in Ann Arbor had little to do with his coaching, and a lot to do with a lack of any support, from the administration all the way down to the players on his team.

Regardless, Arizona ain’t Michigan (in both good and bad ways), and Rich Rod once again proved that when he’s got the support of an administration and his fans, the man really can do big things in a short amount of time. He turned the Wildcats from a four-win outfit under Mike Stoops (and interim Tim Kish) in 2011 to an 8-5 club and bowl game victor in 2012.

What will be interesting now is to see what Rodriguez can do in 2013 with this club. They return 18 starters, and it seems logical that in a wide-open Pac-12 South, the Cats can compete right now for a division title. UCLA and Arizona State appear to be favorites on paper, but both (specifically the Bruins) have plenty of holes to fill and plenty of questions to answer before action kicks off on the last weekend in August.

Of course, Rodriguez also knows that his team has its own questions to answer, specifically at quarterback, where the Wildcats must replace Matt Scott. Most importantly, Rodriguez also knows how quickly expectations can ratchet up, and how quickly a coach can be a victim of your own success. He also knows how quickly a seemingly happy fan-base can turn on you, if they feel that the program is taking a step in the wrong direction.

Point being that even though we haven’t even started Year 2 of the Rich Rod era at Arizona, the man isn’t taking anything for granted.

Just ask the players he coaches. Or the reporters who cover the team.

For all his opinion, insight and analysis, please follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.

Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.

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