The Arizona Wildcats found one of the best possible names out there to lead their football program. It remains to be seen whether name recognition will be enough to turn around the team back from the abyss.
Rich Rodriguez as the new Wildcats head coach makes plenty of sense. Mike Leach was the sexy name in Tucson, but I doubt Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne wanted to hire someone who became a larger-than-life figure that would present similar PR issues for his team. Rodriguez has a great deal of appeal and a lot of innovative prowess as an offensive mastermind, and there are many reasons why it would make sense to bring him on to U of A.
The chief one? Arizona is a lot more like West Virginia than Michigan.
Rodriguez clearly wants to be the offensive coordinator in Tucson the same way Chip Kelly runs his ship in Oregon. Offense is Rodriguez's specialty, and in Arizona he should have all the freedom to tinker and experiment. And he will have a personnel that are familiar running in a spread environment, which should help the Wildcats adjust as quickly as they can. Certainly reminds you of the freedom he enjoyed in Morgantown and wasn't quite getting in Ann Arbor, and the leash should be much longer on Rich Rod as long as he shows incremental progress on a yearly basis.
Rodriguez would utilize the spread option that he's utilized so successfully with Denard Robinson at Michigan and Pat White at West Virginia. More importantly, he has the personnel to get going quickly. Additionally, Mike Stoops might have also left Rodriguez with a gift when he redshirted Matt Scott. Scott is clearly here to pass, but he's a mobile QB who can try and jump start this run attack on the ground. Scott paired with the young and talented Ka'Deem Carey could be a deadly and potent combination.
Rodriguez will no longer be constrained by the academic standards at Michigan that limited his recruiting pool, and will be back in an unrestricted prospect school that should allow him to target any player he wants to have on his team. This is similar to the situation he faced in West Virginia, where he eventually led his team to four Big East first place finishes and two BCS bowl berths. Rodriguez will be in far more liberating surroundings when it comes to finding players and athletes that fit his profile.
Rich Rod should be able to find a defensive coordinator that isn't a walking disaster. His old defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel (still at WVU but supposedly embattled with Dana Holgersen) might be a worthy individual to follow up with. In fact it's looking as if most of Rodriguez's old batterymates will be the ones filling his coaching spots, so it won't take long for him to gain familiarity with the new staff he puts in place.
Rodriguez will be in a big boy conference again, and the Pac-12 figures to be as (if not more) unforgiving than the Big Ten and definitely the Big East. Arizona appears to have a bit of an issue recruiting and competing with the best of the conference, so it'll be up to Rich Rod to find the players that best fit his system and mold them to be effective in his system.
Rich Rod would be in the more forgiving South, where he'd figure to be right in the hunt to make conference championship games. However, with USC coming off probation next year, it won't be as easy to capture the conference title as before. Still, the Trojans have had trouble with mobility and playing in space before, so don't expect USC to just force Arizona to bow to them.
Rodriguez is perfectly capable of reviving Arizona football. The biggest questions are how long will it take and how long does he have to do it.