The marriage between Arizona and Jedd Fisch got off to a bumpy start.
Fisch, most recently the quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, seemed like an odd, at best, choice to lead the Wildcats.
Of all the names that had been linked to the opening, his was the one that elicited little excitement. He was unproven as a head coach, brought a CVS receipt of a resume and had little in the way of ties to the University of Arizona.
Furthermore, depending on who you listen to or what you read there were even questions surrounding the circumstances by which he rose to the top of the list of candidates. That he apparently passed more proven coaches like Brent Brennan and Ken Niumatalolo, both of whom were well liked and strongly linked to the job, left many not only surprised, but genuinely upset.
Most new coaches start off with great excitement, and you’d think that would be especially true for a guy taking over a program that’s last game was a 70-7 embarrassment at the hands of the in-state rival and which last won a game more than 460 days ago.
But not for Fisch.
No, from the moment he was the guy Fisch found himself in a hole, one dug by alumni, fans and media, none of whom had him at the top of their list and most of whom really didn’t know much about him.
One thing we had heard about him, though, was that he was a hard worker. That was apparent almost immediately, as since the time he was hired Fisch has done nothing but climb his way out.
He used his connections to bring in an impressive coaching staff, highlighted with big names like Don Brown, Brennan Carroll, Rickey Hunley and Chuck Cecil who bring experience and others in Scottie Graham, Kevin Cummings, Jimmie Dougherty and Jordan Paopao who bring impressive backgrounds and intrigue.
Fisch then parlayed the staff and his vision, taking an “it’s personal” mentality into bringing in talented recruits and transfers while pulling back some key players out of the transfer portal.
Though no one is or should be predicting greatness for next season, things certainly look a lot better with guys like Stanley Berryhill, Jamarye Joiner, Ma’jon Wright, Boobie Curry, Aaron Blackwell, Trevon Mason and JB Brown coming back.
None of them had to, of course, and though it’s possible they decided the grass was not greener on the other side. That can’t be said for transfers Gunner Maldonado and Drake Anderson, both formerly of Northwestern. It also is not true of Isaiah Rutherford, who is transferring from Notre Dame, or Jason Harris, who is returning to Tucson after spending his freshman season in Colorado.
Harris, in particular, is a quality player who in many ways is helping the new staff right a wrong of the old one.
Those players, along with the recent commitments of defensive back Isaiah Taylor and athlete Anthony Simpson created some positive momentum. Reports of some offers Fisch and his staff have made show an attempt to build off it.
Fisch has been on the job less than a month, but in that stretch has done enough to change some opinions. He has yet to win a game with the program, leaving him nine back of the coach he replaced, and despite the influx of talent Arizona is likely still behind most of the teams in the Pac-12 in that regard.
And with Grant Gunnell having entered the transfer portal and laving for Memphis there appears to be a need at quarterback, although there is some talent on the roster, one highly-rated unsigned commit and a coach with a reputation for, well, getting the most out of quarterbacks.
So maybe there’s hope after all?
There should be, otherwise there’d be no reason to hire a new coach.
Arizona Football was in a bad spot when it fired Kevin Sumlin with two years remaining on his contract. The Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the athletic department’s finances, but the administration made the decision that keeping the coach would ultimately cost more than having to pay his buyout plus hire a new coach and staff.
Most seemed to agree at the time, and there was ample reason to believe the school could land a quality coach.
But the hire of Fisch led many to believe Arizona had whiffed. Now, as was the case then, only time will tell. Early results indicate Fisch wasn’t as crazy a hire as was believed, and what he’s accomplished during his brief tenure is enough to inspire a certain level of confidence.
Not necessarily that Fisch will be the right coach, but that he can be. At this point he deserves the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to, with a clean slate, show if he can turn the program around.
Jedd Fisch has earned a honeymoon period.