Arizona football: Sumlin turns to Cecil as coordinator amid defensive woes

Anthony Gimino

If there was a combination of transactions that Arizona Wildcats fans have longed to see, it was for defensive coordinator Marcel Yates to be gone and for Chuck Cecil to take his place.

Wish granted.

Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin pulled the plug Sunday on a Yates' tenure that was nearing the end of its fourth season without any appreciable defensive improvement from when Yates arrived from Boise State after the 2015 season. The Arizona Daily Star first reported the news Sunday.

After four years, spanning two head coaches, Yates had ample time to put in his schemes and recruit his players ... and the results through eight games in 2019 were that the Wildcats ranked 118th nationally out of 130 teams in scoring defense (35.0 points per game) and 119th in total defense (469.9 yards per game).

In a results-based business, it had become impossible to support Yates.

Sumlin also cut ties with second-year linebackers coach John Rushing, and promoted former Arizona linebacker Hank Hobson from his role as a defensive analyst to step in as an on-field coach.

But the alum who will have everyone excited is Cecil, the College Football Hall of Famer who spent 15 years as an NFL assistant, all under coach Jeff Fisher with the Titans and Rams. The ex-safety known as the "Heat-Seeking Missile" with the Wildcats was Tennessee's defensive coordinator in 2009 and 2010.

Former UA coach Rich Rodriguez brought in Cecil in 2017 to be a defensive analyst, and his current title before the promotion was senior defensive analyst. While on-field coaches came and went, it was always an open question as to why Cecil didn't get one of the defensive positions.

Now, he's got it.

Perhaps what the defense needs -- heck, what the whole team needs -- is a super-charged injection of that legendary Cecil passion for the final four regular-season games.

Cecil's secondary coach during his senior year in 1987 was Duana Akina, who went on to coach three Jim Thorpe Award winners (nation's best defensive back) and 39 other defensive backs who played in the NFL (and counting).

He told me in 2009:

"I would say Chuck had the most dynamic personality of anybody I've coached. He probably affected his teammates more than any player I've had. That is true leadership. I have never coached another like him who could carry the classroom to the field and who was so damn tough."

After a three-game losing streak in which the Cats have given up at least 41 points in each games, Sumlin had nothing to lose with making a change at the end of October.

The defense has plenty of personnel-based deficiencies -- notably a lack of a pass rush -- but the defense suddenly will be worth watching again when the Wildcats take on Oregon State on Homecoming on Saturday.

Comments (12)
No. 1-7
Gary Randazzo
Gary Randazzo

Editor

At a minimum, Cecil should inject some newfound life in the defense. He's such an emotional leader, it'll be fun if he can motivate the defense. Like others, I actually like a large portion of our defensive personnel. There's talent there and if Cecil can get the right combination of guys on the field more times than not, we can see some exciting play on that side of the ball.

Wineknow
Wineknow

Defense has been good this year... way better than in years past. Its the dumb offense, play calling and ST that have destroyed us. Sumlin noted 133 points in 3 games but forgot to mention that the first string defense only gave up like 23 of those points.

Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan

Editor

This move shows how little confidence Sumlin has in ANY of his defensive staff. He named Cecil, admittedly a school legend as his new DC, but he doesn't even have contact with the players as a coach -- he is an analyst!

He has leapfrogged everyone who is in practice every day.

So this is either a no confidence in his own guys or Chuck has been giving some brilliant reports while looking at tape, or both.

Wineknow
Wineknow
  1. I bet we improve on D. 2. If we do not, 4 games will not be enough to sink Cecil. 3. Mazzone is a billion times worse than Yates (actively idiotic instead of passively clueless) - when will we be bale to fire him?
AZip
AZip

There is no doubt that Chuckie is a fan favorite. He has player credentials and proven coaching abilities. My hope is he will be as good a "D" coach as his personality is!!! Wishing nothing but the best for him. It is going to be a hard road. I am sure he stood on the sideline cringing at some of the old calls Yates made during games and choices he made with our players .

Slinkycat
Slinkycat

I hope they play well. Cecil isn’t given any favors by playing Oregon and Utah.

Steve Buchanan
Steve Buchanan

Editor

Great story. Difficult spot to be in, but on the other hand, the situation can't really get any worse. Best of everything to him.


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