By Blair Willis / UA Sports
Arizona head football coach Kevin Sumlin has finalized his first coaching staff, announcing on Tuesday the hiring of 10 assistant coaches and their assignments for the 2018 season.
The offensive staff will include coordinator Noel Mazzone (quarterbacks), Clarence McKinney (running backs), Joe Gilbert (offensive line), Taylor Mazzone (outside receivers), and Theron Aych (inside receivers), who returns for his second season at Arizona. Jeremy Springer will be the special teams coordinator.
Defensively, coordinator Marcel Yates (linebackers) has been retained and enters his third season with the Wildcats. He is joined by Demetrice Martin (cornerbacks), John Rushing (safeties) and Iona Uiagalelei (defensive line). Additionally, Chuck Cecil will return for a second season as the program’s senior defensive analyst.
“This is an outstanding staff that I am excited to introduce to our players, their families and our fans,” Sumlin said. “It’s important to me that each of our coaches be strong recruiters, while being the best at developing players on and off the field. Each of these assistant coaches are accomplished in those areas, and I am looking forward to our first season together.”
Noel Mazzone takes over as the program’s offensive coordinator, bringing extensive collegiate and professional experience. He has served as a coordinator for numerous Power 5 programs, including Mississippi (1995-98, 2005), Auburn (1999-2001), Oregon State (2002), North Carolina State (2003-04), Arizona State (2010-11), UCLA (2012-15) and most recently under Sumlin at Texas A&M (2016-17). He also spent three seasons with the New York Jets as a receivers coach (2006-08).
McKinney arrives in Tucson after six years with Sumlin as the Aggies’ running backs coach. McKinney was also with Sumlin at Houston, coaching running backs in 2008-09 before adding recruiting coordinator responsibilities for the 2010-11 seasons. Prior to joining Sumlin’s staff at UH, McKinney served as head football coach at Jack Yates High School in Houston, compiling a winning record of 30-8 in three seasons.
Gilbert returns to the collegiate ranks following a six-year run working with the offensive line for the Indianapolis Colts. Prior to his jump to the NFL, Gilbert compiled 25 years of collegiate coaching experience, most recently as an assistant head coach and offensive line coach at Illinois from 2009-11. His other FBS coaching work came at Houston with Sumlin in 2008, at Toledo (2001-03, 2007) and at Central Florida (2004-06).
Taylor Mazzone will again work in an on-field capacity after spending the last two seasons as an offensive quality control coach at Texas A&M. He previously was the quarterbacks coach at UCLA from 2013-15 where he mentored Brett Hundley and Josh Rosen. In 2012, Taylor was a graduate assistant for the Bruins. He also worked at Arizona State, where he was a quality control assistant in 2010 and graduate assistant in 2011.
Aych returns for his second season with the Wildcats and will coach inside receivers. He will have the benefit of working with a much more experienced group in 2018, which includes returning starters Shun Brown, Shawn Poindexter, Tony Ellison and Cedric Peterson. Brown was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection last season.
Springer will take over as special teams coordinator after three seasons on Sumlin’s staff at Texas A&M. With the Aggies, Springer was a quality control coach for special teams and tight ends from 2015-17. Previously, Springer was a graduate assistant at UTEP from 2012-14. He played linebacker for the Miners from 2009-11.
Yates, UA’s defensive coordinator the last two seasons, rejoins Sumlin’s staff after a previous two-year stint at Texas A&M (2012-13). He has been essential in the program’s recruiting efforts the last two seasons, notably on the defensive side of the ball, where Arizona routinely started five freshmen last season. Despite the youth, the Wildcats ranked 23rd nationally in takeaways, including tied for seventh in interceptions. Three true freshmen – Colin Schooler, Kylan Wilborn and Tony Fields II – garnered Freshman All-America honors from various outlets. Schooler was voted the Pac-12 Freshman Defensive Player of the Year by the league’s coaches.
Martin brings a wealth of Pac-12 coaching and recruiting experience with him. He spent the last six seasons coaching the secondary at UCLA, and previously worked in a similar capacity on the staff at Washington from 2009-11. Martin was also a defensive graduate assistant at USC from 2006-07, and has experience as an assistant at Mt. San Antonio College (Calif.) and Pasadena City College.
Rushing joins the staff after coaching safeties at Oregon State in 2017. Previously, he worked on the same Los Angeles Rams staff as Cecil in 2016 after seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers (2009-15). On the collegiate level, Rushing coached at Utah State (2003-09), Montana State (2000-03) and was a graduate assistant at Boise State (1998-00). Yates was on staff with Rushing at Montana State from 2001-02 and finished his playing career at Boise State while Rushing was a graduate assistant.
Uiagalelei (pronounced: yoo-gah-lei-lee) steps up to the FBS level following a successful tenure as defensive coordinator at Mt. San Antonio College (Calif.). He began his Mt. SAC coaching career in 2001 and took over defensive coordinator duties in 2006. Uiagalelei became an associate head coach and full-time professor in 2010.
Cecil, who starred for the Wildcats from 1984-87, will remain a key part of the defensive staff as a senior defensive analyst. In his role, Cecil contributes to the defensive staff in areas of overall organization, scouting, film breakdown, analysis and other game preparation responsibilities. A consensus All-American in 1987, Cecil was also a three-time Academic All-American, who went on to a seven-year playing career and 15-year coaching career in the NFL.
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