LOS ANGELES — His first season with the Wildcats wasn’t pretty by any means.
Although Jedd Fisch’s 1-11 season was an improvement from Kevin Sumlin’s winless campaign, the offense was completely inept. Terrible quarterback play, pedestrian rushing attack, and of course all of the turnovers. It was flat-out ugly at times for fans to watch. The Wildcats only scored 18 touchdowns the entire season, which was the fewest in the Pac-12. Arizona even left a fat goose egg on the scoreboard at Colorado.
The state of the program looked merky, but Fisch knew building the Wildcats back to respectability was going to be an uphill battle. Still, he rallied his troops, made changes and established some depth that his roster needed.
“I think they saw that where we were is not where we’re headed,” Fisch said.
That’s why Fisch hit the transfer portal hard and lured in some high-caliber players at the skill positions. Quarterback Jayden de Laura was the Pac-12’s Freshman of the Year at Washington State last season. Wideout Jacob Cowing racked up 1,354 receiving yards at UTEP in 2021, which ranked ninth in the FBS.
The two are an immediate upgrade to the offense. That should help the Wildcats generate more touchdowns, especially after they finished dead last in the conference, and 124th nationally in points per game. After all, de Laura threw for 28 touchdowns over the past two seasons with the Cougars, and Cowing went over 100 yards receiving in seven different games last year.
Fisch emphasized at Pac-12 Media Day how the two showed great chemistry through summer workouts leading up to fall camp.
“We were able to hit on a lot of passes, we were able to be explosive, and we were able to make plays out there on the
field,” the 46-year old coach said. “It was fun to watch ’em, and it was fun to watch what they did, they connected pretty well together.”
None of that will matter if the Wildcats’ young offensive line hasn’t improved. The group allowed 35 sacks last year, which was also the worst in the league. de Laura won’t be able to get into a rhythm with Cowing if the big boys up front can’t slow down the pass rush. That will only throw off the timing of the offense, lead to batted balls and cause false starts.
Fisch just want his team to play hard all four quarters and finish football games. Arizona really has nowhere to go, but up. It’s obvious the players are buying into Fisch’s vision, and the second recruiting class is usually new coach’s strongest.
“The players that were on our roster last year that are on our roster this year have improved,” he said. “They’ve committed to being better in the weight room, better in film study, better fundamentally.”
Fall camp should be intense for the Wildcats, especially with one of the toughest September slates in the country. Fisch is preparing to identify leaders and amplify his players’ skill set. So far, he’s encouraged by his teams’ potential, and feels more comfortable about the overall depth this time around.