Wildcats add ‘5-star coach’ as Duane Akina returns to Tucson in analyst role

Wildcats add ‘5-star coach’ as Duane Akina returns to Tucson in analyst role

Although Arizona was relatively quiet on National Signing Day on Wednesday, the Wildcats “signed a five-star coach,” according to Jedd Fisch.

Fisch revealed during his NSD press conference that the Wildcats have hired longtime coach Duane Akina, who will join the team as a senior defensive analyst and assistant defensive backs coach.

Akina coached at UA during the famous “Desert Swarm” era under Dick Tomey from 1987 to 2000; Akina also coached Arizona defensive backs in 2011 under Mike Stoops and interim head coach Tim Kish.

Akina is the latest Fisch staffer to have ties to previous Arizona regimes, joining safety coach Chuck Cecil, defensive line coach Ricky Hunley, high school relations coordinator Brandon Sanders and Councilor Tedy Bruschi.

The selling point for Akina to return to Tucson?

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“To be part of Arizona football,” Fisch said. “He was very excited about the direction of our program and is very happy to be back in Tucson. I think he has a great love for the University of Arizona and for the city of Tucson. He has a great history and tradition here… It’s great to have him back.”

Prior to Akina’s 14-year career in Arizona, he spent five seasons as a defensive assistant under Tomey in Hawaii, followed by a season with the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders.

At Arizona, Akina served in several roles, including defensive backs coach, associate head coach, defensive coordinator, and offensive coordinator. After the 2000 season, Akina had a similar role under Mack Brown in Texas. Most recently, Akina worked for David Shaw as defensive backs coach at Stanford from 2014 until last season.

Akina, 66, has mentored three Jim Thorpe Award winners: Darryll Lewis (Arizona), Michael Huff (Texas) and Aaron Ross (Texas).

A dozen years from his last stint at UA, Akina will serve as a defensive analyst. According to NCAA rules, Akina cannot personally coach players. However, Fisch said Akina will likely have a hands-on coaching role.

“We went through the process of what we wanted to do, what he wanted to do at this point in his career,” Fisch said. “We spoke with (athletic director) Dave Heeke and came up with a plan. We expect the NCAA to open up other rules in terms of who can coach, who can’t coach; that’s been a big part of the talks.

“More recently, if you’re an analyst, can you coach? Not coach? At the moment we think that’s going to change, so we wanted to move on and bring in Coach Akina.”

Arizona is still looking to replace cornerbacks coach DeWayne Walker, who left the program in early January. Fisch said he hopes the position will be filled “by this weekend.”

Last minute addition

Arizona made a late addition to its 2023 signing class.

Three-star receiver Devin Hyatt — the younger brother of Biletnikoff Award winner Jalin Hyatt — signed with the Wildcats on Wednesday afternoon.

Devin Hyatt last played for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. 247Sports lists him at 6-2, 194 pounds.

Hyatt had nearly two dozen college offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State, Penn State, Oregon and Tennessee, where his older brother caught 67 passes for 1,267 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.

Devin Hyatt is the fourth wide receiver to join Arizona’s 23 class, which had a composite rating (rookies plus transfers) of 40th in the nation on Wednesday.

Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch addressed the Wildcats’ recruiting class of 2023 on Wednesday’s National Signing Day, along with the addition of former ‘Desert Swarm’ assistant coach “Duane Akina as Senior Defensive Analyst.

Arizona Daily Star

Silent signer

Four-star linebacker Leviticus Su’a, who announced his commitment to Arizona during the Polynesian Bowl, signed with the Wildcats early in the signing period in December but asked the coaching staff to delay his announcement until January .

Fisch said Su’a, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound standout from Southern California powerhouse Mater Dei High School, “likes to make plays on the ball. Fisch described Su’a as ” very smart, student 4.0, student of the game, mature, physical, great body type for a high school linebacker.”

Su’a captained the Monarchs for three years and was named Trinity League’s top-flight MVP. Arizona wide receiver Tetairoa McMillan was also a Trinity League MVP in 2021.

“He has all the intangibles and tangibles that you look for in a high school player,” Fisch said of Su’a. “Number one, he comes from one of the top two or three high school football programs in the country. Number two, he was captain for three years, so his leadership is a big part of him. Number three, the fact that been as productive as he was, he gives you the trifecta.

Su’a is one of six linebackers to sign with the Wildcats in 2023, joining transfers Justin Flowe (Oregon), Daniel Heimuli (Washington) and Orin Patu (Cal), and high schoolers Chandler, Taye Brown and Kamuela Ka aihue from Hawaii. The Wildcats return Jacob Manu, who has become a consistent playmaker down the stretch in his first season.

“We’ve really added depth and competition to our linebacking corps,” Fisch said. “Now we’re talking about six to eight guys who can give you reps rather than a few.”

Safety Jaxen Turner became the last Arizona defensive starter in 2022 to transfer to another program. Turner, who led the Wildcats in tackles, is heading to UNLV.

Rebecca Sasnett, Arizona Daily Star

Turner at UNLV

Former Arizona safety Jaxen Turner announced Wednesday that he was moving to UNLV to play for first-year head coach Barry Odom.

Turner, a three-year starter for the Wildcats, joined Arizona in 2019 under Kevin Sumlin and has played 33 games in UA, including 23 in the past two seasons.

Turner started 11 games last season for Arizona and had a team-high 79 tackles, along with two interceptions (UA had four as a team), three pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two recoveries. escaped.

Turner was part of Arizona’s safety tandem alongside Christian Young, who is no longer eligible and is preparing for the NFL Draft.

Turner is the sixth defensive starter of 2022 to be traded from Arizona, joining linebacker Jerry Roberts (UMass), defensive lineman Paris Shand (LSU), linebacker Kolbe Cage (Southern Miss), defensive tackle Kyon Barrs (USC) and cornerback Christian Roland-Wallace (USC).

Bonus points

• Arizona currently has two extras who will join the team this spring: Chase Randall, a Tucson native and former star of Canyon del Oro High School, a defensive lineman who played one season at Valporaiso; and effective lineman Ammon Kaufusi, the son of Arizona outside linebackers coach Jason Kaufusi.

• Pusch Ridge Christian Academy linebacker Tyler Mustain signed with Arizona on Wednesday as the preferred replacement.

• Gunner Cruz, who started the 2021 season as the starting quarterback for Arizona, will serve as a graduate assistant with UA’s strength and conditioning program.

• Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth hosts Team Arizona’s meet and greet event Thursday at the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center. The event begins at 6 p.m. before the Arizona-Oregon basketball game.

• Fisch has announced that Arizona’s spring ball season will begin on March 13, with the spring game scheduled for April 15 at Arizona Stadium.

Contact sports producer Justin Spears at [email protected]. On Twitter: @JustinESports

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