Arizona has seen eight players opt for the transfer portal since the winter window opened earlier this month. Coaches don’t like to lose talent, but the Wildcats haven’t lost any key pieces of the core of the team. While other programs have been stunned by key players transferring, Arizona has only seen the kind of moves programs have come to expect in this era.

Given how easy it would be for big programs to come in, drop a bag, and poach talent, keeping this upstart team together is an impressive development on its own.

Players seem to be fully invested in what Jedd Fisch and his staff are building in Tucson.

“This is not like a fake program,” UA corner Treydan Stukes told the Arizona Daily Star’s Michael Lev. “Like when you come here, it really is a family. I feel like those guys are my brothers in there. And the coaches, I feel like they truly care about me as a person and not just a football player.”

The Wildcats have built quickly, but this hasn’t been a rush job.

Fisch and the Cats went 1-11 in 2021. That following offseason, the staff hit the recruiting trail hard to dramatically remake the offseason. That included key portal additions and unearthed gems from the high school ranks.

They went 5-7 in 2022 and showed proof of concept, upsetting a ranked UCLA team at the Rose Bowl in November. In the ensuing offseason, Fisch and Co. set out to plug the holes that existed on the defensive side of the ball.

Arizona is rolling into the Alamo Bowl at 9-3, winners of six straight. The Wildcats finished third in the Pac-12 and capped the best two-year turnaround in program history.

Every step of the way, Fisch has preached the right things and pressed the right buttons. He has been steadfast in his confidence that what they were building toward was not that far off. And he’s been right.

The vibes inside the program are excellent at the moment. A win in San Antonio would be a major springboard into the program’s first year in the Big 12.