Jedd Fisch previews Northern Arizona as Wildcats look to open 2023 with bang
Jedd Fisch met with reporters on Monday for his first game-week press conference of the new season.
Arizona enters the 2023 campaign looking to take another step in its rebuild. The Wildcats enjoyed a four-win improvement last season, jumping to 5-7 with huge wins over UCLA and Arizona State late in the year.
Fisch likes where his group is at heading into the new season, but the 2023 opener provides an opportunity to really show how far Arizona has come since the disaster of 2021. Northern Arizona, — which beat the UA 21-19 in Tucson on Sept. 18, 2021 — is the first opponent on the Wildcats’ schedule.
Fisch talked about that, and more. Here’s what he said, with select quotes below:
On the health of the team
“Everybody’s healthy. I would expect that all 85 scholarship players will be ready to go. I don’t think there’s (an injury). Not that I can think of right now. All 85 players are ready.”
On what he remembers from the 2021 NAU loss
“I remember that I knew that we had to find a way to get better fast. And that we had to put that game behind us, as we have to put all games behind us that we don’t win. And I think the rest of the night went into watching film and evaluating our talent and making decisions on what type of team we have, how resilient (are) our players. Are they willing to just see this game as one of 12 on the schedule? And were they able to find a way to come back and play extremely hard the next week, which they did. We spent our focus on that that evening and all the other evenings.
“But, yeah, you get to a point that there was this lingering black cloud over the program of a losing streak. We didn’t win games that we thought either A, we could have won, or B, people expected us to win. Unless you’re in that locker room, unless you realize where we’re at, we were rebuilding it all. And now I think we’re in a place… We have done a good job as a program and our coaches have done a great job of bringing in good talent, and our players have done a great job of learning our system. They’ve done a great job of taking care of their bodies. Our training room was packed today of guys just getting ready for game week. And I just love the players’ attitude right now.”
On LB Justin Flowe
“He’s probably one of the most explosive players that we’ve had here. Probably the most explosive player that we’ve had here. He’s in an elite category in regards to his ability to run and hit, his ability to make plays on the ball, his ability to see a ball carrier, close the distance, and explode through a guy. What Justin is learning is the system, and he’s learning how to play within the system. He’s had three different defensive systems in three years, and he’s continuing to now get another system thrown at him. What are the adjustments? As a linebacker, you’re responsible for being the play-caller, so to speak, right? So, you’re the one that has to make formation adjustments and make decisions on the sets and what goes on around you. He’s working through that. But as a player, I think there’s no question about his explosiveness and his energy that he brings.”
On Don Brown winning at UMass with so many former Arizona players
“Super cool. I thought that was great. I think we had eight guys on our team that are over there now. It’s a great opportunity for those guys, they have chances to go play and be involved in the games and in their two-deep. That’s awesome for them, and a great win. I texted Coach Brown yesterday congratulating him on the win.
“I watched a lot of the game, not all of it but, most of it. I love that (Anthony Simpson) got the first touchdown on a fly sweep. I saw the little RPO that he caught, it was good to see that. I think Tyler Martin, he was blitzing, the first interception he was clean off the edge, he forced them to throw an interception. I thought that was awesome. I was really happy for Tyler and his family. They’re great people. All together, man, it was an awesome win for UMass, and I was really happy to see that.”