LOS ANGELES — Arizona head coach Jedd Fisch was all smiles at Pac-12 Media Day on Friday.

He opened with jabs at other coaches negative recruiting the Wildcats, calling them an offseason team. Arizona, Fisch said, had another strong offseason. And Fisch thinks this year they can also be a strong in-season team. Even after a 1-11 record in 2021, Fisch was able to build and create some optimism for the new year. He touched on that and a bunch more.

Here’s everything he said.

On the success of the most recent recruiting class

JF: I think they saw that where we were is not where we’re headed. What they have the opportunity to do is be part of the change, to be a part of a program that I believe offers everything you can possibly want in an incredible environment, in a beautiful community, an opportunity to play and play early.

Guys want to come and be a part of it. We told those guys we can help you get to the next level if that’s what you aspire to do. We know what it looks like in a draft room. We know what it looks like when it comes to successes.

Additionally, we felt as if we needed to get some of those pieces in place, and they felt like they could immediately impact the results.

On what he learned most from 2021

JF: How important it is to be able to compete for all four quarters. For us, our players never stopped playing and never stopped competing. Sometimes our depth beat us. It was really important for us moving forward that we built our program based on being able to play for all four quarters and 60 minutes.

We had a lot of games that we were close, then it got away from us. We need to find a way to make sure from 2021 to 2022 that our process is enabling us to be successful by having depth at a lot of positions.

On if the NFL pedigree of Arizona’s staff helps on the recruiting trail

JF: Yeah, I hope so. I think a lot of people talk about that they can get you to the next level or they know what the next level looks like, but you actually have to be there to know it.

I feel like it gives us an opportunity based on the relationships we have with coaches at the next level to be able to talk with them and kind of see what they’re looking, see how the trends of the NFL have changed.

As we share our message with our recruits, our players, we’re going to do everything we can to get you a chance to be at the next level, then it’s up to you after that.

On how USC and UCLA leaving the Pac-12 will change Arizona’s recruiting in Southern California

JF: I hope what it does when parents are making decisions on wanting to watch their children play, they don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Newark, fly to Iowa, fly to Ann Arbor. They get to get in a car, drive five and a half hours, and next thing you know they’re at Arizona. They can be able to watch their sons play right here on the West Coast, right in prime time television. We’re hopeful that that’s going to be a huge benefit for us moving forward.

On the roster now compared to a year ago

JF: We’re better. We’re a better football team. The players that were on our roster last year that are on our roster this year have improved. They’ve committed to being better in the weight room. They’ve committed to being better in film study. They’ve committed to being better fundamentally.

The players that we’ve been able to bring in, we brought in some good football players. What it looks like come Saturday, September 3rd, is very different than how I feel right now. We’ll have to see. We’ll have to see if our team can come together in this training camp and how well we can play as a team.

If we can do that, then I think we’ll be a better football team as well.

On the status of Kyon Barrs and Jamarye Joiner

JF: Yes, I believe both of them will be starting August 3rd in practice. I think they’re both cleared to go. I look forward to watching both of them be able to participate. They’ve all done a great job with rehab. We came out here to L.A. for surgery. We used the Rams’ physician. Did a fantastic job in getting both those kids back healthy.

On Jacob Cowing and Jayden de Laura’s play during the spring

JF: Better than the spring practice the year before, I can tell you that. We were able to hit on a lot of passes. We were able to be explosive. We were able to make plays out there on the field. It was fun to watch ’em. It was fun to watch what they did. They connected pretty well together.

Then along with that we had (Tetairoa McMillan), who was here this spring, and Dorian Singer. The receiving core, while young—two freshmen and a transfer—gives us some hope to be able to be a little more explosive and score a few more touchdowns in the red area.

On Bill Belichick and Sean McVay speaking to the team

JF: Yeah, both of them are so unique and special in their own ways. I think our players learned the importance of competition in everything you do and the importance of communication in everything you do.

You listen to both those guys speak, and they could speak in their own way and say their own words, but their messaging is the same: it’s about how do you compete every day, how do you communicate every day, how much better in fundamentals can you get every day.

If you can follow those three things, that was the message from both of them. How they said it, what they said was different, but in the end our staff, myself, and our team all learned that from those guys.

On Stevie Rocker’s role in 2022

JF: I’d expect him to do one of two things: be one of the best special teams players on our football team, I’ve challenged him to do that, and then to be able to find a role and get the ball as a running back.

You got one guy back there as a running back traditionally. We’ve got a pretty deep running back room. We just received a transfer from Florida State a few weeks ago who will be arriving on campus today. We’ve got Michael Wiley returning, Drake Anderson, Stevie Rocker, Jalen John, then Rayshon Luke and Jonah Coleman arriving. It’s going to be a great competition this summer. But every one of them should be committed to being great on special teams if they’re not carrying the ball.

On when he expects to name a starting quarterback

JF: Jayden will take all the reps with the ones.

On newcomers becoming leaders

JF: I would say without a question that you become a leader in a lot of different ways. Sometimes it’s performance-based, sometimes it’s talk, sometimes it’s actions, sometimes it’s just kind of presence. We wanted to bring in players that have won games. I think that was a huge part of it. So if you look at our recruiting class, you look at their high school records, they know how to win.

You’re respected in a locker room if you’re coming from a winning program. Those guys are going to have to immediately impact our program in a lot of ways, and their ability to be a winner, their ability to understand what it takes to be a winner, the process that it goes into becoming a winner, and showing that they’re willing to do that, will give them the best chance to become leaders quickly.

But we have some good veteran leadership of guys that have been in this program over the last few years who have embraced our program, and those young guys will need to learn from them as well.

On his recruiting relationship with California high schools

JF: I think it comes down to tell the truth, tell the truth as a coach, tell the truth. If you commit to something, show them that you’re going to do it. If you’re going to tell them you’re going to be around NFL players and coaches, then make sure there’s NFL players and coaches in your building. If you’re going to tell them they’re going to have accessibility to some of the greatest in the profession or some of the greatest that have played at Arizona, make sure they’re there. If you can actually hit on those targets, you can actually—those commitments that you made, make them happen, then you’ll earn their trust.

When we tell our guys you’re going to hear from people like Bill Belichick, Sean McVay, then they walk into your building, they know what you’re telling them in recruiting is not just a sales pitch but it’s actual reality.

I think that’s what has been critical for our staff. That’s where I respect our coaching staff so much.

On the importance of beating regional opponents

JF: I mean, without a doubt we all understand the importance of winning football games in the conference, out of the conference, whatever games you schedule. We’re playing a 12-2 San Diego State team that’s opening up their new stadium. That’s going to be a great challenge. We’re looking forward to that challenge. We’re playing an SEC team coached by Mike Leach coming back into the Pac-12 Conference to play a game. We recognize that challenge. We’re playing the national champions, North Dakota State. We recognize that challenge. We’re excited about it, but we don’t look at it in terms of one win is more important than the other. We’re just going to go out there and play our best football and see what happens.

On Tetairoa McMillan being able to make an impact right away

JF: Well, he’s a really good player and a great kid. When you have that marriage of a great person with extremely high character, with physical talent, it gives you your best chance to be good. Now, he’s going to be a freshman and he’s going to take some lumps. We understand that and recognize that. But what you know is if he’s going to be a hard worker, if he’s going to be committed, and if he’s got the raw talent, it gives you some hope, really a great feel moving forward that he’s going to be able to impact our team not just September 3rd but every week after, then for the next few years.