Arizona announced on Friday that it had hired UCLA defensive backs coach Paul Rhoads as its defensive coordinator. Rhoads is a savvy veteran with head coaching experience who presided over one of the nation’s worst secondaries last season.
UCLA allowed a school-record 3,729 yards passing in 2019 on the way to a 4-8 record. The Bruins gave up 310.8 yards passing per game, ranking No. 129 out of 130 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
Arizona’s news release noted that UCLA’s defense improved in several categories during the 2018 season, Rhoads’ first with the team. The Bruins lowered their average gain per rush allowed, total offensive yards per game allowed and points per game allowed, and increased their forced turnovers.
Rhoads replaces Marcel Yates, who was fired as the Wildcats’ defensive coordinator in late October.
Before becoming part of coach Chip Kelly’s initial UCLA staff, Rhoads had been defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and interim head coach during two seasons at Arkansas. Previously, Rhoads, who will turn 53 in February, had been the head coach at Iowa State, going 32-55 in seven seasons with three bowl game appearances.
Kelly said this week that he did not anticipate any coaching staff changes but said that he could not predict whether other schools would hire away his assistants. Rhoads becomes the second UCLA assistant to depart since Kelly’s arrival, joining outside linebackers coach and special teams coordinator Roy Manning, who left for Oklahoma before last season.
Rhoads was an active figure on UCLA’s sideline during games, earning praise from Kelly in October when the Bruins were in the midst of a three-game winning streak.
“Paul’s always been a demonstrative guy, that’s one thing I love about him,” Kelly said. “He’s a great teacher, very passionate about the game of football and that’s just Paul coaching, and Paul coaching is awesome.”