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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Salave'a blending well with Wildcats

Joe Salave'a's first full day as a member of the Arizona Wildcats coaching staff was jammed with meetings, film work and a practice that stretched into the evening.
The meet-and-greet will have to wait.
"We're past the introductions," Salave'a said. "Our goal is to get these guys ready to play."
The former UA standout and NFL lineman started as the defensive line coach Monday, giving him scant time before the Wildcats' Dec. 29 Alamo Bowl game against No. 16 Oklahoma State.
Salave'a won't change much, technique-wise, but already has challenged his players to change their expectations.
Arizona's newest assistant is scoring points with his boss.
"I'm really impressed with his ability to fit in so quickly," head coach Mike Stoops said. "It feels like he's been around for a long time."
As recently as two weeks ago, Salave'a was plotting his next career move from his Las Vegas-area home.
An eight-year veteran with the Titans, Chargers and Redskins, Salave'a spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons as defensive tackles coach at San Jose State, but left when Spartans coach Dick Tomey - Salave'a's coach at the UA from 1994 to '97 - retired.
Salave'a spent this summer with the Seattle Seahawks as part of the NFL's minority internship program. But a flurry of moves on the UA staff brought the 35-year-old Salave'a home.
Mike Tuiasosopo and Greg Brown left the UA two weeks ago to join Jon Embree's staff at Colorado. Within days, Salave'a - endorsed by Tomey and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who called Stoops and defensive coordinator Tim Kish - was flown to Tucson for an interview. He was hired Thursday, and, in a rare move, invited to coach the defensive tackles for the upcoming bowl game.
The whirlwind hire "is the nature of the business," Salave'a said. Though he's still feeling his way through the job, Salave'a is helped by something Tuiasosopo didn't have - an NFL pedigree.
Senior Lolomana Mikaele was among the hundreds of Polynesian football players who rooted for Salave'a as a child in Honolulu.
"In the Polynesian community, everybody follows each other - especially if you're doing good," Mikaele said. "He's adjusting to us pretty good."
Salave'a said he will save his major tweaks for the off-season. For now, he's focusing on what he can control - Arizona's will to win.
A Tomey disciple, Salave'a knows the right buttons to push. He has challenged Mikaele and redshirt freshman Justin Washington to produce against an Oklahoma State offense that's among the best in the nation.
"I'm coaching these guys to win this game now. That's just the way I am," he said. "Nothing personal; you have to have thick skin around me. It's about going out there and taking care of business. The only way they can enjoy the experience is winning the bowl game."

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