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February 25, 2010

Scelfo out to raise level of Arizona's QBs

He was out of work just a few days before landing the best job he ever has had.

Everybody should be so lucky. Then again, not everybody has the same type of resume.

A college quarterback coach who in less than 10 years has sent four quarterbacks to pro football -- including two NFL first-round picks -- should have made quite a name for himself. Yet Frank Scelfo's name remains relatively obscure, though in no small measure by his choice.

His profile may grow in the near future, though, because for the first time in his college coaching career, he has left his native Louisiana and is coaching at a Big Six program.

On Feb. 9 -- a little more than two weeks after Sonny Dykes was named Derek Dooley's successor as Louisiana Tech's coach -- Scelfo celebrated his 51st birthday by starting a new job as quarterbacks coach at Arizona. The irony: Dykes had been the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Arizona, while Scelfo had been the offensive coordinator and quarterback coach at Louisiana Tech and had interviewed for the Bulldogs' head-coaching job when Dooley left for Tennessee.

Arizona coach Mike Stoops promoted Wildcats offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and running backs/tight ends coach Seth Littrell to co-coordinators before bringing in Scelfo.

Now, Scelfo is anxiously awaiting spring drills so he can begin working with incumbent starter Nick Foles, Matt Scott and the other quarterbacks.

"I haven't seen them throw yet. I've just watched on film," Scelfo said via phone in his Cajun accent. "I do like their eagerness. Those guys are like sponges right now and it's going pretty good. I can't wait until we start spring football [March 5] and watch them and get a pulse on who they are."

Some might just wonder who Scelfo is. Actually, if the name rings a bell, it's probably the wrong bell.

Didn't he coach at Tulane a few years ago? Well, yeah, but he was offensive coordinator/quarterback coach under his brother, Chris Scelfo.

When serving as Tulane's quarterbacks coach, Frank Scelfo tutored Patrick Ramsey, J.P. Losman and Lester Ricard, who all went on to play in the NFL. Ramsey was a first-round choice of the Washington Redskins in 2002 and Losman was taken No. 1 by the Buffalo Bills in 2004. Ricard was signed as a free agent by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2007.

After Chris was fired following the 2006 season, Frank was hired by Dooley at Louisiana Tech. There, he coached quarterback Zac Champion, who now is with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League.

That's a quite a run of quarterbacks for a former high school linebacker and a baseball player at Northeast Louisiana (now called Louisiana-Monroe). Scelfo has gained knowledge by working with Rich Rodriguez at Tulane and through a relationship with Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who was offensive coordinator/quarterback coach for the New Orleans Saints while Scelfo was at Tulane.

"Coach Scelfo has made an impression on me," Foles said. "He's a great guy and a players' coach. He's all about fundamentals and what I need to work on ... keeping my feet under me, my release and making clean reads. He'll make me a better quarterback, I can already sense that.

"It definitely gets you excited to know he's sent quarterbacks to the league. I'm fortunate to get a chance to work with him."

Career path
Here's a look at Frank Scelfo's coaching career:
2010Quarterback coach Arizona
2007-09Coordinator/quarterbacks coachLouisiana Tech
1996-2006Coordinator/QB coach/TE coachTulane
1995Secondary coachHouston North Shore
1992-94Offensive coordinatorKilgore (Texas) High
1989-91Offensive coordinatorChapel Hill (Texas) High
1988Offensive coordinatorOrangefield (Texas) High
1987Secondary coachVidor (Texas) High
1985-86Head coachMonroe (La.) River Oaks
1984Secondary coach New Orleans Jesuit
1982-83Head coachBastrop (La.) Prairie View
Skeptics might point out that neither Ramsey nor Losman has had a distinguished NFL career. Scelfo's rebuttal is that they were solid quarterbacks when they left him.

"That's the NFL's problem, not mine," he said. "I'm not sure they were in the right systems. J.P. had three offensive coordinators in four years. Patrick was with [Steve] Spurrier and you saw what a bust that was. Maybe those guys [NFL coaches] didn't do what they needed to do.

"[NFL coaches] evaluated them and thought they were good enough to draft."

The next obvious question, then, is that if Scelfo is such a solid quarterback coach, why did he spend the past decade at Tulane and Louisiana Tech rather than at higher-profile programs?

He has an answer for that, too. He originally was the tight ends and receivers coach at Tulane under Tommy Bowden and could have gone with Bowden to Clemson in '99. But Scelfo chose to remain in New Orleans when his brother was named coach. He also was offered jobs by then-Pittsburgh coach Walt Harris and then-Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron.

"I didn't feel the timing was right," Scelfo said of the other job opportunities. "I always put my personal life ahead of my professional life. My family was more important than the next paycheck. I have a lot of family in New Orleans."

His oldest son, Anthony, was Tulane's starting quarterback in 2007 but left after being selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the '08 baseball draft.

His youngest son, Jordan, is a quarterback at Ruston (La.) Cedar Creek High and will be a senior this fall. Scelfo was prepared to sit out of coaching for a year so his son could finish high school in Ruston, but Jordan urged him to accept the job at Arizona.

Now, Frank lives in a Tucson hotel while his wife, Holly, and son remain in Ruston. His parents are letting Jordan decide whether he will move to Arizona or stay in Ruston for his senior season. Former NBA star Karl Malone and his wife, Kay, have offered to let Holly and Jordan live with them in their house in Ruston. Malone's son, K.J., is an offensive tackle at Cedar Creek.

So, Jordan is one quarterback Frank doesn't have to worry about. Instead, Scelfo is concentrating on helping Foles improve. In time, perhaps he can send a fifth quarterback to pro football.

"That's the plan," Scelfo said.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.

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