March 8, 2012
TUCSON--The University of Arizona football team takes a break until March 21 before resuming spring practice under first-year Head Coach Rich Rodriguez.
Former Cats will assemble with visiting NFL Scouts for UA's annual Pro Day testing on March 19 but the current crop of Wildcats turns to self-motivated workouts and more mental preparation before the remaining 13 spring practices take place.
The Cats have been through two full practices on Monday and Wednesday and will gather for a 6 a.m. conditioning workout without football equipment on Friday.
UA players have been working hard to adopt Rodriguez's style for practice, which is a don't-waste-my-time flowing system designed to concentrate practices within 20 periods of five minutes each. The time in between periods is minimal. The red lamp on the three-light stoplight erected at one end of the field is lit for only brief drink-some-water moments, then it's yellow for speed, and green for all-out periods.
"I like it," said sophomore defensive end Reggie Gilbert of the pace. "We're learning a lot." The sentiment was echoed by junior running back Daniel Jenkins, who also lauded the coaching staff for having an open mind about the so-called depth chart. "Everyone has a chance, from scratch" to earn a key role, he said.
Arizona will scrimmage in the Phoenix area on March 24 at a yet to be announced location, and close spring drills with the Spring Game in Tucson on April 14. In between are nine key practice dates that Rodriguez said he hope enable the staff to install much of the spread-option offense and 3-3-5 defense.
Sophomore cornerback Jonathan McKnight, who missed 2011 with a knee injury and is back involved in 80 percent of the work this spring, said the early going has been instructional and not indicative of what the 3-3-5 means for UA defensive backs. "(Defensive coordinator) Coach Casteel hasn't really introduced us to his system, it's mostly been work on all the fundamentals they stress," he said.
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Notes...All coaches have shown that special teams will not be a one-man show. Rodriguez has assigned safeties coach Tony Gibson to head defensive special teams and tight ends coach Spencer Leftwich to head offensive special teams, but all nine assistants are involved in working with the various kicking teams. Rodriguez himself spends several periods working with the kickers... Co-offensive coordinators Calvin Magee (RBs) and Rod Smith (QBs) similarly interact with other parts of the unit beyond their position players in some sessions... Rodriguez and staff have plenty of film to work with over the next several weeks, including packages taken from helmet cams worn by quarterbacks during drills. Another ploy to help evaluation are white stripes from front-to-back worn by defensive backs on their blue helmets to more easily track where they're likely looking during some drills... Three reserves seeing plenty of work with the top units are sophomore offensive tackle Trent Spurgeon, senior safety Mark Watley and junior cornerback Derrick Rainey. Spurgeon's taking advantage of sidelined Mickey Baucus (knee rehab), while Watley gets a chance with the three-safety formation and Rainey has been getting more work with McKnight's status...