Spring practice takes another step forward...
March 20, 2012
TUCSON--Coach Rich Rodriguez's Arizona football team puts on pads Wednesday for the first time since his arrival and the head man has three quick observations about what the coaching staff will be closely observing.
"Putting on pads... Well, we'll be looking for who's 'physical,'" he said, citing the loosely defined adjective that's part of every player who ever truly loved the game. It's an ability and style that tends to show up when pads are worn.
"Then... Can they retain what we put in two weeks ago?" Will the fundamentals of Rodriguez's offensive and defensive systems, provided in overview in earlier sessions with the team, translate to the action when there's a bit of real action? No one expects all-systems-go just a handful of practices into a new program, but back-tracking isn't an option. Equipment shouldn't haze the learning process, and he's eager to check that out.
Finally, he says... "Can they play with a hard edge?" That's another way of saying "physical," but with a bit more purpose and willfulness.
One gets the drift. UA puts on pads and the coaches want to see some pop, see some retention and see some attitude.
The Cats go tomorrow afternoon on campus and then take the show north to the Phoenix area for an open practice at noon Saturday at Glendale Community College to afford Valley fans a look at the early progress Rodriguez has demanded since taking over for Mike Stoops (and interim coach Tim Kish) last December.
Rodriguez is afforded 15 spring practices to put in his spread-option and 3-3-5 defense and it's all still in the early stages. Right now he's looking for guys who can play.
Among Players to Watch This Week and Beyond...
Senior Quarterback Matt Scott-- The Washington and UCLA games in 2010, when Scott helped the Cats average 462 yards of unpredictable offense, showcased what the mobile fifth-year senior can do. He's 4-1 as a starter and embraces the new offense with a hunger driven by his redshirt year in 2011. Scott averaged 61 rushing yards in those starts (three in 2010, two a year ago) and can run the ball. He can throw it, too.
Junior QB/WR Richard Morrison-- "I intend to beat out Matt for the job," Morrison said about his switch from receiver -- partially a depth issue for coaches but as much because of his attitude. "If I don't get the job, I'll go back to receiver, but I aim to beat him out." Morrison has shown athletic talent in the slot and as a returner, now gets an opportunity to return to a position for which he's shown the necessary relish.
Senior Safety Adam Hall-- Hall played in one game in 2011, and had 10 tackles at Oregon State. But he aggravated the knee injury that kept him on the sidelines until then and did not return. He has a nose for the ball and should factor as one of the three safeties in the 3-3-5 stack defense. He aligns himself with the senior class, although he could get a fifth year of eligibility if sought. That's for later. He's in position to play one of the key spots in coordinator Jeff Casteel's defense, if he's ready now.
Sophomore Running Back Ka'Deem Carey-- Carey rushed for 425 yards as a true freshman No. 2 or 3, and should find some serious time in 2011 -- although Daniel Jenkins, Greg Nwoko and Kylan Butler all are pushing. Rodriguez has said he thinks the position is one of the team's strong ones. Carey is a "physical" player, to be sure.
Senior Center Kyle Quinn-- Every line needs a leader and Quinn's the guy. He apprenticed under Colin Baxter his first two years then took over in 2011 and helped a brand-new unit turn into a cohesive group that helped UA set passing records. This year the emphasis shifts, and Quinn's ready. He'll take charge.
Senior Receiver Dan Buckner -- Only Rodriguez and offensive coordinators Calvin Magee and Rod Smith know how much of a nod the 2012 passing game gets, but a good guess is that Buckner (and Matt Scott's arm) is among those who will influence the choices. He, Austin Hill and Terrence Miller are the top returning targets and have Pac-12 experience. He caught 42 balls last season including 10 in the game at left (Oklahoma State).
Junior Linebacker Jake Fischer -- Coaches haven't said much about individual players and what they think of them, but Rodriguez has mentioned Fischer:"He's a football player." That's normally a comment reserved for fellows who are physical and play with a hard edge. Fischer's return after missing 2011 with a knee injury is a bright spot for a unit without a lot of experience. He started eight games in 2010 and should start them all in 2012 and 2013.