Arizona football begins fall training camp with questions
On Saturday, the Wildcats started their three-week fall camp with a practice that head coach Rich Rodriguez called “uneven.”
“It was about what I thought. It was a pretty good effort by a lot of guys but some weren’t in shape,” Rodriguez said. “We have a handful of upperclassmen that will be doing a little extra to get in shape. They have to understand what it takes to be an elite athlete. An elite athlete doesn’t show up in August and expect to be ready to go so we’ll see what happens.”
Two of the three main candidates for the starting quarterback job had issues. Junior Jesse Scroggins did not practice and Rodriguez said senior B.J. Denker was not impressive.
“He won’t be talking to you today, if that gives you an idea of what I thought of his performance,” Rodriguez said.
Denker, a dual threat quarterback, was former quarterback Matt Scott’s back up last year. He and played in six games, completing 25-of-37 passes with three touchdowns, rushing for 74 yards on six carries and one touchdown.
“If I sugar coated anything, they would think something is wrong with me. He competed, he’s in good shape, he worked hard. The execution in the passing game should be a whole lot better, even with new wide receivers, than it was [Saturday],” Rodriguez said.
Scroggins, a pro-style quarterback, was the sixth rated signal caller by Scout in 2010 and threw for 1,148 yards with eight passing and two rushing touchdowns at El Camino College.
“He got a concussion somehow, I don’t know what happened, in a work out, a freak accident, got hit in the head and didn’t get cleared yet for [Saturday],” Rodriguez said.
Scroggins went to USC in 2010 and 2011, before transferring to El Camino College for last fall and then the UA in the spring. Scroggins missed almost all of the spring football season because of toe surgery.
True freshman and dual threat quarterback Anu Solomon is the other projected competitor for the starting job. He was a four star recruit by Scout and Rivals and passed for 2,849 yards and 37 touchdowns last year at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.
Rodriguez doesn’t have a deadline for picking a No. 1.
“Well what time’s the first game?” Rodriguez said when asked if there was a certain time he wanted a starter by. “I don’t feel that there’s a need, I don’t feel that I have to name a guy. If a guy separates himself, before then, he’ll do that.”
A positive for the Wildcats was the much-maligned defense, which gave up 35.3 points a game, 105th in the country in 2012.
“I think we are better defensively which I thought we would be,” Rodriguez said. “Guys are moving around a little bit and understanding a little better and we have more competition just with sheer numbers. It looks like we can line up three units and compete. So that is encouraging.”
Senior linebacker Marquis Flowers thinks it is too early to proclaim that the defense is “much improved,” but likes their start and said they were an “embarrassment” to the program last year.
“I think we should wait until the season starts to say that but the first day was good,” Flowers said. “Obviously being last in every category, we take that very personal, so this whole offseason we have been working into spring ball and we have more depth. I think we played hard [Saturday].”
Rodriguez said he thought the incompletions and interceptions were a mixed bag.
“I think we forced things a little bit, couldn’t get open and there was also some pretty good plays defensively,” Rodriguez said. “I think it was a little bit of everything, which as a head coach, you don’t mind seeing, especially when the defense is improved.”
Arizona’s season opener is Aug. 30 at 7 p.m. against NAU.