Arizona Wildcats football gets focused
After two weeks of losing, Arizona football improved their consistency with a strong week of practice, followed by a 35-24 victory over Utah last Saturday.
During the week of practice leading up to Saturday’s game, head coach Rich Rodriguez and the players were noticeably more upbeat and positive than they had been in the previous weeks. Both Rodriguez and running back Ka’Deem Carey called Tuesday’s practice the best of the season.
Now, how do you replicate a strong week of practice?
“The more you win the more is at stake,” Rodriguez said on Monday. “But I don’t talk about the next game or the next day or win the day. We just try and focus on the next play.”
Rodriguez said he is always worried about his team’s focus, whether it was at West Virginia or here in Tucson. Monday he appeared confident that the message he and the coaches preach is being absorbed by these players, especially now that it’s year two of the system.
Ryan Revock/ The Daily Wildcat UA head football coach Rich Rodriguez watches his team warm-up before the Utah game on Saturday.
As for this past game, Rodriguez said he would still like to see more consistency out of the Wildcats. He specifically pointed out the defensive line.
“[Having] confidence [after a win] is OK,” Rodriguez said. “But keeping them humble is what the coaches are supposed to do.”
Not only did the Wildcats win on the field, they added a handful of recruits after the Utah game, most notably Layth Friekh of Peoria Centennial in Peoria, Ariz., and Kaelin Deboskie of Salpointe Catholic in Tucson.
Friekh is a three-star offensive lineman, according to Rivals.com, who had offers from ASU, Boise State, Nebraska, Oregon and Washington. Deboskie is a three-star receiver, according to Scout, and chose the UA over ASU, Colorado, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.
Coaches can’t comment on commits until they sign with the school, but Rodriguez said he is excited about recruiting so far.
“Last year we had a pretty good class but I think this upcoming year is better,” Rodriguez said.
247 Sports has Arizona’s 2014 class ranked as the 17th in the nation and top in the Pac-12.
Deboskie joins another Salpointe player, Cameron Denson, as UA commits. Denson, a high school All-American, is also a receiver.
The receiving corps in 2014 will also include the injured Austin Hill and Cayleb Jones, a transfer from Texas. Rodriguez said the receivers are tough and will continue to be.
“Our receivers do lots of things well,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to be pretty good at that position in the future.”
Due to their high tempo offense, conditioning is a huge part of the Wildcats offense. At the end of both the USC and Utah game, it was clear Arizona was the team in better shape as the opposing defenses struggled to keep up with fast pace.
Lifting weights, running, and all the traditional techniques are fine for Rodriguez, but he announced Monday that he’s looking into new ways to make sure Wildcat football players are playing and maintaining an elite level.
“We’ve got people on the outside looking into our guys’ sleep habits,” Rodriguez said. ”They can tell not just how much sleep they got but how deep of sleep.”
Rodriguez said the players can wear wristbands that will monitor their sleep habits.
While he physically can’t be in all his players’ rooms to make sure they are going to bed at a proper time, Rodriguez said he hopes they are practicing what he is preaching, which is getting a solid eight to nine hours of sleep a night — something Rodriguez admitted to not getting the past few weeks himself due to the losses.
Defensive lineman Reggie Gilbert, said he tries to get eight hours of sleep a night because he knows the value of it and believes his teammates do too.
Whether or not that is true, Rodriguez doesn’t want to take a chance. He’s learned the value of sleep and brain function can have on staying at an elite athletic shape.
“There’s a huge benefit,” Rodriguez said. “So that’s a huge concern for us and I don’t know, to be honest, if our guys have looked at themselves in that realm.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella