Texas two-stepping: former Longhorns team up for Arizona football
Spring football practice started Monday, giving Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez the chance to see his team in action for the first time since the AdvoCare V100 Bowl game against Boston College.
Spring practice is the first chance players get to showcase their talents and get the upper hand on earning starting roster spots. Rodriguez said it is too early to name players starters and that he doesn’t anticipate that changing.
“There is no rotation, there is no starters and there is no backups,” Rodriguez said. “They’re just all getting reps, so if you’re trying to figure that out, good luck, because I ain’t got it figured out and probably won’t until August.”
Last season’s starting quarterback, B.J. Denker, separated himself from the pack before the season and solidified the position in his senior year. However, Denker is now gone, leaving a void for the seven quarterbacks on the roster to fight over.
Of the seven quarterbacks on the roster, including redshirt junior transfer Jerrard Randall, redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, redshirt senior Jesse Scroggins and redshirt sophomore Connor Brewer, Brewer has one of the stronger chances to make an impact.
Coming out of Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, Ariz., Brewer was ranked as the No. 7 quarterback and the No. 130 player overall in the 2012 class by ESPN and originally chose to attend the University of Texas over offers from Alabama, Stanford, Texas A&M and Arizona, among others.
However, his tenure at Texas didn’t last long, as he redshirted his freshman year and began his redshirt freshman season in a positional battle. Shortly after dropping down the depth chart, Brewer decided to transfer and picked Arizona as his destination.
Due to NCAA rules, Brewer had to sit out last season after transferring from Texas last July. Having the year off allowed him to learn the complex Arizona offense before taking the field for the upcoming season. Brewer will likely be one of the frontrunners for the starting position and said he is ready for the ensuing competition.
“At least from my area at quarterback, I think we have a lot of great players and a good crop to choose from,” Brewer said. “Everybody can do something a little different. I’m excited to go out there and compete every day and show the coaches what I can do.”
Shortly after Brewer decided to transfer to Arizona, his Texas teammate Cayleb Jones also decided to transfer and had Arizona on his shortlist. Jones ended up choosing Arizona in August of last year, over East Carolina and Oklahoma. The duo came into Texas together in the 2012 recruiting class and essentially came to Arizona together.
“Having Connor [Brewer] here is really one of the main reasons why I’m here,” Jones said. “He makes me comfortable on and off the field. There are things I don’t know yet and I’m still learning, so it’s nice to have him in my back pocket to teach me.”
Despite rotations not being set, both players are expected to be factors in what should be a different-looking offense this season. The departure of running back Ka’Deem Carey to the NFL and the newfound depth at quarterback and wide receiver have Brewer and Jones in the middle of an intense competition for starting spots at their respective positions.
“It definitely motivates you, especially with all these quarterbacks,” Brewer said. “Coach is always watching, always critiquing, every time. I think it’s going to be a great competition and I’m excited and just here to separate myself.”
It may only be spring, but the Texas duo realizes Rodriguez is paying close attention to both of their positions and that they have a rare chance to make an impact early. Rodriguez finished up his post-practice comments by talking about the changes that will be seen throughout spring and fall practices.
“We thought Ka’Deem [Carey] was the best running back in the nation, so we’re going to miss that for sure,” Rodriguez said. “The intensity and enthusiasm is pretty good here. … I’m just looking for effort and execution more than anything else.”
—Follow Roberto Payne @HouseOfPayne