Arizona spring football game observations
In front of 7,100 people in the stands at Arizona Stadium and a national television audience, Arizona wrapped up spring football on Saturday afternoon with its annual spring game.
The scrimmage, which was won by the offense 57-38, gave Wildcat fans a glimpse of what they might see this fall.
Redshirt senior quarterback Jesse Scroggins got the most reps on the first team offense Saturday.
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said the quarterbacks showed a good command of the offense.
Wide receiver and redshirt sophomore DaVonte' Neal (19) runs into the end zone untouched during Arizona's annual spring football game in front of a crowd of 7,100 at Arizona Stadium on Saturday. Neal said he wants to help the Wildcats' run game as well as its pass game.
In the scrimmage Scroggins went 3-for-8, with 57 passing yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also had six carries for 37 yards.
“He has a great arm and some speed,” redshirt sophomore receiver DaVonte’ Neal said of Scroggins. “He has good vision and he takes on a leadership role very well.”
Behind Scroggins were redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, redshirt sophomore Connor Brewer and redshirt junior Jerrard Randall. All four of the quarterbacks appear to be in the mix for the starting position. Rodriguez said none of the signal callers have separated themselves enough to name a starter, and it is likely that one will not be named until August.
Receivers in the backfield
Former running back Ka’Deem Carey’s performance on the field is something Rodriguez might find hard to replace.
Last season’s third-string running back, junior Jared Baker, missed the entire spring football season with a torn ACL that he sustained in November. But he isn’t a shoe-in to get a majority of carries in 2014.
So Rodriguez is looking to find other ways to get production out of the position and starting receivers — sophomore Samajie Grant, freshman T.J. Johnson and Neal in the backfield could be a serious option.
On Saturday, Grant was the only one of the three to get a carry. Grant lined up in the backfield for one series and had one carry for 3 yards.
Johnson missed the spring game. Rodriguez said the freshman, who enrolled early, stepped on something getting out of bed and injured his ankle on Friday. The injury isn’t serious but held him out for the game.
As for Neal, a transfer from Notre Dame, he only had one catch but it was for a 44-yard touchdown.
Neal said after the game that big gains on receptions are one of the best things he adds to the Wildcats, but he’d like to help out in other ways too.
“I want to get better on my blocking this year so that we can spring big plays for our running backs,” Neal said.
The 5-foot-10 Neal said he expects to also be in the mix for punt and kick-off returning.
The Wildcats’ defensive line and linebackers will likely look the most different from last season.
The most notable losses are nose tackle Tevin Hood and linebackers Jake Fischer and Marquis Flowers. All three have no eligibility remaining.
On Saturday, sophomore Dwight Melvin started at nose tackle and linebackers Keoni Bush-Loo, a junior, and DeAndre’ Miller, a sophomore, started on the first-team defense. Bush-Loo and Miller played outside linebackers while former outside linebacker Scooby Wright moved inside.
Staying healthy was maybe the biggest success for the Wildcats this spring. Last year Arizona was stricken with injuries and struggled just to find bodies. But this year the defense especially was able to stay on the field and out of the trainer’s room.
“One of the main things about spring ball is coming out alive,” junior safety William Parks said. “We have a whole lot more depth [on defense]. Last year we were a little thin.”
—Follow Luke Della @LukeDella