Football Guide: Solomon looks to lead Wildcats this year
Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez was just messing with all of us, and doing a damn fine job at it, too.
Rodriguez announced on Monday that redshirt freshman Anu Solomon will start the nationally televised Friday season opener against UNLV, just days after telling media members that he had no timetable to announce a starter and could take until game time to decide.
At his weekly press conference, Rodriguez told reporters that he sat down with his coaching staff over the weekend and decided on starting Solomon.
The four quarterbacks in the running — Solomon, redshirt senior Jesse Scroggins III, redshirt junior Jerrard Randall and redshirt sophomore Connor Brewer — were then informed on Sunday night when they met with the coaches.
Arizona redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon (12) passes the ball during football practice on Monday. Solomon was named the starter for the season opener against UNLV on Friday.
Announcing the decision on Monday allowed for Solomon to take all the first team reps at practice this week, instead of the previous plan to split reps amongst the four quarterbacks. The revised plan should give Solomon the best chance to prepare to face his hometown UNLV squad on Friday.
Solomon, a former four-star recruit, redshirted last season and studied behind last year’s starter B.J. Denker.
Solomon is now charged with leading an Arizona squad coming off back-to-back 8-5 seasons, and Rodriguez said he’s poised beyond his years.
“I thought he deserves the right to start the first game,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t know who the next guy is but I told all four of the guys to be ready to play because all four could play. But at the same time, I’m confident that Anu will play well, and he’ll be the starter as long as he plays well [and we] win.”
As the first freshman to start at quarterback since Willie Tuitama in 2005, scrutiny will follow, but Solomon was described as calm and collected by his teammates.
“Most importantly, he is consistent in having good reads, and the best attribute he carries is his composure,” redshirt senior safety Jared Tevis said. “That will be big come game time. I think it’s in his personality and his character. He’s a pretty relaxed guy, and I think that’s where it comes from.”
Maintaining that composure throughout the season will be key for Solomon, as the Wildcats will play road games against two highly rated teams in Oregon and UCLA, two places where it’s not easy to win.
After sitting out last season, his toughest task in his first few starts will be keeping possession of the ball and limiting turnovers. Luckily for him, Rodriguez said he doesn’t have to be worried about being pulled early.
“That doesn’t mean that he plays the whole game and that he will be the starter the rest of the season, but I also don’t want any quarterback to ever go in thinking as soon as I make a mistake I’m coming out,” Rodriguez said.
In front of Solomon will be a veteran offensive line headlined by four senior starters and one junior starter. Combining that experience on the line with one of the best receiving corps in the nation should provide Solomon with a good chance to succeed.
As it often is in college football, programs go as far as their quarterbacks take them. If Arizona wants to improve during year three of the Rich Rodriguez era, it will be behind the arm, and legs, of Solomon.
—Follow Roberto Payne on Twitter @HouseofPayne555