The environment, energy and mentality felt different around the Davis Sports Center and Dick Tomey Practice Fields on Tuesday, March 23 as Jedd Fisch walked on the field as the head coach of the Arizona football team for the first day of spring practice.
After practice, offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll and defensive coordinator Don Brown answered questions from the media alongside coach Fisch, senior tight end Bryce Wolma and freshman outside linebacker Jalen Harris.
Here are some highlights from the interviews.
Head coach Jedd Fisch
It was a big day for Fisch as his lifelong dream of becoming a head football coach has come true after the past two decades working in different positions in the NFL and college football. He knows there is still a lot to be done, but you can see the hunger is there for Fisch alongside his staff and players.
Fisch on the first day of spring practice: “It was a lot of fun. I woke up this morning excited for the chance to be out here and excited to be part of something special. There were some good plays that were made. I think we had four quarterbacks get the number of reps.”
Fisch on how the team is learning the new schemes: “They all did some good and probably a lot not-so-good that we get to work on and get better at. It was the first day out there learning a whole new system, trying to do this fast and trying to get going is a lot. All the guys gave it their best shot today and have to be better Thursday.”
Fisch on who has stood out as a leader so far: “There are some leaders out there that the strength and conditioning part of the program, that are strength coaches have given us, and now it’s time for us to kind of see. ‘Okay, now that we’re on the field, do those leaders continue? Is it the same leaders that we had in the weight room on the practice field?’ So we’ll just continue to evaluate that. We’ll have a leadership council at some point in time. But right now, I think a lot of their heads are spinning. A lot of them are just kind of trying to figure out what’s next, what’s the next drill pretty hard and really lead at this point in time, the way to practice went. But I’m sure it will come soon.”
Fisch on his overall message during spring practice: “The central theme of our team is competition. Throughout the practice, they will be doing all sorts of things to compete against themselves and that’s our message. It is definitely different when you’re doing drills from under center. It will come from mental repetition and it will take them a little longer to get there.”
Fisch on how he determines the depth chart: “We used a lot of different criteria: how they competed in the weight room, the win first program [strength and conditioning program] competed in the classroom, walkthroughs and we also used film from last season and had an idea of everyone’s skill set. From there, we put together a depth chart which will be an ever-changing process in terms of a very fluid depth chart moving forward."
Defensive coordinator Don Brown
After four seasons as the Michigan Wolverines defensive coordinator, Brown decided to join Fisch in the desert to help rebuild the Wildcats’ defense from the 1990s.
Brown on his initial thoughts from the first practice: “We have been doing a ton of classroom work; it was good to get out there and compete. I got what I thought I was going to get in terms of energy out there. It’s just day one, but I can promise you we will be ready to go in September.”
Brown on transfer Gunner Maldonado: “I think he’s going to be a really good player. He’s in our office all the time; he can’t get enough. He’s a tremendous young man and has a tremendous future at Arizona.”
Brown’s biggest message to his defensive unit: “I told them, if you don’t run to the ball you will never ever play for me. That was the biggest message.”
Brown on the new defensive scheme and how the players have adjusted so far: “We are probably in the 30s with the number of calls we have made. Nobody is waiting for us, they're kicking off, and they have had their systems in place, so we have to catch up.”
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Offensive coordinator Brennan Carroll
Carroll, son of Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, has followed him from his days at USC to spending his last five seasons as the assistant offensive line coach and run game coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.
Carroll on what he liked from his offense: “What I liked about our offense today was our guys communicated well. The effort was great today. We have to build on it and get better, but for day one, it was great.”
Carroll on how his players have adapted to the new offensive scheme: “Overall, those kids have done a fantastic job with integrating themselves in the program. They have been humble and great teammates so far.”
Carroll also spoke about two new players on his offense, running back Drake Anderson, a transfer from Northwestern, and quarterback Gunner Cruz, who transferred from Washington State this offseason. Their quarterback and running back rooms are deep, so we will have to see throughout spring football who wins out in those battles.
“It’s been six years since they have taken a snap under center, it’s going to be a process,” Carroll said. “It gives us more of a variety and lets us do a couple more things.”
Tight end Bryce Wolma
Wolma is coming back for his fifth season as a Wildcat and is excited to get things started under a new system this year. He has only caught 14 balls in his past three seasons in Tucson, but the good news for him seems like that could change come August.
“It’s a pretty good feeling. This whole staff, new culture and new offense,” Wolma said. “This year’s been completely different, it’s been amazing.”
Wolma on his initial thoughts from the first spring practice: “My first reaction was, it’s been a while since I’ve heard that and it's actually been followed through, so I was really excited. It’s been a roller-coaster of emotions. Last year was frustrating, to say the least. We have set a new standard, and coach uses the past to motivate us sometimes.”
Wolma on what is different this season compared to last season: “Everything we do is competition based; everyone is super serious about their assignments which makes it fun.”
Outside linebacker Jalen Harris
Harris, along with Wolma, is coming back for his fifth season and had a productive 2020 season in a short five-game schedule. He had 18 total tackles in four games played but failed to record a sack. But with Brown leading the charge this season, he hopes to change that.
Harris on his initial thoughts from the first spring practice: “I’m excited, we are competing a lot. A lot is being expected out of all of us on this team. We have to stick together and hold each other accountable.”
Harris on the new style of coaching: “It was fast-paced, high energy. He treats this program like an NFL program. I just come out here and do what I’m asked and compete, work hard, try to make plays on the field and hopefully end up starting.”
Harris on playing with his brother Jason Harris this season: “I haven’t played with him in two years, so it was good to see him. I wanted him to play with me, and it would be great to be on the field together. And hopefully, it happens.”
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