With only three months remaining until the official commencement of the 2012 college football season, the Arizona Wildcats have an important summer ahead of them in preparation for their first season under new head coach Rich Rodriguez.
There will be plenty of new faces added to the roster to add to the new staff and the months ahead should shed plenty of light on what to expect from Rodriguez's first year on campus. While the consensus believes that UA is going to have a down season, there is enough on the roster for the Wildcats to surprise people across the country.
What lies ahead is uncertain and the near future is going to give the squad a jump on getting fully acclimated to the new system, staff and plenty of new faces up and down the roster.
Here is what to watch for this summer.
The coaching staff will determine who stayed in shape and who became a little lazy between spring and summer very quickly. The first noticeable impact Rodriguez and his staff had in early offseason practice sessions and spring camp was in the conditioning department. You can be sure they will figure out who has best prepared themselves for the 2012 season right off the bat this summer.
You can also count on the new staff getting the freshmen in line early. The transition from high school football practice to college is a leap that can be both physically and mentally draining. Fans should expect Rodriguez to whip the new arrivals in shape quickly considering there are depth concerns at several positions on the roster. Rodriguez will want his first year players as ready as they can be with the possibility of many seeing the field in 2012.
Rodriguez's admiration for walk-ons has been widely documented since his arrival. He was a walk-on in college and he has always carried an abundance of them on his rosters wherever he has coached.
From the moment practice began, one of the first differenced observers noticed between a Mike Stoops practice and a Rodriguez practice is that walk-ons are more than just warm bodies filling a clean jersey on the sideline. The new staff not only let walk-ons have a fair shake, many of them ultimately broke into the rotation with in the matter of a few practices.
With all of the competition on the field, it will be interesting to see which walk-on prospects stand out over the summer.
Team chemistry can be a tough thing to identify, but if it's strong, it will be evident by the way the team plays. Arizona developed a family-like atmosphere in recent years under Stoops and his staff, but the last season and a half felt a little empty. The enthusiasm was scarce and, at times, certain players didn't seem much interested. The collective mood from the team went from positive to negative to apathetic in less than 12 months.
Part of Rodriguez's duties this summer will be to field a team of football players who possess the passion and desire to give maximum effort every second they are the field. In order to accomplish that task, he will need to get everyone back on the same page. For what Rodriguez inherits, it will be a tough task, but not impossible.
It is often said they winning is the cure-all in the world of sports, but in order for UA to win, everyone has to be on the same page and shooting for the same goal.
There will be no shortage of position battles this offseason and pinpointing one or two wouldn't do justice to the other competitions. It's not just the individual battles alone that are going to be intriguing; what goes on between the competitors will be something to keep an eye on as well.
Are they helping each other while battling to win the job? How intense is the battle? Does the position they are battling for appear to be approving as a whole because of the competition? Theses are just a few of the questions to ponder while following the Wildcats football team this summer. If everyone buys in, expect the position battles to be some of the most entertaining ones in several years.
It is certain to be a heavily observed three months for the Arizona football program. With a new staff in place, there is a lot of excitement and curiosity surrounding the team. If Rodriguez can get everyone in shape, on the same page and competing hard, the Wildcats could carry some positive momentum heading into the 2012 college football campaign.
What to expect this summer
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