Rick Neuheisel talks Arizona football

Former UCLA Head Coach Rick Neuheisel was at one of Arizona's practice recently and came away impressed. Read on to find out his thoughts on Rich Rodriguez, the quarterback situation, and more.

After being let go as Head Coach of the UCLA Bruins, Rick Neuheisel took some time off and decided that his near future would be with the Pac-12 Networks as a commentator.

Neuheisel has been traveling around the conference to look at all of the fall camps for each team. He was recently a guest at one of Arizona's practices and he was impressed with the level that the coaches pressed the team.

"I like the toughness that is being taught," Neuheisel said. "I love Rich Rodriguez's motto that you need to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. I loved the way they were pushing kids and making the tempo what it needed to be despite the heat. It's all going to pay dividends later in the season."

The former coach got a look at how Rodriguez coaches the spread offense during his visit. Neuheisel believes that the scheme ran by the Rodriguez is one that could be run with a first year quarterback if there was a need.

"There's no question that he has a proven scheme," he said when asked about Rodriguez's offense. "Rich Rod's offense works. It's just a shame that Matt Scott doesn't have another year of eligibility. The good news is that it has been proven time and time again that the offense can be run with a first time quarterback under center.

"There are lots of examples. You have Pat White at West Virginia, Denard Robinson at Michigan, and Matt Scott here at Arizona. All three had great seasons while learning the offense. As long as they learn good decision making with the run game and throw game, they are successful."

One of the reasons that the spread offense has been so successful is exactly what it is named for. The offense makes the defense spread the width of the field, allowing for the offense to make easier plays.

"The spread is the offense of the current," Neuheisel said. "Teams can recruit speed and that's what Arizona does. There are some smaller guys out here, but they can all move fast. When you spread the field and make teams defend 53-and-a-third yards wide, you take a lot of pressure off the front line."

A glaring question for the offense at the moment is who starts at the quarterback position for Arizona. The race seems to be between B.J. Denker and Jesse Scroggins, although there are still two weeks before the season opener.

"(B.J.) Denker looks fine out there," Neuheisel said of the quarterback situation. "I think the job is there to be won and I think (Rodriguez) is just waiting for someone to assert himself. One thing about quarterback is that it is one thing to do what you are supposed to do on any given play, but it is another thing to know what you are supposed to do.

"When he finds that guy who knows all the answers and executes it, he's going to have his guy."

The competition has been intense on the field, but Neuheisel is quick to point out that the position is not won entirely on there.

"You keep looking for things," he said. "There is no one competition that says this guy is our starter. Often, the separation isn't made on the field at all, but it is made in the meeting rooms.

"The confidence of what a guy knows when they aren't looking on someone else's paper or asking questions is important. When you get that guy who can teach the class, as long as he can pass the requisites and can handle the pressure of the heat when the lights come on, then you have your guy."

Highly touted freshman Anu Solomon is also a key player in the quarterback competition. While most practices have been closed, Neuheisel was able to get some initial impressions during the practice he watched.

"(Anu) is a great looking youngster," Neuheisel said. "He's still in the conscious portion of his mind. When he gets it to the unconscious portion, that's when his natural ability will take life. Right now, he's thinking too much and that is slowing him down."

With the quarterback position in the air, one thing about the offense is certain. Ka'Deem Carey was the nation's leading rusher a season ago and will be heavily leaned on this season.

"I think he is the best running back in the country," Neuheisel said of Carey. "He is a great fit for the offense. I like the way that he runs violently. You just have to knock on wood that he can stay healthy because he is going to dictate what defenses do to this offense.

"They will have to stop him and it will give the quarterbacks a fraction of a second longer to make the right decision and make the offense go."

The former coach switched gears and also spoke about the defensive side of the ball. He believes that most teams in the Pac-12 are forced to play something similar to the 3-3-5 defense that the Wildcats play.

"As many spread offenses as there are in this league, the 3-3-5 is basically what everyone plays in the Pac-12 anyways," Neuheisel said.

"It's basically an odd-man front nickel defense. You put the best athletes on the field because they put their best athletes on the field.

Although the defense has a chance to be successful against most teams in the conference, there is at least one stle of plau in the Pac-12 that could give Arizona some trouble.

"The tougher weeks are going to be when they play teams like Stanford," Neuheisel said. "The defense is going to have a tougher time with the two-back teams.

That is where the week of practice, specifically the looks that the scout team are giving them, is so important. The attention to depth detail when facing a fullback is very crucial there."


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