Spring Football Notebook

Spring Football is set to begin Wednesday. Rich Rodriguez met with the media on Tuesday to give a sneak peak into what to expect.

  • With there being numerous players returning from last season, Rich Rodriguez believes that spring football could run smoother than last season.

    "It should, particularly at the quarterback position," Rodriguez said. "We were still trying to figure out what our pecking order was at quarterback. Not that we slowed things down for that, but it’s still a little bit more difficult when you’re figuring that out. Now we have a better idea with that.

    "We’ve got a lot of young guys we have to get ready to play too. I’m not worried about getting them game ready by the end of spring, but there are some guys that either redshirted, were injured, or that are new, and this will be an important spring for them."

  • Anu Solomon will enter the spring as the likely starter, but there is still plenty of room for improvement.

    "Anu has to get better in a lot of facets just like everybody else," Rodriguez said. "He should have some confidence because he played really well at times and take the next step as far as cleaning up the things that he maybe didn't do as well or consistent last year.

    "He is a competitive guy, so he and Jerrard, particularly Brandon Dawkins, Zach Werlinger, this will be a big spring for them because all four of those guys will get a lot of reps.

    "It’s open, but not as wide open I guess because we know Anu has done it on the big stage and Jerrard has gotten some experience and can do it. That being said, we have to play better. We played well at times last year, but there were times where inexperience showed up and that’s our job as coaches to make sure everybody gets better."

  • Much of the curiosity surround quarterback has to do with how Brandon Dawkins will perform.

    "He didn't do much, but when he had his opportunities whether we did a freshmen scrimmage or on the scout team, he is a talented, competitive guy," Rodriguez said. "He didn't really have to learn the offense.

    "He was just looking at a card or getting told what to do every time he was out there. Now he has to learn the offense and that’s another step, particularly at quarterback. To learn the offense and be able to execute without us telling him everything."

  • Davonte' Neal will enter spring at corner and the coaching staff is confident he can succeed there.

    "We thought coming out of high school that he was proven on either side," Rodriguez said. "He wants to move over there, we need guys over there, and he’s had a really good five or six weeks of preparation for spring.

    "There is a lot of technique and things he has to learn, but I think he will make an impact right away. If he is not starting or in the rotation, I am going to move him back over."

  • Nate Phillips is completely healthy for spring ball, but it is still important for Rodriguez to make sure his team gets out of everything healthy.

    "Nate is cleared and good to go for the spring," he said. "He is a known commodity. I think spring ball is important because you have to teach some of the fundamentals that you don’t do as much in August because you’re close to the season.

    "Half of the practices I am worried about guys getting hurt. As a head coach, I think it is important, but it is not the end all to be all and it’s not nearly as important for certain guys as it is for others."

  • One intriguing aspect of the spring is how Rodriguez chooses to start utilizing the tight end position.

    "Last year we didn't have any we thought were ready and this year we have at least four guys that we’ll rep," Rodriguez said. "Even a guy returning like Josh Kern, who has had a great off-season, I think Josh is ready now to fully play at that position.

    "Then we have Trevor Wood, Darrell Cloy, and Matt Morin. There are at least four guys there that will get a lot of reps. It will be fun to see what we can do with them."

  • Scooby Wright was one of the best players in college football this year and he has worked hard to get even better.

    "He had a great year certainly, but Scooby being Scooby, he is bigger, faster, and stronger than he was a year ago," Rodriguez said. "He’s not resting on his laurels. Scooby is a guy that loves football and he’s eaten up with everything about it.

    "Last year we moved him around and we are going to do the same with him. I’m not saying he is going to play any fullback, but that’s not out of the realm of possibility either. I am sure he will beg me to do some short yard goal line things and that will just add to the legend, so I don’t know. We want to keep him humble for now."

  • Nick Wilson had a successful season, but battled some injuries. Rodriguez believes the best strategy may be to keep it easy with him during the spring.

    "He will do a lot of things in spring, but I we probably won’t put him in any full contact things," he said. "He has proven himself a little bit. With that, I think he will be perfectly fine going forward, but there’s no use to have Nick get banged around. We have a lot of running backs that will be banged around in the spring, but he won’t be one of them.

    "He got a lot of reps and one of the concerns is our 12 game schedule. The 12 game with no open dates is different and I have never had that. We’ve got to have a plan, certainly to play more people, but also how we are going to prepare in August to play that schedule."

  • Although Wilson is the starter at running back, there are plenty of questions surrounding who will get carries behind him.

    "I think it’s unknown in a lot of respects," Rodriguez said. "I think Jared Baker will have a good year. He’s had a great off-season. We are looking for some of the others too. Jonathan Haden is going to be playing there more than he is in the slot and he’s got some skills.

    "Zach Green is a big guy who if he gets in shape can help us there. I think we’ve got to get depth. We played two last year pretty much, but we’ve got to get three ready to play. I think we will be able to find that. We know what we have with Nick and I think Nick will have a great summer and be ready to go for a better year."

  • The initial thought is that Arizona has increased depth, but Rodriguez wants to see it in action first.

    "I think we are deeper, but I thought we were there last year and we weren’t," he said. "We were still not playing enough guys and it has to be a point of emphasis. Not just because of our schedule, but because of the way the game is played now.

    "We’ve got to get 16, 17, 18 guys ready on offense and 22 to 24 ready on defense. This spring will determine a lot of that and some of the guys coming in new may have to play more, but we have to make a conscious effort to get more guys on the field and more guys playing."

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