USA Today

One-on-One with Rich Rodriguez

Jason Scheer of sits down with Rich Rodriguez to discuss numerous topics.

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WildcatAuthority:: Do you compare this year’s camp to last year’s?

Rich Rodriguez: Yeah, I usually do. I usually get so caught up in it, you forget about it. I look at it more administratively, like this year we went in the morning a lot, which was different. We’re going to go morning practices when school starts and I kind of like that. It was the first time for us doing that. So many things happened differently this camp starting with Zach and then having to practice up at the Cardinals. It’s been an interesting two weeks. 

WildcatAuthority: Speaking of the Cardinals, how did that relationship develop and did you take anything away scheme wise?

Rich Rodriguez: No, nothing scheme wise. We went up as a staff when they first started training camp and was embedded with them for three or four days. I am really Steve Keim and Bruce Arians and that is how that started. Greg Byrne has a relationship with them as well, so when we were looking for an alternative to practice, Greg reached out to them and it turned out great.

Scheme wise, I watched and Bruce and I have talked ball and our staff has talked ball with their coaches. I thought it was a great learning experience to watch them practice and hang around before we started.

WildcatAuthority: It’s a completely different ball game, right?

Rich Rodriguez: It is, but it isn’t. It’s not nearly as different as people make it out to be. Schemes are schemes and there’s still 11 guys. It’s blended more than people think, from college to pro. I think they have a little bit more time to put more things in and implement more in all three phases, but it’s not as different as what most people think.

WildcatAuthority: There’s no manual and you don’t train to go through what this team went through with Zach.

Rich Rodriguez: Every coach in the Pac-12 reached out. Coaches throughout the country. Friends of mine. Nick Saban. All coaches band together on this and I asked some of them what to do and they said there’s no one set way, you just have to have a feel for your team and go from there.

WildcatAuthority: Especially on the offensive line, that’s a close bunch. How have they responded?

Rich Rodriguez: Coach Michalczik has done a great job of keeping them toget6her and working hard. They are a selfless group anyway and truthfully probably the most unselfish guys on every team are the offensive linemen. I’m sure it isn’t easy for them, but I am really proud of the way they have battled the last two weeks.

WildcatAuthority: With Marcel Yates, was there a lot of convincing you had to do to get him here?

Rich Rodriguez: It’s kind of funny, I wanted to sell him on the virtues of Arizona and he was trying to sell himself on what he could bring to the program. I had a great feeling in the very first minute he talked. I thought he had the right personality, he is a sharp guy, he is willing to try new things, and he also has to be kind of a consensus builder on the defensive staff and he fit all those things.

WildcatAuthority: He recently mentioned that in terms of scheme, he often sits down and discusses everything with you. How hands on are you?

Rich Rodriguez: I was more hands on initially, like in the overall picture of what I envisioned. I told him what I thought and then let him and his staff coach, team, and implement it. I’m not as hands on now, even though I still watch the film with him. I tell the guys I am kind of the question guy. I question everything in all three phases and they have been great with it.

WildcatAuthority: Do you have to have an aggressive defense to succeed in the Pac-12?

Rich Rodriguez: That’s a good question. I think you have to be aggressive at times, but I think more than anything else, even though your goal is to get a shutout every game, you know you’re not going to shut people out in our league. You have to be able to have a defense that gets the ball back for the offense and for us, it is minimizing long drives. We want to be able to control the tempo and the only way to do that is to get their offense off the field.

WildcatAuthority: As far as freshmen go, do you have an idea of which ones are likely to play?

Rich Rodriguez: I really don’t. We haven’t even met as a staff, we will tomorrow (Monday), about the two deep. I’m not worried about developing a two deep until game week anyway.

WildcatAuthority: What changes this week with BYU prep?

Rich Rodriguez: We will do more scout team work, but I don’t know what we’re going to do. We don’t know what they’re going to do. We have to kind of plan for everything and be able to adjust quickly come game time.

WildcatAuthority: What tape can you even watch?

Rich Rodriguez: I haven’t.  I haven’t watched a single BYU tape because we have to find high school tape and all that. I haven’t worried about the coaches watching it either, but this week we will.

WildcatAuthority: USC and Notre Dame named starting quarterbacks and it’s a national story. Why?

Rich Rodriguez: It is the most important position in football. It’s a team game and everybody will tell you that on the team, but with the exception of a pitcher in baseball, quarterback play has as much of an impact on the outcome as any guy in team sports. Everybody wants to know who that guy is going to be and we have two good ones that are ready to play. Anu is a known quantity and Brandon is getting there, so I have been pleased with the progress.

WildcatAuthority: Brandon told me he feels he doesn’t have a full grasp on the offense, but it is much better. Do you agree?

Rich Rodriguez: That’s a fair assessment. I want him to have a full grasp and I have been on him pretty hard to get that, but he has some athleticism and brings other things to the table. Anu Solomon Is a good player and if he can stay healthy, we know we have some pretty good options there too.

WildcatAuthority: He ran more his first year and it has slowed down, is that strictly injuries?

Rich Rodriguez: Yeah, he didn’t run as much last year because he was hurt more. Also, you have to be willing to do it when it’s there and smart enough to know how not to get hurt.

WildcatAuthority: Can you make a quarterback more willing?

Rich Rodriguez: Well, yeah, by yelling at them (laughing). I don’t want to put them in harm’s way, but if they are dropping eight guy and with our quarterback read stuff, they are giving you the run, just take it. 

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