“I think we're getting better,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you're getting better and it doesn't show in your record because your opponents have gotten better too, but I think we're better as a program.
“We're better individually talent-wise, and I think our guys are growing up in a system, so to speak, where two years ago what we were doing was completely foreign to them, which is the way with any new staff. But they bought in quickly. Now the guys that have to learn our environment and culture are the handful of freshmen or transfers that are new.”
The NCAA allowed coaches to work a little with the players over the summer and it helped a bit with players’ progression.
“You know, it was good that we were able to, but in the month of June it was helpful,” Rodriguez said. “Still you've got to give the coaches, especially the assistant coaches, a little bit of light. So really the three weeks in July when we could have spent the time with them, they were on vacation.
“They were back and forth, and I think sometimes it's good for the players to get away from the coaches. Lot of times it's good for the coaches to get away from their players just for vacation time. We've got a great group of young men. I like being around them and love being around the coaches, but I think it's been helpful.”
Arizona definitely is not the only team in the Pac-12 working on getting better, but Rodriguez is happy with the commitment of the program.
“Everybody's proven there are a bunch of good coaches and programs in our league,” he said. “You've got to get the right players and do a really good job as a staff, but I think we're there. I think our facility being done last August helps us, because it's going to help us in recruiting.
“There is a commitment that's never been made at Arizona from that standpoint. Still as a staff we talk about we've got to crank it up to another level because the teams in our league aren't going back.”
In fact, the improvement goes beyond the field and it can be described as an arms race of sorts.
“From the student standpoint, the staff standpoint, support staff point, I think the results of that are being shown on the field,” Rodriguez said. “From all the 12 schools in the Pac-12, to the facility upgrades, to the talent and everything else you've got going on in this league, the Pac-12 is probably better than it's ever been and it's not going backwards.
“It's forcing all of us as coaches to keep making sure that we're pressing the envelope to keep our program up. That's the way it is at U of A. We've got a brand-new facility that's great, but everybody's got new stuff. Oregon changes it out like Porta-Potties. Like every four or five years like we need a new this, and they go do it, but it's a challenge to stay up with it.”
Rodriguez is not the only member of the team that understands that Arizona needs to step it up in order to compete with the best.
“They know in the last two years where we've really been at and we're not where we need to be,” Rodriguez said. “They still practice and play really hard. I think we're in a good spot work ethic-wise. Our players understand in our league, there is nobody we can go out and play poorly and win.”