TUCSON, Ariz. — He’s the most seasoned veteran for Arizona, the one who says all the right things. But deep down, Jake Fischer knows that even though he says Arizona’s season opener against Northern Arizona is just another game, it isn’t.
It’s the beginning of his final season, one filled with promise and potential. Then again, isn’t that how every season is, and for every team? And not just the seniors.
“There will be some emotions because I’ve been here for (five) years and the school has done so much for me,” said Fischer, Arizona’s defensive leader at middle linebacker. “There may be some tears, I don’t know. I’m going to go out and play as hard as I can.
“It’s about competing and having fun, and if you aren’t having fun, you shouldn’t be out here,” he said.
For Arizona, picked to finish fourth in the Pac-12 South after finishing 8-5 last season, exactly who will be out there remains a question.
Will junior All-American running back Ka’Deem Carey be on the field for the opening drive? Will he be suspended for a couple of very public off-the-field discretions? Will B.J. Denker be the starter at quarterback, or could it be junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins or even redshirt freshman Javelle Allen? Will DaVonte’ Neal, still awaiting a ruling on his eligibility after transferring from Notre Dame, be cleared to play at the eleventh hour?
All those questions will be answered when (or by the time) Arizona makes a rare Friday night appearance under the lights at the newly refurbished Arizona Stadium.
“It’s going to be nice to have a new locker-room facility and everything before the game and halftime,” said defensive lineman Tevin Hood, “but between the whistles, we’re still out there on the turf, so for me, I’m going to work regardless of where I have to sit at halftime. I appreciate everything that has been put in place here, but we still have to go out there and handle business.”
That will particularly challenging for the freshmen, many of whom are expected to play a significant role this year. Rodriguez said as many as 14 could play and have a significant impact this season. Nine are listed on the first or second team on the depth chart released earlier this week, and that number doesn’t include Nate Phillips, who is expected to return punts and kickoffs.
“Everybody gets ready for games in different ways,” Rodriguez said of his freshmen being prepared. “Coaches need to have a feel for their players. They work all year for 12 or 13 opportunities, so it’s more keeping them relaxed and enjoying the moment.”
For the Wildcats, the first of those moments comes Friday night.