TUCSON, Ariz. — Austin Hill has seen this movie before. It turned out pretty good in the end.
The beginning was a mystery and by the end it was a love story. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has a way of doing that with his quarterbacks. Or at least this is the second year — sequel, anyone?
"Hopefully it works out in a different way and we can find a quarterback before the first game," said Hill, Arizona’s senior leader and top receiver who sat out last year with a knee injury. "We will see. If Coach Rod feels the best decision is to wait to see what quarterback he wants, so be it."
And so it’ll be, although Rodriguez did admit — hint — he kind of knows who is the leader. If Wednesday night’s open-to-the-media practice meant anything, the starter could be redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, who had more reps than any of the other quarterbacks. Then again, it was said by others that Rodriguez has rotated his quarterbacks at the top spot through the practices, most of which are closed.
The caveat, too, is that it’s just five practices in and three weeks remain before the first game.
"I’ve got my thoughts and (quarterbacks coach) Rod Smith has his thoughts," Rodriguez said of the QB race. "Until we have a scrimmage, it’ll be more difficult. I have in my mind who is starting to pull away, or at least starting to get it."
Using the same verbiage from last season — and earlier from Pac-12 media day — he said he doesn’t mean to be coy on any decisions but he’s hoping he has at least two players he can count on under center.
Jerrard Randall, Jesse Scroggins and Connor Brewer came in after Solomon, in that order, during Wednesday’s practice. Scroggins might have helped himself, hitting on a nice play to tight end Josh Kern and another connection with Nate Phillips. Randall had some glaring overthrows, but it’s hard to overlook that arm strength and mobility.
"I just want two I can win with," Rodriguez said.
Is there a lot of wiggle room between No. 1 and No. 3 or 4?
"I don’t know if I’d tell you if there wasn’t," Rodriguez said. "I don’t think there has been a big separation just yet."
In a week or so, Rodriguez predicts there will be.
Still, Rodriguez said all are about where B.J. Denker was at this point last season. Denker eventually led Arizona from start to finish at the position … with plenty of hiccups along the way.
"I don’t like to see the same mistakes every day, and that’s what’s frustrating," Rodriguez said of his current situation.
But he’s got to like the competition, which is just about everywhere on offense. Junior Jared Baker and Terris Jones-Grigsby are battling it out for the starting running back spot. They split reps on Wednesday night. And then there’s true freshman Nick Wilson, who broke loose for a long scoring run on his first touch. Rodriguez rattled off a strong group of freshman runners: Jonathan Haden, Ty Cruz and others.
"I think we’ve got something to work with there," Rodriguez said.
The same can clearly be said for the deep and ballyhooed receiving corps, even if he’s attempted to downplay the hype recently. Earlier this week, he wondered — angrily — who had anointed the group to be so good.
"What that does is bring us down to earth a little bit," Hill said of Rodriguez’s comments. "It makes us realize we’re not working as hard as we can work. Coach Rod pushes us to our limit, and we have to realize that and stop saving energy. We have to push it to the limit to get better. The completion does make you better."
"Whoever wins the spot at QB," Hill said, "that’s what they’re going to have to do. It’s about focusing in and being consistent. If you can find consistency in a young quarterback, everything else will come and will flow."