Many questions for Arizona in spring practice
FEB 28, 2013 10:26a ET
Rodriguez even admitted this week that many of the answers won’t come until fall. And he said that while spring ball -- which begins Saturday and culminates with Arizona's spring game on April 13 -- are important in a sense, spring is really about finding players to win with in the fall.
In doing so, the Wildcats will be looking to build on what was considered a pretty good first year for Rodriguez, with an 8-5 finish capped by thrilling 49-48 New Mexico Bowl win over Nevada.
The big question going forward is the status of junior-to-be running back Ka’Deem Carey, a returning All-American who has been his own worst problem. After being charged with misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct in an incident involving his pregnant ex-girlfriend in late December, he was in an incident at McKale Center during a UA basketball game in which he was asked to leave the building after getting into an argument with campus police.
Rodriguez said Carey will be at practice on Saturday.
"He’s progressing well and he’ll be with us in the spring,” Rodriguez said. "His process of making sure he shows the true person that he is is still ongoing, but he’s been doing well. We’ve got close tabs on him, and he knows that. He knows he’s made some mistakes and has to prove to what kind of person he is."
The other big question: Who's the quarterback? Arizona, of course, is looking to replace last year’s star, Matt Scott.
Last year's backup and the most seasoned quarterback on the roster is B.J. Denker, who leads the list of candidates almost by default. Junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins, a former USC backup to Matt Barkley, is on campus but is out because of foot surgery.
Anu Solomon, the prize of UA's recently signed recruiting class, won't be on campus for a few months. Redshirt freshman Javelle Allen and sophomore transfer Nick Isham, a starter at Louisiana Tech for about half of the 2011 season, will not only push Denker but will have a realistic chance to make a move.
"At quarterback, we’re looking for two or three guys we can win with," Rodriguez said. "And I don’t know if we have that. That’s a question.
"I don’t know if we’ll have that answer after spring. We do have some guys I’m looking forward to working with, and the competition gets enhanced in August."
One thing that might interfere with competition, especially on the other side of the ball, is depth (or the lack thereof). Arizona's consistent pitfall last season was its defense, and this spring, much of the core of that defense will be missing because of injuries. Linebackers Marquis Flowers and C.J. Dozier and defensive backs Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight are out with shoulder injuries, and they aren't the only ones dinged up.
"We have about a dozen guys that won't be going through full practice," Rodriguez said. "I don't know if I've ever had a dozen out. That's a lot."
He added, "Defensively, we need depth at all positions. We'll have to wait until the (recruiting) class comes in the fall to do that."
For now, Arizona will begin and end with fundamentals and the same schemes the coaching staff began implementing last season. The Cats will be lovers of the familiar with the hope and intention of getting better at it.
Rodriguez hopes they’ll do so quietly. The theme for spring is "shut up and work," a slogan UA coaches have placed on T-shirts to keep the players motivated.
"That’s perfect in its simplicity,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what we want our guys to do. And they’ve been working pretty hard. And I would expect, over the next 34 days, starting with practice on Saturday, they’ll work pretty hard again."
Senior defensive tackle Tevin Hood and sophomore linebacker Cody Ippolito, who were sent home during the New Mexico Bowl after fighting on the Arizona sideline, are with the team and are good to go for spring practice, Rodriguez said.