Redshirts to give next year’s Wildcats added talent, competition

Davonte' Neal, who spent his first season as Notre Dame before transferring, will be eligible for Arizona next year and join what appears to be a loaded receiving corps.

TUCSON, Ariz. — The life of a redshirt. Practicing. Holding clipboards. Cheerleading.

It’s not a glorious existence, not one that directly affects results on the field. But it won’t be long until the redshirts come off and the competition really begins.

Welcome to next season — even before this season ends.

"Hopefully," coach Rich Rodriguez said, "there will be retention."

There definitely will be competition at plenty of spots. Arizona’s already-loaded receiving corps should improve dramatically next year with the return of Austin Hill, who sat out the season with a knee injury suffered in spring ball, and the additions of Notre Dame transfer DaVonte’ Neal and Texas transfer Cayleb Jones.

"It’s going to be the best wide receiver group in the nation," said redshirting quarterback Anu Solomon, a freshman.

Solomon, the recruiting gem of the 2013 class, hopes to be the one throwing to them. Heralded as the possible future of Rodriguez’s offense, Solomon sat out this season, learning and living everything football.

He said that the terminology wasn’€™t tough but that schemes had "six things going on in one different play."

"I’m not going to look past them because they are ahead of me," Solomon said of his fellow QBs. "It’s about getting better. I knew the game was going to be more complicated with players stronger and faster (in college). You just have to adapt to it."

Solomon, at 6-foot-2, used the time to gain about 15 pounds, going from 190 to 205. With that increase came needed strength and body mass.

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"The last six practices he’s had a sore shoulder, but he’s got a chance," Rodriguez said, adding that he didn’t get to see much of Solomon this year since he was redshirting. "He’s got a lot to learn. The biggest thing is his redshirt year is about over and it’s time to compete. A lot of freshmen, when they know they are not playing, they aren’t as intense as they need to be.

"(But) he’s in the mix, but there are a few in the mix."

That’s putting it mildly. Rodriguez will have as many as seven quarterbacks to get a feel for in the spring and fall.

"It’s going to be extremely competitive," Rodriguez said. "The quarterbacks understand this is an opportunity. I collect quarterbacks anyway. … It’s going to be a very interesting quarterback competition."

"Some people ask me why seven (QBs) and not four — all you need is two who can play," Rodriguez said. "Your odds are better with seven than four. We may have to take another one."

Who adapts best will get the nod. But when that nod will come is anyone’s guess. Rodriguez had the media guessing until nearly the first snap heading into this season and hinted at changes throughout the early part of it.

"We’€™re going to run what we run, but we have so much flexibility in our offense,"€ Rodriguez said. "€œWill you change the plays based on which quarterback is in there? Probably a little bit. But initially, we’€™re going to make them do it all and see who’s the best at doing it all."€

"Certainly we are optimistic, because there is some talent there," Rodriguez said. "Until that talent performs on the field, it’s just potential. The potential is there for us to be a little bit more explosive, but more than anything, I’m excited for us to be a much deeper team. We were hanging on the last two years depth-wise."

That might be the case next year at running back if All-American Ka’Deem Carey, a junior, decides to bolt for the NFL draft. A decision could come as early next week. Redshirt freshman Pierre Cormier might be the guy who steps in to take over the starter’s role.

"We have a lot of potential people outside our program don’t think about," he said. "Everyone is real excited about the future."

And Cormier is excited to show what he’s learned from Carey after a year of sitting out, watching and developing.

"I accepted my role," Cormier said. "I got better physically. I got stronger and faster. I thought it was a good thing for me to see the best running back in the country do what he does best."