‘Uneven’ first day of camp for Denker, Wildcats

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez said after Saturday night’s first practice of fall camp that it was, in a word, “uneven.”

Not exactly disappointing, but not exactly one to write home about, either. Fortunately, Rodriguez has been through enough first days — 20, to be exact — that he doesn’t read too much into it.

“It doesn’t mean it’s where we will be a week from now,” Rodriguez said.

That said, Rodriguez was surprised that, at the start of Year 2, some of the players just weren’t prepared.

“Some of the upperclassmen will be doing a little extra to get in shape,” Rodriguez said. “They need to understand what it takes to become an elite athlete. An elite athlete doesn’t show up in August and expect to be ready to go. We will see what happens.”

And already in the doghouse — not because he’s out of shape but because he simply didn’t perform up to expectations — is projected starting quarterback B.J. Denker, who may well have prompted the “uneven” remark.

How did he do?

“He won’t be talking to you (the media); does that give you an indication?” Rodriguez said. “Does that give you an idea of what I thought of his performance?”

Rodriguez later said he expects a lot from Denker — the most seasoned of his options to replace Matt Scott at quarterback this season — adding, “B.J. is a competitive guy. I expect he’ll get better every day. Let’s not read too much into it. (But) if I sugarcoated it, they would think something is wrong with me.”

It didn’t help that junior quarterback Jesse Scroggins, Denker’s backup (or perhaps replacement, depending how camp goes), didn’t participate in practice. Rodriguez said Scroggins suffered a concussion recently and hadn’t yet been cleared to return, although the hope is that he’ll be back for Sunday’s practice.

And freshman Anu Solomon, a highly touted recruit expected to compete for the job, had an interception or two he’d definitely like back.

So the competition at QB hasn’t been much of a competition thus far. Rodriguez said sarcastically that his decision on a starter has but one timetable: the start of the first game of the season. That would be 7 p.m. on Aug. 30 against Northern Arizona. More seriously, Rodriguez said there was no need to narrow the competition — although he might — unless one player separates himself.

The good news is that while the quarterbacks — and by proxy the offense — struggled overall, the defense was a contributing factor. Rodriguez said the defense is much improved and now has enough talent to go three deep at each position.

Arizona linebacker Marquis Flowers said that while he’ll wait until the season starts to declare just how good the defense is, the first day was encouraging.

“Obviously, being last in every category (makes) you take that personal,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and have more depth.”