TUCSON, Ariz. – Make no mistake, this is a big spring for Trey Griffey.
Whether he’s a hit at Frank Sancet Field — and whether that later translates into big games at Arizona Stadium — will be up to him.
His redshirt year at Arizona is over, and now he must prove himself — again. But isn’t that the rite of passage for just about every player in college football, good athletic bloodlines or not?
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Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said he was hesitant to single anyone out before any scrimmages this spring – the first will come Saturday afternoon – but he did say that Griffey, the son of former major league star Ken Griffey Jr., has gotten bigger and stronger in preparation for his second year. Now, he must get more seasoned and consistent.
Griffey, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound wide receiver, is hoping this year will be much more exciting than his first in Tucson.
“It was difficult, because you’re sitting out and you want to be out there with your teammates,” Griffey said of being a redshirt freshman.
“But I’m here to learn. And I did.”
It was something he had to get used to. He had not been anything other than the guy since his days as a middle schooler. Everything came easy, as did the huge statistics in becoming an all-state player in Florida.
But he realizes there’s a lot more to learn. Every day is an adventure. It’s about learning plays and getting a better feel for the speed and tempo of the game. And Rodriguez said Griffey seems to be getting it.
“I think I learned a little, (but) I’m not where I want to be,” Griffey said. “It’s a process you have to go through. I’m still working hard.”
And he asked for advice from his famous father on how to cope with not playing. The synopsis: That situation, like life, is a learning experience.
“He said it was just something you have to go through — even in baseball you have to go through the minor leagues,” Griffey said.
His famed father was in the minors for only a proverbial cup of coffee, but his point was taken. Careers are not made in a season or overnight; Trey realizes that.
“Most freshmen aren’t ready, both physically and mentally,” Rodriguez said. “So guys like Trey get a year in the weight room and get a year to study.
“Trey is a talented guy.”
Talented enough to possibly crack the two-deep at what is probably Arizona’s best and deepest position: wide receiver. How he fits in will determine how productive he becomes.
But he already has a fan — a meaningful one — in the presumed early leader in the quarterback competition, redshirt senior B.J. Denker.
“He should have a breakout year,” Denker said as spring practice started. “He has all the physical tools. He could make a big impact.”
Griffey has a vested interest in this year’s NCAA tournament inasmuch as Arizona has advanced to the third round to play Harvard on Saturday afternoon. He said he’ll also be following Miami’s Shane Larkin very closely, as Larkin is like a “cousin” to him since the two grew up together.
Larkin, the Hurricanes’ starring point guard, is the son of Hall of Famer Barry Larkin, the former Cincinnati Reds great. He and Griffey are close friends and communicate frequently. After practice on Wednesday, Griffey planned on getting in touch with Larkin to wish him good luck for his team’s game Friday.
“He told me before the season that he was going to take them to the national championship,” Griffey said.
How do the two handle being in the spotlight? It’s not a big deal, Griffey said, because it’s become part of their everyday routines.
“We’re both the same as we were growing up; we don’t even think about it,” Griffey said. “There are a lot of athletes’ sons or daughters. We don’t worry about that. We will let other people worry about that. We just go out and try to do our best.”