Rodriguez needs freshmen to conquer steep learning curve

TUCSON, Ariz. — In the spring, Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez said he wouldn’t be surprised if as many as 14 freshmen players would play this season. Well, nothing has changed at this point.

“It’s at least that many,” Rodriguez said on Sunday. “It’s because we have lack of depth.”

Of course, when success and failure is measured by wins and losses with a lot of freshmen in the mix, it doesn’t make for an easy feeling.
Welcome to Rodriguez’s world.

“Nervous as hell,” said Rodriguez, when asked how he feels being dependent on so many freshmen.  “That’s what it is (he laughs). That’s why every one of these practices is so important.”

The freshman who has genearated the most curiosity is quarterback Anu Solomon, who theoretically could be in the hunt for playing time.

Expected starter B.J. Denker had some consistency issues in the first days of camp, and junior college transfer Jesse Scroggins was out with a concussion. Solomon has taken as many snaps as the starters and, well, to this point has been comparable as the rest of them — which means he’s been inconsistent.

“We’re force-feeding Solomon as much as we can,” Rodriguez said. “He’s taken a bunch of reps. We will see how quickly that will go (as he learns). He’s competitive enough to where he will be in the mix.”

The last couple of days have been perfect examples. You can see he has an aura about him and a quarterback’s demeanor. On the first day of workouts, he  had his impressive moments, but threw three interceptions. Did Rodriguez like the aggressiveness?

Not exactly.

“I want a guy who is smart and takes smart chances,” Rodriguez said. “He’s very competitive. And that’s an attribute you want. But right now many (of the freshmen) are lacking confidence because they are screwing up and being yelled at.”

That’s not to say Rodriguez has soured on the 6-foot-2, 205 pound freshman from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High. While there, his team went 57-3 and won four state titles.

“When he’s playing there’s no moment where it’s too much (overwhelming),” Rodriguez said. “And that’s good to see from a freshman. He’s a winner.”
A quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said Solomon’s skills and swagger are obvious.

“Some kids just have a feel,” Smith said. “He has it.

“He’s going to be a really good player,” Smith said. “He’s got a lot of poise for a true freshman; he has a lot of savvy to him. He’s still learning our system. The college speed is faster than what he’s used to, so he’s trying to get adjusted.”

Solomon’s thoughts on his indoctrination to college football won’t be known for a while. The freshmen are off-limits to interviews.
I’m exciting about his future,” Smith said. “Some kids have a feel to him. And he’s got it.”

The other freshmen have less to absorb than quarterbacks, but Rodriguez said it’s been no different for them — no matter how much he’s counting on them.

“Their heads are just swimming right now,” Rodriguez said. “They will probably swim for another two weeks.”