First-year University of Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez knew entering spring practice he essentially had a freshman quarterback. Though Matt Scott will enter the 2012 season as a senior, he’s new to Rodriguez’s spread offense.
Rodriguez was prepared to take it slow and handle a steep learning curve, but the coach said Tuesday that Scott’s quick learning ability provided a nice surprise in spring practice.
“I think Matt sees that this is his opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “We were able to put in even more than we thought with him (offensively).”
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Speaking on the Pac-12’s spring football coaches teleconference, Rodriguez gave Scott a strong vote of confidence as the team’s leader. He takes over for Nick Foles, who was drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Eagles.
“I think he can be the type of leader that we need,” Rodriguez said. “He has not had to be that in the past, and now he does.”
Rodriguez is confident Scott can handle the intangible duties that a team’s leader, particularly a quarterback, must mange.
“What I mean by leadership is not necessarily when coaches are around in practice, but when we’re not around, in the summer months and during games in the times when he has to organize the guys himself,” Rodriguez said. “We need Matt to take that next step and I think he’s ready to do that.” WORK TO BE DONE
Rodriguez said he and his staff met their primary objectives in spring practice of evaluating the roster, pinpointing strengths and weaknesses and teaching the fundamentals of the new system on both sides of the ball.
But Rodriguez said there is still a good deal of progress to be made in terms of strength and conditioning.
“The tempo and the speed with which we want to run things, I think they grasped that,” Rodriguez said. “But I think they also saw there’s a whole other level of conditioning we have to be in just to get through practice, let alone to play at the pace we want to play at.”
Rodriguez said the first practice of spring had players exhausted about halfway through, but by the end of spring practice they had adjusted to the pace. Still, he emphasized more than once that there is a leap to be made.
“I’m very, very confident in our strength and conditioning staff,” Rodriguez said. “They’ll be able to get these guys up to a level they need to be to compete.”
Reports last week indicated that sophomore offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele and sophomore defensive back Jourdon Grandon, suspended for their arrests related to a brawl in March, could be close to rejoining the team.
Assault and criminal trespassing charges against Grandon were dismissed in court and, according to The Arizona Daily Star, the same is expected for Ebbele. Rodriguez spoke briefly about the players Tuesday, not giving any specific timetable for a possible return, but saying he’s been pleased with their progress.
“We’re kind of waiting until everything is done through that process,” Rodriguez said. “The young men that were involved have been doing everything we asked them to do.”
Rodriguez said the team will review the players’ final grades, wait for the legal side of the matter to conclude and then meet with the players to determine next steps.