Wildcats peel back curtain on RichRod era
TUCSON – Arizona quarterback Matt Scott has been waiting for this moment for nearly three years. Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez has worked to return to this moment for nearly 20 months. Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne has anticipated this since he hired Rodriguez last November.
Let the Rich Rodriguez era – the RichRod era – begin.
Potential for a bevy of points in the spread offense.
Potential for a bevy of points given up by an undermanned, inexperienced 3-3-5 defense.
Fans excited for the era to begin after seeing a program go stale under former coach Mike Stoops.
The first judgment comes Saturday night when Toledo visits Arizona Stadium.
“It’s game week, and I think the players are excited. The coaches are excited. There’s been a lot of work to finally get to this week,’’ Rodriguez said. “I’m anxious to see what we have. I think the guys have worked hard. The first year is always the toughest because you’re teaching new schemes and new techniques. Hopefully we have a great crowd, the weather is supposed to be terrific again, and we will see what happens Saturday night.”
It’s not clear what to expect, but a lot will ride – offensively – on the athletic ability of senior Matt Scott, who has been treated with kid gloves all camp so that he not get hurt.
Saturday night’s opener brings a rebirth for Rodriguez, after being fired at Michigan in January 2010, and a renewed opportunity Scott, after he lost his starting job to Nick Foles and then sat out 2011 and watched Nick Foles set school records.
Scott has declared himself ready. In fact, he’s been ready for some time. He last started three years ago and was successful in his first start ever against Central Michigan in the season opener in 2009.
He might have been nervous then, but he’s not now.
“Not at all,” he said. “I’m confident. There’s no need to be nervous.’’
Rodriguez said he’ll be a little nervous as he opens a season for his third team in 11 years.
“You’re more nervous if you’re not really sure if you’re prepared,’’ Rodriguez said. “I’ll have some nerves because it’s the first game and not sure exactly how we’re going to play.
“You know if we do our job as coaches and prepare well, we will be more excited than nervous. It’s different from the other places I’ve been, it’s a night game, the weather is going to be very nice, so that’s pretty exciting. I really like our guys’ attitude.’’
In addition to Scott, sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey figures to have a prominent role in Arizona’s hoped-for revival. Many are predicting a breakout year in Rodriguez’s offense after he rushed for 425 yards on 91 carries last season as a true freshman.
“There’s a lot more to come,’’ Carey said. “You have to do that to have different results. I grew up a lot. Coming in as a freshman I came in big-headed, but I’ve (matured) in my sophomore year. I’ve learned a lot.’’
When Rodriguez came in, Carey knew things would be different and prepared himself for the change.
“Ka’Deem’s been great. He’s practicing well. He’s pretty sharp in what we’re doing offensively,’’ Rodriguez said. “He’s ready to go. Ka’Deem loves football, and anytime you love something, you’ll probably keep your focus on it pretty well, and he has.”
Many believe Carey was under-used last season. And Scott was unused.
The new season means a new dynamic.
“I don’t know if I have to reprove anything,’’ Carey said. “I just go out and try my hardest every day. If people sleep on my (ability) or forgot about me, well …’’
Some might have forgotten about Scott, too. Out of sight, out of mind. Most realize that he’s a capable scrambler — especially in comparison to Foles — but that’s not the extent of his skills.
“I don’t think a lot of people think I’m a good passer,’’ Scott said. “I think it’s one of the better aspects of my game. I like it. I can do it.’’
He’s been ready to prove it for years. Saturday is his chance.
“I’m patient, but I wasn’t when I got here,’’ Scott said. “I guess I’ve learned it. It’s kind of paid off for me.’’