Rodriguez, Wildcats have fun in spring game
TUCSON, Ariz. -- It wasn't perfect but no one expected it to be -- even Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez, who completed his fourth spring game on Friday night.
Rodriguez was pleased. Arizona's 100-play scrimmage under the lights was just what the coach wanted.
"Nobody got hurt, I don't think," Rodriguez said. "I saw some good and saw some ugly, saw some bad but I think they had fun. We have a lot of things to build off of."
He'll have until Sept. 3 when Texas-San Antonio visits Arizona Stadium.
Rodriguez was so deadest on seeing the spring end on a good note that he called an audible and had not just one fan in attendance call a play but five of them. The first and fifth resulted in touchdowns.
Now it'll be almost four months before Arizona returns for the fall drills and then the 2015 season.
Here are a few observations from the spring game:
The best player appeared to be sophomore Tyrell Johnson, the water bug-type all-purpose player. He was seemingly everywhere. Just this semester, he set the school record in the 60-meters for the track team with a 6.66-second mark. Rodriguez said it is likely Johnson will be used out of the backfield, along with Samajie Grant and some others to use their diverse skills and speed.
Arizona's historically hasn't thrown to the tight end. That could change if Friday was any indication. Arizona went to the tight end plenty and in the first drive went three times to Josh Kern, who looked strong up the middle with catches.
"He got a little gassed," Rodriguez said of Kern. "That was more catches by the tight end in the history of Arizona football (even) maybe when Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) was here. Gronk could look at that and say 'what's happening?' We might throw the ball once or twice (to them)."
Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon said it "felt good" throwing to the tight end plenty because "we can bring in multiple packages ... I like them a lot. They bring a lot to the table."
Kern had five receptions for 31 yards. Trevor Wood had two catches and a touchdown.
Last year's star running back, Nick Wilson, didn't play because Arizona doesn't need to see how good he is after he rushed for 1,393 yards. But his backup, Jared Baker, saw plenty of action. And Baker looked good.
"Jared has had a great spring," Rodriguez said. "He's put himself in position where we will put him in the regular rotation. He's got some experience but with Nick sitting out with no contact, Jared has had an opportunity and has made the most of it."
Arizona's offensive line has plenty of question marks but the biggest may be who will replace Steven Gurrola at center. The only time anyone pays attention to the center is when he messes up. But it appears senior Carter Wood could be the frontrunner, although junior Zach Hemmila is in the running, too. Rodriguez said Hemmila had a "serviceable spring."
"That position is still wide open going into the fall," Rodriguez said. "But Carter has played a little bit. He's a real competitive guy and we will see if he takes hold this summer."
Wood knows what he's up against in replacing Gurrola, who was a steady and confident type.
"I don't know if there's pressure, but you always have it on your mind you want to do your best," Wood said. "I'm thinking I got to do what I got to do for my team ... I guess there's a little bit of pressure. But it's the name of the game, just got to get used to it."
Much has been said of Cal transfer Feddie Tagaloa, who is 6-foot-8 and 316 pounds. He takes up a lot of space on the offensive line at left tackle. But what's his best skill set?
"He's a monster, size-wise," Rodriguez said. "He casts a shadow bigger than the stadium. And he's one of the hardest workers we've got. That in itself is a great example for our guys. If you want to look like that get in the weight room with Freddie."
Solomon said he's comfortable with the line because of Tagaloa.
"He gives us a lot of time on my backside and that gives the quarterback (more time) in situations," Solomon said.
It's clear Solomon and junior Cayleb Jones have a certain chemistry. When Solomon hit Jones for a touchdown, Solomon looked to Jones as if to say, "nice move and I knew you'd be there." Those types of things happen over time and plenty of work together. Solomon said Jones is great at improvising and getting open and that was one of those times.
"When things break down he finds me," Solomon said. "He's kind of like a point guard. He always looks for the ball; he always wants the ball. He's a big target so you can't miss him."