Scrimmage has players ready, Rodriguez leery
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The Arizona football team is ready to start the season. Well, maybe -- it depends on whom and when you ask.
The players say they are ready, of course, but what else would you expect them to say? "I think we’re pretty ready," said UA center Kyle Quinn after Friday night’s light scrimmage at Arizona Stadium. "We really had a hard week of practice. Coach (Rich Rodriguez) has really pushed us. They’ve stepped up the tempo and sense of urgency, and everybody starting to feel it now."
Time is of the essence. As Rodriguez told them Friday night after two hours under the lights in a scrimmage in front of Arizona’s student section (the Zona Zoo), the band, the cheerleaders, some game staff and a handful of media, there are only seven-plus days until UA faces Toledo in the season opener. Friday night was a glorified walk-through that included some light tackling and scripted plays. "Tonight was a great taste of what the game atmosphere is going to be like,’’ Quinn said. "We’re really excited about next week." Rodriguez isn’t so anxious. The first-year coach didn’t speak to the media after the scrimmage (that was already planned) but spoke before, saying the one guarantee about the night was that Arizona would win. The first teams went mostly against the scout team, and statistics were not kept.
"If we don’t win, I won’t get any sleep for the next three months,’’ he joked.
Rodriguez can rest easy. Kind of. He said there is still plenty of work to be done, particularly when it comes to establishing a two-deep. He hasn’t made his depth chart public, perhaps because he doesn’t have one yet.
“Two deep assumes that we have a two deep,’’ Rodriguez said, using what’s been his quick wit. “When we get a few guys healthier over the weekend. ... Is there a two-deep at every position that we’re ready to win with? I don’t think so.’’
Eventually, he wants two to three guys at every position. What coach doesn’t?
Rodriguez’s trouble spot is clearly defense, where he’s short on linebackers. Just this week it was announced that junior Marquis Flowers has been moved from safety to linebacker. Rodriguez said Flowers offers more speed and size there in a position that needs it.
Overall, the defense likely will be tested all season. That’s been the biggest question mark for more than a year now after UA gave up more than 460 yards a game last season under coach Mike Stoops.
"I kind of like going in with questions,’’ said Shaquille Richardson, a starting safety. “We have a lot to prove. It’s good to shock the world. I don’t mind doing that.’’
Do they really pay attention to the questions?
“We don’t pay attention,’’ Richardson said, “but we hear it. We dismiss it. We know what we are capable of.’’
Arizona has about a week to prove it -- and then continue proving it all season.