Arizona football: Arizona RB Baker likes rush of scoring, chocolate

UA's Jared Baker runs against South Carolina State early last season. He ended the season with 85 yards on 20 carries.


GLENDALE - The play clock in Rich Rodriguez's head was ticking down, but his team was still running on and off the field.

"Why are we subbing?" the Arizona Wildcats' first-year coach bellowed at offensive coordinator Calvin Magee. "Why. Are. We. Subbing?"

Rodriguez yanked off his headset, spiked it toward the ground and then - annoyed that it sorta hung there, connected by a cord - picked the headset up and tossed it again.

Football is a game of intensity, and Rodriguez and Arizona's new assistants seem to have it in reserve.

Fortunately, they have a quarterback that shares their fire.

Matt Scott continues to impress both his teammates and coaches with his understanding of the offense, his command at the line of scrimmage and, most importantly, his desire to get better.

"As a quarterback, you have to be a leader. I feel like I'm a leader," Scott said. "I can still improve. I have a little bit of time left before fall gets here, and I plan on improving on that. I have a lot to improve on still."

Scott's performance in Saturday's scrimmage at Glendale Community College was a good start. Playing with the first-team offense, Scott completed 15 of 23 passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns and ran the ball three times for 8 yards. Scott was at his best early in the scrimmage, completing eight passes in a row for 86 yards and a touchdown, an 11-yard pass to Austin Hill. During the 96-play scrimmage, Scott flashed the arm strength and quick feet that made him a top prospect out of high school and an early contributor during his college career.

Scott was the only scholarship quarterback to see significant time Saturday: Backup Richard Morrison, a converted wide receiver, injured his shoulder in warm-ups and was limited to just three passing plays. Walk-ons Alex Cappellini and Tyler D'Amore combined to attempt 25 passes with the second- and third-team offenses.

"Matt is putting the effort in to learn, and I've been really pleased with his progress," Rodriguez said.

Scott is clearly Arizona's best option at quarterback. He played in 22 games, starting five of them, during his first three college seasons. Many credit Scott for saving Arizona's year in 2010: With starter Nick Foles out with a dislocated kneecap, Scott played caretaker in a win over Washington State and led the UA to back-to-back victories over Washington and at UCLA.

Scott opted to redshirt in 2011, setting himself up to start once Foles used up his eligibility. Rodriguez's hire proved fortuitous, as his spread-option offense - which uses a speedy quarterback to create deception at the line - fits Scott's skill set perfectly.

Rodriguez has been impressed with the way his quarterback has worked to get better. Scott is a dedicated film-watcher, and while he's not a vocal leader, he does a good job of leading by example. Saturday, he made a point to congratulate his teammates for big plays and, when necessary, spurred them to keep up the offense's breakneck pace.

Scott said the no-huddle attack is "a night-and-day difference" from the Mike Stoops era. While Stoops had a reputation for losing his cool on game days, his practices were comparatively calm. Players took their cues from the coaches.

"Before, we were prancing around and relaxing more. This is more upbeat," Scott said. " You're expected to get on and off the field faster. It's a lot different. I think it's good for us."

And Scott is fast proving to be a good example.

"I told the team: It's OK to think about football more than just a couple hours a week," Rodriguez said. "Having a sense of urgency is important. If we want to take the next step and truly change the culture of Arizona football, then we - and they - have to have that sense of urgency."