Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability after practice Sunday afternoon as the team continues to prepare for the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl against Purdue:
* The new early signing period begins Wednesday. What is UA coach Rich Rodriguez expecting? "There’s not as much drama as maybe in the past,” Rodriguez said. “We think we have a pretty good handle on who’s going to sign and then what we gotta get going forward."
* Rodriguez did acknowledge that there's a certain crapshoot element to bowl games (see Oregon on Saturday). How you ended the regular season is largely irrelevant, especially with a month or so between games. That might end up benefiting Arizona, which lost three of its last four.
* Quarterback Khalil Tate has high standards for himself. Asked to assess his season, Tate said: "It was pretty average. I haven’t really done a whole lot. I’ve done the bare minimum." Tate became the first player ever to win four straight Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, among other accomplishments.
* Backup QB Brandon Dawkins is set to graduate in May. He hasn't made a definitive determination about his future. He could stay; he could transfer. For now, he's focused on Purdue and helping his team win the Foster Farms Bowl. I’ll have more on Dawkns’ situation later tonight.
* An under-the-radar Wildcat players and coaches keep mentioning is cornerback Azizi Hearn. He’s a freshman walk-on from Oceanside, California. Hearn is listed at 6-1, 187.
* Coordinator Marcel Yates on Arizona’s defensive performance this season: “You look at the games we were able to cause turnovers, we were able to play decent. In the games we didn’t cause turnovers, we struggled. We have to cause turnovers. We don’t have the guys where we can just sit there and rush four and expect to be dominant. We’re not there yet. We hope to be there pretty soon.”
* Rodriguez on how much he and his staff consider character and family in recruiting: “We try to kick the tires, so to speak, as much as we can as far as attitude, character, work ethic and the fit for Arizona. Sometimes you miss on that. A lot of times that’s our job as coaches, to understand all the dynamics. And not just to know what kind of success he may or may not have, but how do you approach him? How do you coach him? We coach them all pretty hard. But there are some guys you’ve got to ease into that more than others.”
* Rodriguez tells an epic recruiting story about former West Virginia star Noel Devine at the end of this video.
* Rodriguez said the greatest value of bowl practices is being able to evaluate the younger players. The coaching staff will have a better gauge of where guys are at, what they need to improve and what the team’s needs are heading into spring.
* Arizona will have one more practice Monday morning before a pre-holiday break. Coaches will work through Wednesday. Most players will make their way to San Francisco on their own. The team officially reconvenes at 3 p.m. Friday.