Here are some highlights from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability after their fourth practice of training camp Thursday night:
* UA coach Rich Rodriguez cut practice short and surprised the team by bringing an ice cream truck onto the field. As he noted, the freshmen had been practicing since Sunday. Also, the team lifted earlier in the day and will practice in full pads Friday and Saturday. The timing was right to give them a break – and a treat.
* Rodriguez believes the Wildcats will be deeper at linebacker than they’ve been in years. It’s possible, though, that as many as five of the top six will be freshmen or redshirt freshmen.
* Arizona didn’t do a ton of “team” drills Thursday, so Rodriguez couldn’t assess the quarterback play. He did mention that all have the requisite athletic skills. What he wants to see is accuracy and quick, sound decision-making.
* So who voted for Arizona in the Coaches Poll? I asked Rodriguez if it was him. “I’m a voter,” he said, his tone suggesting there should be quotes around “voter.” “Sometimes I look at the list. Sometimes I trust the staff. So I’m not really sure whether they threw us in there or not.” That line had the group cracking up. Rodriguez did say he takes the final 2-3 ballots seriously, especially the final one.
* A sleeper to watch out for among Arizona’s edge rushers: sophomore Lee Anderson III, a converted linebacker. The coaches are looking for four players to rotate at defensive end and “Stud.”
* Among the freshmen at those spots, Jalen Harris and Kylan Wilborn have stood out the most so far, position coach Brian Knorr said.
* Senior defensive lineman Parker Zellers said freshman defensive tackle Kurtis Brown has displayed some surprisingly advanced moves and techniques so far.
* Defensive end Jack Banda has had some big games for Arizona (Colorado 2015, Washington 2016) but is seeking to become more consistent as a senior.
* According to Knorr, who also coaches special teams, Arizona is grading every special-teams rep, even in walk-throughs, and is charting every aspect of every kick and punt.
* Arizona sophomore safety Tristan Cooper said the Wildcats are much better at disguising coverages in Year 2 under defensive coordinator Marcel Yates.
* Cooper is confident Arizona will be a much-improved team this year. "Everybody knows we’ve got to prove something,” he said. “Everybody knows we’re gonna prove something."
* Add Cooper to the list of Wildcats heaping praise on linebacker Tony Fields II, who seems destined for a meaty role as a freshman.
* Freshmen Rhedi Short and Xavier Bell are playing Cooper’s positon, known as the “Spur.”