Christian Boettcher probably shouldn’t be a starter for the Arizona Wildcats. The fact that he is serves as a testament to his unrelenting desire to prove that he belongs.
Boettcher, a fourth-year offensive guard, came to Arizona as a walk-on. “An unrecruited walk-on,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez noted, who “just kind of showed up.”
Boettcher, who played football and wrestled at Scottsdale’s Desert Mountain High School, made the team and redshirted in 2014. He played in the ’15 opener against Northern Arizona and earned a spot on the travel squad.
The following May, Rodriguez awarded Boettcher a scholarship. Last season, he played meaningful snaps as a sub at both guard spots before becoming a part-time starter.
He entered training camp this year in a battle with redshirt freshman Michael Eletise — a former four-star recruit — for the starting job at left guard. Despite Eletise’s pedigree, weight-room exploits and offseason improvement, Boettcher earned the nod for Saturday’s opener against NAU.
Boettcher has exceeded all expectations … other than his own.
“You’ve gotta expect you’re going to be the greatest you can be,” Boettcher said after practice Tuesday. “Without that, what’s your motivation? If I don’t think I can win the starting job, why am I here?”
Boettcher started seven games last season but struggled at times. He knew he had to get better.
He has added about 10 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-2-inch frame, bringing him up to 290. He increased his maximum squat from 420 to 490 pounds and his max bench-press from 380 to 425.
Boettcher also tweaked his technique after reviewing film from last season. He noticed that he was turning his hips too much to the outside, opening himself up to an inside pass rush.
It’s not surprising that Boettcher would notice those fine details. He is majoring in biochemistry and plans to go to law school. He made the Pac-12 All-Academic second team last season with a 3.43 GPA.
Boettcher’s father, Derek, who manages Panera Bread restaurants in Tucson, is proud of Christian making Arizona’s starting lineup. Derek is prouder of Christian earning a spot on the All-Academic team.
“My parents, they really emphasized academics over football throughout my whole life,” said Boettcher, whose mother, Gloria, is a stay-at-home mom.
“Football’s been my passion. But they always said, football’s going to be a four-year deal. … Your academics can be a 40-year career, 50-year, however many years you spend in the workforce. Obviously, that’s going to be more important.”
For now, Boettcher is working on his senior thesis and striving to become the best version of himself as a football player. His efforts haven’t gone unnoticed in the locker room.
“I have nothing but respect for people like that,” quarterback Brandon Dawkins said. “He came in, kept his mouth shut and just grinded. Worked his way into a starting role.”
Houston’s new opener
The University of Houston has canceled or postponed all athletic events scheduled for this weekend because of Tropical Storm Harvey — including the football team’s opener at UTSA.
As a result, Houston presumably will open its season at Arizona on Sept. 9.
“Everyone in our university community, including our student-athletes, coaches and their staff, has been impacted by this incredible storm,” UH president Renu Khator said, via the school’s official athletics website. “This is a time for all of us to focus on the well-being of our families and neighbors and the recovery of the Houston area.
“We’ll be excited to resume athletic competition, but right now our student-athletes are anxious to contribute to getting the city we love so much back on its feet again.”
Not having any 2017 game film of the Cougars will create an unexpected challenge for the Wildcats. But football obviously takes a backseat to the struggles of millions of Houstonians who are under water because of the storm.
“We have to take a step back,” Houston coach Major Applewhite told reporters. “It’s not about us, it’s about our city. At some point, everyone needs to understand what’s really important.
“Sports are important. Sports are fun, and it’s entertaining. With casualties in our city, the country’s largest flood, with our families and the state of mind of our families, our players and our players’ families, it’s not the right thing to do to play a game.”
UA receivers coach Theron Aych lived in Houston when Tropical Storm Allison flooded the city in 2001. He saw freeways that looked like rivers, much like what’s happening now.
“It’s like being in a movie,” Aych said. “It’s very surreal.”
Aych said he’s been in contact with Arizona recruits from the Houston area and that they and their families are safe, as far as he knows.
Solomon to start
Former Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon will start for Baylor in its season opener against Liberty, according to multiple reports.
Solomon left Arizona as a graduate transfer in the offseason. He participated in spring practice for the Bears and apparently has beaten out sophomore Zach Smith and freshman Charlie Brewer.
Solomon started for most of the 2014 and ’15 seasons at Arizona before injuries derailed his career here. He opened the ’16 season as the starter before suffering a knee injury in practice that sidelined him for several weeks. He made one subsequent start, at Oregon State, but exited before halftime because of a foot injury.
Solomon ended his UA career ranking in the school’s top four in total offense (7,359), passing yards (6,922) and touchdown passes (49).
The Baylor-Liberty game will air on FS2 at 4 p.m. Tucson time on Saturday.
- Freshman tailback Nathan Tilford did not appear on the initial depth chart, but don’t read too much into that. “You all could take that depth chart and just throw it away,” Rodriguez said. “Tilford’s gonna play.” Rodriguez praised Tilford’s passion and football IQ and said Arizona has five viable tailbacks, including Branden Leon.
- Dawkins on his “co-starter” status on the Week 1 depth chart: “I haven’t seen it. It doesn’t really change my approach. It doesn’t change my demeanor. It changes nothing about my work ethic. It’s just a piece of paper with some names on it. No matter where they have me, I always have to be prepared to go in there and execute the offense to its full potential.”
- Rodriguez said Arizona Stadium hosting three high school state football championship games is “great news.” The Class 4A, 5A and 6A games will take place in Tucson on Dec. 2. “I just like showing off our place — not just our stadium but our campus and our city,” Rodriguez said. “Any event that we can have in our stadium is a chance to showcase all those things.”