Notes and takeaways from the Arizona Wildcats’ media availability after practice Friday afternoon as the team continues to prepare for the Dec. 27 Foster Farms Bowl against Purdue:
* Quarterback Khalil Tate was somewhat limited in practice because of flu-like symptoms, UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. Others under the weather included receiver Gary Brightwell and safety Tristan Cooper.
* I asked Rodriguez about Arizona's quarterback depth going forward. He mentioned "Brandon and Khalil" — maybe a sign that Brandon Dawkins will be back (as opposed to leaving as a grad transfer). I haven't had a chance to talk to Dawkins about that yet. It will be an interesting offseason subplot.
* B.J. Denker and Rodriguez have shared the QB coaching duties while Rod Smith is away dealing with a family matter. Smith should be back by Sunday.
* Rodriguez on Arizona's prolific, productive freshman class: "I told them when they first got here, 'If you all stick together the next few years, I think you’ll win a championship.' I feel even more so that way ... now than I did in August."
* Rodriguez believes the freshmen will benefit most from having a week off at the end of the regular season, plus a few days off next week before the bowl game. This is the longest season most have experienced.
* Rodriguez's stance on the Arizona defense: The numbers weren't great this year, but the future looks bright. "I’m encouraged because I know these guys will get better,” he said. “My expectation is that we should be a lot better defensively the next couple years."
* Arizona's talent level has risen on defense. But Rodriguez said "we still need some help in this recruiting class, some immediate help." Up front is where it's needed most. Help also could/should come from players who redshirted this year, including defensive end My-King Johnson and defensive tackle Sione Taufahema.
* Arizona has one official visitor this weekend — defensive tackle PJ Johnson from City College of San Francisco. It would be a surprise if Johnson (6-5, 315) didn't commit.
* A UA defensive coach told me that freshman cornerback Tony Wallace might be the best athlete on the team. Receiver Shawn Poindexter praised him the other day too. Wallace primarily has played in sub packages and on special teams. Once his mental game catches up, Wallace should be a major contributor.
* It sounds as if Arizona will look for a new punter (or two) to add to the roster for next season, likely a walk-on. Rodriguez said he feels good about the kicker combo of Lucas Havrisik and Josh Pollack. Punting, meanwhile, has been the weak link of the special-teams unit.
* Rodriguez has been pleased with the overall effort and execution in Arizona's bowl practices. He gets the sense that the seniors, in particular, really want to end on a high note.