When the Arizona Wildcats opened fall camp last year, there was a lot of yelling. Actually, that probably doesn’t do it justice.
It was more like a constant howling at the loudest of decibels. And the large majority of the displeasure was directed at one man: B.J. Denker.
“I wasn’t really happy with the way B.J. entered camp last year,” coach Rich Rodriguez said. “I thought he should have been further ahead.”
That fact made for a lot of uncomfortable moments the first week or so of camp. Eventually, Denker got to the level Rodriguez demanded he be at and took off with the job. But the beginning was rocky, and Rodriguez is hoping there’s no repeat at the start of this year’s camp.
If he’s right, there won’t be.
Rodriguez thinks the four main candidates at quarterback this year — Jesse Scroggins, Jerrard Randall, Anu Solomon and Connor Brewer — will push each other, and that will improve the overall quality of play.
“I can’t judge where the quarterbacks are at, but as far as in the weight room and running and condition-wise, when we got to see them in June, I was pretty impressed with where they were at,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re further ahead (of last year) because of the competition at the position. They know if they slack off in the summer, when camp starts, they’ll be behind the 8 ball.
“So I think our guys have worked harder because of the competition.”
Though Rodriguez tried to make last year into a competition, Denker clearly had the job wrapped up by mid-camp. He also came into fall practice knowing he was miles ahead of the other quarterbacks.
“I think all the guys know they need to show up and perform,” senior receiver Austin Hill said. “There’s a lot of competition at that position, and I think they’re all up for it.”
This year’s quarterbacks have another advantage over Denker and last year’s group. The NCAA instituted a new rule this year that lets coaches work with student-athletes for up to two hours a week in the film room.
Rodriguez said before the summer it may be a way to get his signal-callers ahead. It worked that way in June, but in July, the coach called off the dogs to give his coaches some time off.
“In the month of June it was helpful, but you’ve still got to give the assistant coaches a little bit of a break,” Rodriguez said. “So really the three weeks in July when we could have spent the time with them, our coaches were on vacations. They were back and forth, but I think sometimes it’s good for the players to get away from the coaches.
“So it’s been helpful, but maybe not as much as we once thought.”
Moving on from Patterson
When 2016 five-star quarterback Shea Patterson decommitted from Arizona on Monday, it was natural to wonder where the Wildcats would turn.
The UA doesn’t have a quarterback in its 19-man recruiting class for 2015, and it could stay that way. Arizona’s two biggest targets at that position — Ryan Davis and Torrance Gibson — are both Florida high school products who don’t appear to favor Arizona at this point.
Gibson, a four-star recruit, said he will announce his college decision in October. Tennessee appears to be the favorite there, with several other SEC schools lurking. He is considering Arizona, and the Wildcats would like to get him on campus for an official visit before that October decision date.
Most recruiting sites have Davis listed as a wide receiver, but the Wildcats like him as a quarterback, and that could help their chances.
The Wildcats could also go quarterback-less this class, after adding Anu Solomon last year and Brandon Dawkins this summer.
A name in 2016 to keep an eye on as a potential replacement for Patterson is Brandon McIlwain. The Newtown, Pennsylvania, native has offers from Arizona, Auburn, Cal, Clemson, UCLA and others. Arizona is very involved in his recruitment at this point and would like to keep it that way with Patterson moving on.
“It’s just more drama dealing with quarterbacks in recruiting, but that’s always been the case,” Rodriguez said last week. “The dominoes start to fall when one guy makes a decision, and then another will follow.”
- Arizona has added former Catalina Foothills High School running back Ty Cruz to its roster for the upcoming season. Cruz, who will walk on, rushed for 1,346 yards and 23 touchdowns last year for the Falcons. He was a first-team Arizona Daily Star All-Southern Arizona pick.
He’s listed on the roster at 5-8, 175. He was teammates for a year with Rodriguez’s son, Rhett, at Foothills.
- Bovada, a Las Vegas-based oddsmaker, put Arizona’s odds for a Pac-12 title at 25-1. Oregon is the favorite at 11-10, followed by UCLA (11-4), USC (5-1), Stanford (6-1), ASU (12-1) and Washington (14-1). Arizona is ahead of Oregon State (33-1), Washington State (50-1), Utah (66-1), Cal and Colorado (200-1).