Rich Rodriguez held his first news conference of the season this afternoon at the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility and it took less than a minute before the second-year UA coach was asked about his quarterback situation.
He wouldn't name a starter for Friday's opener against NAU, but hinted--again--that B.J. Denker will likely be the man.
"B.J. Denker was the frontrunner coming in and then in the beginning of camp, there was a mix all the way around," Rodriguez said. "In the last week or so, B.J. has gotten better. So he's still the frontrunner...But with the inexperience we have at that position right now, it's an ongoing competition. We'll roll a lot of guys in there, get a lot of reps and whoever the best one is at game time, will start. We could play two, three or four."
Rodriguez said four guys--presumably Denker, Jesse Scroggins, Javelle Allen and Nick Isham--are getting the majority of the reps right now and he'll start limiting that even more beginning today.
Of freshman Anu Solomon, Rodriguez said, "Anu is still getting reps because we want to keep him honed up and learn what we're doing, but it's hardest for him because he's a true freshman coming in. We like everything we've seen so far, but he's behind the rest of the guys and he should be because he hasn't gone through a spring yet. But, he's had some good moments. The upperclassmen are a little ahead in terms of knowing the offense."
Here are some other Rich Rod quotes to come out of this afternoon's news conference. We'll chat with him again today after practice along with a few offensive players.
• Rodriguez on Nate Phillips: "Nate has great ball skills. He’s got good speed and he’s a confident guy when he’s back there handling those kicks and punts. I’m not sure if he’s going to be the first kick returner or the first punt returner, but he probably will be out there at some point on Friday night."
• Rodriguez on NAU: "Last year, we could have played poorly and beaten South Carolina State, but that’s not the case with NAU. They are a good 1-AA football team. They have most of their football team back and they’re going to be fired up and jacked up to play Arizona. They have a lot of in-state guys that are pretty excited about coming here and playing in our stadium. So our guys have to understand that and I think they can see it on the film. We try to focus a lot on us and how we play and how we prepare and as we go through the week, we’ll start to focus on the schemes they’ll be facing."
• Rodriguez on Davonte' Neal and still not knowing his status: "Yeah. He’s still practicing with us. He’s enrolled in classes. We may find something out this week about Davonte’. To me, it seems like we should have found something out by now. I don’t know why it’s taking so long. He’s had a great attitude. He’s done mostly scout team work. We’re still giving reps so he can understand our offense. I think the decision will ultimately come down pretty soon. I wouldn’t gather a guess what the NCAA is looking at."
• Rodriguez on if Jesse Scroggins is caught up on the offense after missing some practices: "He’s not yet. He’s trying to catch up. I think missing the practices in the spring and missing a few this fall camp has set him back a little bit. He’s trying to get caught up. There were a couple of days when he was out that Javelle played pretty well. Jesse is still getting reps, but he missed enough time to set him back a little bit."
• Rodriguez on quarterback improvement throughout camp: "I yelled at all of them pretty steadily there for about two weeks. I think they’ve all improved to some point. I’ve been proud of that. I told them from the start that we’re going to put pressure on them and make them uncomfortable at practice just to see how they responded and they all responded pretty well. They didn’t go in the tank when they had a bad play or when Coach (Rod) Smith or I was on them a little bit. Our production and play wasn’t as good as it could have been. But it’s gotten better. I’m anxious to see how they do Friday night."
Some other notes to come out of our time with the coach:
• Guard Chris Putton could play some tackle on Friday. Left tackle Mickey Baucus missed a couple of practices last week and could be limited on Friday. Rodriguez is comfortable moving Putton over. Faitele Faafoi and Lene Maiava would be candidates to play guard.
• Sahuaro High School grad Drew Riggleman will get the first crack at the punting duties. He beat out Jake Smith for the job. Smith could split the placekicking duties with Casey Skowron. It sounds like Rodriguez is still deciding between the two."
• After starting 12 games last season, linebacker Sir Thomas Jackson isn't on the team's two-deep for the NAU game. Rodriguez said he'll still likely play, but he's happy with what he's gotten from sophomore Keoni Bush-Loo and several freshmen.
• It doesn't sound like there will be any players that go two ways on Friday night. Richard Morrison was a candidate, but he'll likely stick to receiver to open the season.