Since he arrived in Tucson, UA coach Rich Rodriguez has worked hard to instill a “hard edge” into his players.
The phrase is plastered onto one of the grass berms at Kindall/Sancet Stadium and throughout the program’s new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility.
This afternoon at practice, Rodriguez’s squad got a reminder that “hard edge” has been present at the UA long before the coach and his staff arrived.
The refresher came in the form of former All-American linebacker Ricky Hunley, who watched practice and spoke to the Wildcats after their session.
“That’s what I told them; our program was built on a lot of tough, hard-nosed football players for many, many years,” Rodriguez said after practice. “That ‘hard edge’, that’s not something we invented. That’s been the culture here for many years. I think Ricky gave them a really good message.”
The UA practiced for more than two hours and will congregate next tomorrow night at Arizona Stadium for Meet the Team Night.
Some news, notes and quotes from the UA’s practice this afternoon:
• The temperature was in triple digits for the entire practice. It seemed hot to me, but Rodriguez was hoping it would be even hotter.
“We have this little breeze going on; we have some clouds,” Rodriguez said. “This has a tendency to make us soft. We have to get some hot weather. Maybe tomorrow night.”
It has been relatively pleasant for most of the UA’s practices this camp.
• The coach said again that tomorrow night’s open practice at Arizona Stadium will resemble a normal practice much more than it will a true scrimmage.
“We need a more regular practice than a scrimmage,” Rodriguez said. “We’re not ready for that and that’s kinda scary since we’re two weeks away from a game. We’ll do a lot of situational stuff. There will be parts of it that are live, but not a lot.”
• For the first time in the Rodriguez era, a real wildcat was at practice. The Tucson Wildlife Center brought one out to film a PSA. It’s something that happened when Mike Stoops was the coach a couple of years ago, but hadn’t happened during Rodriguez’s tenure until today. The players and Rodriguez seemed to enjoy it and have some fun.
Some quotes from after practice:
• Rodriguez on if his players know who Hunley is and how good he was: “We have (Hunley) plastered up so many places. Not just here, but there’s a life size poster in our weight room too. If they don’t know who he is, they haven’t been in our weight room enough. We’ve had so many great players here, but the way Ricky played--for anyone that watches highlights of him and Tedy Bruschi and all those guys--they played with a certain edge to them.”
• Rodriguez on evaluating walk-ons and how important they are to his program: “For us, we’re pretty active on that. We watch the film on them. We talk to their coaches about them. I think for us to have a great program and win championships, we have to have a great walk-on program. It’s important to me because I walked-on in college and was able to tell the story of how I walked-on and got a scholarship and it turned out really well. I think we have a bunch of quality walk-ons and we’ve put a bunch on scholarship already and every year we’re going to be looking and identifying guys. We don’t just bring them in here to be scout team guys. We bring them in to compete and try to play and earn a scholarship.”
• Rodriguez on what he looks for in a quarterback off the field: “Obviously, you want a guy to do all the right things off the field too. Just in his preparation, how he prepares for practice and how they prepare for the season and offseason workouts. I think every quarterback at this level should be a gym rat. That means a guy that doesn’t just learn the game because you tell him to; he learns the game because he wants to know all the ins and outs and what everyone does. I’ve talked to them about that. In our system, I want guys to be inquisitive and ask questions and know not what just to do, but why we’re doing it.”
• Rodriguez on Javelle Allen and what he’s doing differently now than he was at the start of camp: “Really nothing other than he’s getting more of an opportunity. We kind of needed to see it. Javelle was a little bit in the doghouse after the spring, just because I thought his effort could have been better on and off the field. His effort was better academically at the end of the spring and it has been better so far. He’s worked hard and he’s in the mix. He still has a ways to go, but he is a lot more focused now than he was four or five months ago.”
• Allen on why he thinks he’s playing better: “When I’m seeing plays, it comes to me faster. I’m not thinking about it as much because I’m getting so many reps in practice. That’s how you get better—get those reps."
• Allen on being a running quarterback and being different to the other QBs in the competition: “I’m a bigger quarterback. I’m more physical. We have all have different strengths. Depending on the plays, I get some more of the run plays. I’m bigger and can take some of the hits.”
• Allen on Rodriguez stockpiling quarterbacks and if it motivates him: “It’s just more competition. I think the coaches use it toward competition for us. To me, it’s just the best player will win. I think everyone has a fair shot. I think it’s all about who plays the hardest and who will be the smartest at the end. I’ve always had a competition it seems like. This isn’t anything new.”