The Arizona Wildcats practiced in full pads for the first time this fall in a two-plus hour workout in front of members of the Wildcat Club at Kindall/Sancet Stadium.
It was a spirited practice that picked up as it got rolling.
“I didn’t think the intensity was very good at the beginning of practice, which it should be in the first day of pads, but at the end of practice, it was better,” UA coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We got some work done.”
The Wildcats went through a normal practice, working on fundamentals and also getting some team (seven-on-seven and 11-on-11) work done as well.
Here are some notes, quotes and impressions from the practice.
• Safety Jared Tevis sat out practice with a tweaked hamstring. Rodriguez made it seem like it wasn’t anything major, and he’d be back soon. Nate Phillips was a limited participant because of a bruise on his shoulder. Cornerback Devin Holiday was also limited.
• A couple of the freshmen made some really nice plays and stood out. Cornerback Cam Denson broke up a pass intended for Trey Griffey from Brandon Dawkins. He was with Griffey step-for-step and never lost sight of the ball and knocked the ball to the ground.
Later in practice, he intercepted Jerrard Randall in 11-on-11. It was a heck of a catch that required some last-second twisting of his body.
“He’s a competitive guy and he’s got the ability to play the ball in the air,” Rodriguez said of Denson. “He’s got great ball skills. He still has to gain some weight and get some strength, but he’s got a long, lean body.”
Running back Nick Wilson also impressed. He took a short pass and turned it into a long touchdown with some nice open-field moves. It’s easy to see he has quick feet and a strong upper body.
“It’s nice he had his first touch and went for a touchdown,” Rodriguez said of Wilson. “I don’t know if that was bad defense or Nick making a good play. We have a good group of young freshmen running backs.”
Rodriguez mentioned Jonathan Haden and walk-ons Ty Cruz (Catalina Foothills) and Jocquez Kalili by name as some of the strong freshmen backs.
• I’m sure everyone has a different opinion on this, but I didn’t think any of the quarterbacks stood out. Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith said it was Jesse Scroggins’ best day of practice so far this fall.
Anu Solomon ran with the first-team for the majority of practice (which doesn’t mean a whole lot) and made some really nice throws, including one to David Richards and another to Davonte’ Neal. He did have a miscommunication with Samajie Grant on a deep ball, which fell incomplete, and also almost had a pass intercepted by Jonathan McKnight.
Connor Brewer and Jerrard Randall were up and down. Brewer threw a nice pass to Grant, and after two incompletions, had a pass intercepted by Jamar Allah. Randall was picked by Denson, but also showed his athleticism at times.
“They’re making some steps,” Rodriguez said of the quarterbacks. “Coach Smith will do a great job getting them ready. I don’t like to see the same mistakes everyday, and that’s what’s frustrating.
“I don’t think there’s been a lot of separation just yet, but I predict there will be a week from now, there will be some separation.”
• Running back Jared Baker looks shifty and fast, just nine months after tearing his ACL against Arizona State. He ran with the first-team for a lot of the practice, and it looks like he’ll be a factor come games.
• Josh Kern and Neal both took turns as the holder during special teams. It appears the competition for that job — vacated by Nick Isham — is down to those two.
“We’re working both guys there,” Rodriguez said. “Josh is an ex-quarterback and DaVonte’ has done it before.”
Neal may not be coming off the field much this year. Rodriguez said the competition for punt and kick returner is still wide open, but Neal will certainly factor into that. Plus, he’ll have a large role in his slot receiver position on offense.
• Two defensive players that continue to impress me are Tellas Jones and Jarvis McCall. McCall played opposite McKnight, and was solid. Both are physical defensive backs, who have made big strides from last season.
I expect both Florida high school products to get some decent playing time early in the season.
• The coaching staff named Richards the offensive player of the day and linebacker Scooby Wright, who has been rock solid all camp, the defensive player of the day.
That’s all for tonight. Look for some good insight on the QBs from Rod Smith in Friday’s Star.