Season almost here as training camp winds down

2014-08-16T12:08:00Z 2014-08-21T12:18:37Z Season almost here as training camp winds downDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats went through a full-pad practice this morning at a humid Kindall/Sancet Stadium.

The UA went for nearly two hours, and will now head to Fort Huachuca for the night, before heading back in the late-morning tomorrow for media day.

“I wouldn’t call it a great one, I wouldn’t call it a bad one,” Rodriguez said of today’s practice. “It was just kinda of a typical practice. It was a little warmer, which we needed. We need another one or two of these next week if we can get it.”

Following media day on Sunday, the UA will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then start getting in game preparation mode for UNLV with a closed workout on Thursday.

So believe it or not, training camp is winding down and it’s almost season time.

As we wait, here are some notes and quotes from today:

• At the start of camp, Rodriguez said eight or nine true freshmen could possibly play this season. Today, he lowered that number a bit to six or seven.

Running backs Nick Wilson and Jonathan Haden, tight end Trevor Wood and cornerback Cam Denson seem like locks to get playing time this season.

T.J. Johnson is another who will likely play.

That number may seem a bit low, but the coaching staff is counting on senior transfers Adonis Smith (running back, UNLV), Jordan Allen (defensive end, LSU) and Blair Tushaus (tight end, BYU) to also play this season, which would up the newcomer count.

• Rodriguez touched on a few of the freshmen today. Here are his thoughts:

On Denson: “Cam is a good athlete. He’s gotten better. He still needs to get stronger, which most freshmen do. He’ll get there, because he’s a hard worker.”

On Haden and Wilson: “They’re similar in the respect that they both have quick twitch and they run it well. Wilson is a bigger guy. Haden is a guy who is going to play both in the slot and at running back. He’s one of the quickest guys we have on the team. Nick is a bigger, more physical guy. Both of them look like they have a chance to play as freshmen. “

On Wood: “. He’s a freshman who is probably going to pay. He’s a big, physical guy. He’s still learning. He’s a really hard worker. He’s going to be a really, really good player. Everything we thought we got with Trevor, we got.”

On which freshmen are picking up things the fastest: “Haden is picking it up real quick. Tony Ellison is picking it up real quick. Wilson, Denson, Wood. Sometimes we forget they’re freshmen. It’s a good class, that’s for sure. I like both quarterbacks too (Dawkins and Werlinger).”

• Rodriguez also touched on Tushaus, who played center at BYU, before shedding some weight and moving to tight end for his final collegiate season: “He’s going to play some tight end. He’s playing some special teams, almost all of them. He’s a tough, smart guy. I’m glad he’s here. With Josh Kern out, it’s just him and Trevor Wood taking all the reps at tight end.”

• I asked Rodriguez if the “freshmen wall” is a real thing.

He had some interesting thoughts on it: “Not as much as it used to be. Back in the day when they weren’t here for the summer, and you had six or seven two-a-days, they’d hit the wall a lot sooner. But now if they’re here for most of the summer and they’re in decent shape, the way practices are structured, it’s not really the true grind. Everyone says it’s a grind. It’s not a grind.”

• Samajie Grant said the competition and improvement at wide receiver so far this camp has been encouraging to see.

He talked about what the receivers have been working on the most: “I’m still progressing as a player and all of us receivers are progressing as a group. Every day we’re working harder and harder to get better at what we do. We’ve been practicing the top of our routes. That has been the main goal for everybody, because of all of our players are athletic, but you can’t be a good receiver, if you can’t get in and out of your breaks.”

He elaborated on what he means when he says receivers are working on the “top of our routes.”

“Say for instance, I have a five-yard route. If I start chopping my feet at three yards, the (defensive back) knows I’m not going vertical. I have to push him to my route and then take one or two steps and get out of my break and not multiple little choppy like two to three steps or three to four steps. That’s too many.”

• Grant said he was excited to learn he may get a shot at defensive back next week. He played cornerback in high school, and is real familiar with the position.”

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading.

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About this blog

Daniel Berk began covering UA football in 2013 after spending two-plus years as the Star's high school sports coordinator. Previously, he served as the sports editor and NAU beat writer for the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff for three years.

A University of Kansas graduate and St. Louis native, Berk is still getting used to 350 days of sunshine, the relentless "dry heat" of the summer and the fact that Tucson doesn't have a real hockey rink.

Contact Daniel at dberk@azstarnet.com or by calling 573-4330. Follow him on Twitter @DSBerk.

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