Arizona football: Cats pick starters, but chart still fluid

2012-08-28T00:00:00Z 2012-08-28T17:17:10Z Arizona football: Cats pick starters, but chart still fluidRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 28, 2012 12:00 am  • 

Rich Rodriguez has spent the last nine months speaking in generalities, careful not to publicly praise - or pressure - any particular player until the Arizona Wildcats' new coaching staff could fully evaluate everyone.

Monday, the UA's first-year coach finally tipped his hand.

Sort of.

He released Arizona's first regular-season depth chart of 2012, five days before Saturday's opener against Toledo, but he said to expect players not listed on the two- deep to see action against the Rockets.

The informal listing includes a handful of sure things - Matt Scott will start at quarterback, with Ka'Deem Carey at running back - and a few surprises. The word "or," which appeared 23 times in the Wildcats' training camp depth chart a month ago, has been removed from the sheet altogether.

"This is just paper, of course," said Rodriguez, flashing a smile. "We'll make sure we have 11 (players on the field) on Saturday. I'll be really upset if we don't. If we have 10 or 12 or 13 in there it would not be good."

On paper, these names stood out:

• Fabbians Ebbele, who was suspended for all of spring drills while facing assault charges that were later dropped, projects as the team's first-team right tackle. Returning starter Mickey Baucus is expected to line up at left tackle, outside guards Chris Putton and Trace Biskin and center Kyle Quinn.

• Marquis Flowers has moved from safety to linebacker, and will likely start at the weak-side spot on Saturday. Jake Fischer will play middle linebacker, with Hank Hobson on the strong side.

The change to linebacker "wasn't sudden," Flowers said. He and the UA's coaches had discussed the move throughout camp.

• Chris Merrill was listed ahead of Willie Mobley at defensive tackle, while Dominique Austin - a fifth-year senior who spent last season on the practice squad - appears to be the team's best defensive end.

• Shaquille Richardson and Derrick Rainey were listed as first-teamers at cornerback, ahead of the rehabbing Jonathan McKnight. Jourdon Grandon and Jared Tevis occupy the safety spots, for now, while senior Mark Watley failed to make the two-deep.

Of course, depth charts rarely hold on game day - especially with a team like Arizona, which is trying to identify playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Rodriguez mentioned nine different offensive starters not on the two-deep who, he said, should play in the opener.

It's "a pretty good bet" that the Wildcats will play eight or more offensive linemen, the coach said.

Things might be more certain on defense, but that's only because the UA seemingly has less depth to pull from.

"There's going to be more than 22 guys who have to play," he said.

No preseason

The Wildcats held their first annual "Beanie Bowl" over the weekend to simulate, in real time, what they'll be doing in Saturday's opener. They'll return to Arizona Stadium later this week, likely Thursday, for another dry run.

Even with all the preparation, Rodriguez said he'll be anxious for opening night.

"The first game, there are always so many things you're unsure of, not just because you're in a new environment with some new guys. It's just that you don't have any preseason games," he said.

"It's kind of silly (that) we play at this level of football, and we don't have any preseason or scrimmage games. … I wish they'd change a rule and let us have a preseason game or a scrimmage or something, but I don't see that happening anytime soon."

New workout schedule

Arizona's players took Monday night off as part of a new schedule instituted by the new staff. The Wildcats will practice every Sunday during the regular season and be off on Mondays.

There are three advantages to Sunday workouts, Rodriguez said. Players are obligated to return to campus for treatment and conditioning rather than stay home. Coaches can use all day Monday to formulate a game plan for the week without practice. And, perhaps most importantly, the team is forced to quickly turn the page following the previous game.

Rodriguez has a "24-hour rule", meaning that players and coaches can focus on the result for one day.

"If you wait until Monday, sometimes it lingers," he said. "This way, whether you win or lose, the next day, you're getting some of the soreness out, lifting weights, watching film and moving on to the next opponent."

Up next

• Who: Toledo at Arizona

• Where: Arizona Stadium

• When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

• TV: ESPNU

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