UA FOOTBALL

Arizona football: Developing an identity

Yearly trip to Fort Huachuca often helps team come together
2013-08-09T00:00:00Z Arizona football: Developing an identityDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 09, 2013 12:00 am  • 

FORT HUACHUCA - Cornerback Richard Morrison and linebacker Marquis Flowers both hesitated and then gave the same answer.

Who's tougher on their students - Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez or the Army sergeants at Fort Huachuca?

"I think 'Coach Rod' is up there, but they're probably harder than coach is," said a smiling Morrison.

"You hear troopers running and screaming something and the sergeant telling them what to do. It's intense."

Added Flowers, a senior starter: "I'm going to have to go with the sergeants. Sorry, 'Coach Rod.'"

Apparently Rodriguez's "hard edge" philosophy only runs so deep.

The UA, returning for the sixth straight year, held its first of four practices at the Army installation Thursday morning with the Huachuca Mountains and training soldiers serving as a backdrop.

The Wildcats practiced for a little more than two hours under near-perfect conditions.

"I think every football player needs to go through a camp experience and this is what that gives us," Rodriguez said. "Every team has to develop their own personality each year even if you have a bunch of (players) back or if you don't have any of them back.

"In this type of atmosphere, I think it leads to that more than anything."

Of course, new coaches love to put their own touch on their programs when they take over and adjust things as necessary.

One tradition Rodriguez didn't want to change when he took over at the UA nearly two years ago was heading to Fort Huachuca for a few days during fall camp.

"I had heard about it from talking to the players and talking to some of the previous coaches and they all thought it was a big bonus," Rodriguez said.

"I had done it at other stops in my coaching career. I thought it was always good. I've had places where we've done it for two weeks and places where we've just done it for two days. I like about four or five days. I think that's just enough time."

So what's on the Wildcats' agenda while they're here?

After Thursday's practice, Rodriguez surprised his team with a trip to the pool on the installation - complete with a water slide. The Wildcats trekked to the pool last year and it was popular. The players were hoping for a return trip and got one.

In the evening, the team ate dinner with various soldiers before an early bedtime. The dinner is one of Rodriguez's favorite parts of the trip.

"A lot of those guys are about the same age as my players, so it's really a good interaction there," the coach said.

Today, the team will practice at 11:30 a.m., and then get after it twice on Saturday, including a 5:30 p.m., scrimmage. Other than practice and the occasional trip to the pool, Rodriguez said the focus of the Fort Huachuca visit is football and team bonding.

"They're living together in tight quarters in a dorm," Rodriguez said. "We're eating all of our meals together. They have no choice but to talk to each other. There's no girlfriends or family members here. They're talking to each other and hanging around each other and I think you have to have that to get close as a team."

Fall camp isn't supposed to be fun, but Flowers - making his fourth trip to the installation - said he will never forget these preseason excursions.

"When you come to camp here, this is the stuff you really remember after the season and years from now," Flowers said. "You hang out with all your teammates because there's nothing else to do here. It's really a great experience.

"It's a beautiful place and a chance to get away and only think about football."

Football-wise, fall camp has been kind to the UA so far. Through six practices in six days, the Wildcats have remained healthy, the quarterback play has improved after a shaky start and the defense continues to look stronger and deeper.

"We have a chip on our shoulder," Flowers said of the defense. "We're finally starting to play together as a team. We're going to set high goals and get it going."

On StarNet: Keep up with the Arizona Wildcats football team through training camp on Arizona Daily Star reporter Daniel Berk's blog at azstarnet.com/berk

Training camp: Day 6

At Fort Huachuca

• Temperature at start: 70 degrees and sunny at 8 a.m.

• Newcomer watch: Freshman linebacker Derrick Turituri, listed at 6-feet-1-inch and 250 pounds, brings some size to a defense that coach Rich Rodriguez said desperately needs some. The Central Point, Ore., native was the special teams player of the day on Wednesday for the UA. Rodriguez said Turituri's biggest role will be "as a pass rusher that helps the defense." The three-star recruit also had offers from Colorado, Oregon State and Hawaii.

• The big number: 21: The UA opens its season against NAU at Arizona Stadium in exactly three weeks - or 21 days - from today.

Key dates

• Saturday: Fort Huachuca scrimmage

• Aug. 17: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 23: Scrimmage on campus

• Aug. 30 (Friday): Season opener at Arizona Stadium vs. NAU, 7 p.m. on Pac-12 Arizona

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Pac-12 South football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Arizona 7 2 0 0.778 10 3 0 0.769
USC 6 3 0 0.667 8 4 0 0.667
UCLA 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Arizona State 6 3 0 0.667 9 3 0 0.750
Utah 5 4 0 0.556 9 4 0 0.692
Colorado 0 9 0 0.000 2 10 0 0.167

Pac-12 North football standings

  Conference Overall
Team W L T PCT W L T PCT
Oregon 8 1 0 0.889 12 1 0 0.923
Stanford 5 4 0 0.556 7 5 0 0.583
Washington 4 5 0 0.444 8 5 0 0.615
Cal 3 6 0 0.333 5 7 0 0.417
Washington State 2 7 0 0.222 3 9 0 0.250
Oregon State 2 7 0 0.222 5 7 0 0.417
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