UA FOOTBALL

Arizona Football: It's less than a game

To Rodriguez, today's scrimmage is all about practice for the Cats
2013-08-17T00:00:00Z 2013-08-29T20:00:26Z Arizona Football: It's less than a gameDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 17, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Look up "scrimmage" in the dictionary and one of the definitions says: "A practice or informal game, as between two units of the same team."

Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez prefers the "practice" part to the "informal game" part.

And as long as he's the coach of the UA, he always will.

"We won't full scrimmage now, next week, in the spring, ever," Rodriguez said after a recent practice.

In other words, if you're planning on attending the Wildcats' Meet the Team day today at Arizona Stadium, which includes a 6 p.m., scrimmage; don't expect to see an informal game. Expect to see more of a practice.

It will still be offense versus defense at some point and there should be some live hitting. But don't expect to see a full-on scrimmage. If the first-team offense scores a touchdown from 80 yards out, expect that same group to get the ball back close to the same spot.

That's what Rodriguez did in April for the team's spring game and even more than he did last week at Fort Huachuca when the team was originally scheduled to scrimmage.

His reasoning behind it is obviously tied to injuries. Less than two weeks before his team is scheduled to open its season against NAU, the last thing the coach needs is one of his players taking out a teammate and causing a serious injury.

He also doesn't believe intrasquad scrimmages give a true gauge of where their team stands. Now, if you gave him another team to play against, he'd be more incline to ramp it up.

"The thing is, and I've said this for years, is not having a preseason game and not really judging where you're at is kinda difficult," the coach said. "The games mean so much and this is the only level that doesn't have a scrimmage or practice against someone else.

"It seems kinda silly not to change that rule."

Whatever the plan is for today, it should provide some help as to what the UA will look like this season.

Here are three things to watch today:

1. The quarterback competition

What else would be No. 1?

Even with today resembling more of a practice than a game, it's still a good test for the quarterbacks. There will be fans in the seats at Arizona Stadium, coverages to read and coaches watching closely.

The job is anyone's to win at this point. Rodriguez hasn't seen nearly enough to anoint a leader at this point and there seems to be a new favorite after every practice. B.J. Denker has been in the lead at points, Jesse Scroggins has impressed and Nick Isham and Javelle Allen have even gotten into the mix.

But, with only eight camp practices left after tonight's scrimmage, Rodriguez is going to have to get serious about who his man will be.

"I think B.J., and the other quarterbacks have limited experience in games and I think it shows - a little bit - that they aren't as game ready," senior offensive guard Chris Putton said. "But, they're all working hard and I think they will be ready come game day."

2. The defensive line

The linebackers and secondary seem to be relatively set as the season approaches. The defensive line is getting there, but there's still some uncertainty.

Positions there are still up for grabs and the unit has to be better than it was last season when the front three generated just 6 1/2 sacks.

"We have to be active and see the offensive line's movement more clearly," senior defensive tackle Tevin Hood said. "In the 4-3, everyone has a single shoulder to beat. In the 3-3-5, it's five versus three, so you have to see a lot more in order to rush the passer. We're really focused on seeing that."

Hood said he's encouraged this year's group will be more productive because of some of the younger players that have emerged including Dwight Melvin and Kyle Kelley, a pair of linemen that redshirted last season.

It doesn't even matter that Kelley's techniques are a bit awkward and easy to make fun of.

"His pass rushing is continuing to develop," Hood said. "It's awkward, but it works. He just uses moves that no one else uses. He completely choreographs his own moves and they seem to work."

3. The newcomers

Rodriguez hasn't let on to specific players, but several of the team's true freshmen will likely play this season.

It remains to be seen if quarterback Anu Solomon will be one of them - that decision will likely go into the season - but other players seem like locks to play this year and make an impact.

Defensively, linebacker Scooby Wright and cornerback Devin Holiday have made favorable impressions at the midway point of camp. Wright could end up being a starter and Holiday will likely serve as a backup to Shaquille Richardson and Jonathan McKnight.

Others to keep an eye on include defensive lineman Luca Bruno, linebackers Derrick Turituri and DeAndre Miller, cornerback Derek Babiash and receivers Nate Phillips and Samajie Grant.

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

Team W L T PCT
Utah 6 1 0 0.857
Arizona 6 1 0 0.857
ASU 6 1 0 0.857
UCLA 6 2 0 0.750
USC 5 3 0 0.625
Colorado 3 5 0 0.375

Pac-12 North football standings

Team W L T PCT
Oregon 7 1 0 0.875
Stanford 5 3 0 0.625
Washington 5 3 0 0.625
Oregon State 4 3 0 0.571
Cal 4 4 0 0.500
Washington State 2 6 0 0.250
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