B.J. Denker throws left-handed, wears jersey No. 7 and can flat-out run. You don't have to be Chris Berman to figure out his nickname.

"Vanilla Vick," Denker said.

The Arizona Wildcats' backup quarterback blames his high school friends for the cringe-worthy moniker, a nod to Philadelphia Eagles star Michael Vick.

In Tucson, however, Denker is The Next Man Up.

Should starting quarterback Matt Scott suffer an injury of struggle during the season, the team will turn to Denker.

The 6-foot-3-inch, 177-pounder joined the UA this summer after spending three seasons at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. He was a star in 2011, completing 160 of 286 passes for 2,319 yards and 31 touchdowns; he also ran 92 times for 430 yards and seven scores.

Denker redshirted the 2010 season, meaning he has two years of eligibility remaining at the UA.

The Star talked to Denker on Sunday about his ability, speed - and the long road he's taken to Tucson. Here's what he said:

You've been practicing for two weeks now. What's been the biggest adjustment from junior college to major college football?

A: "Probably speed. The junior college level is pretty fast, but adjusting to the athletes here: Everybody is bigger, stronger, faster. The offensive concepts weren't that big a difference compared to what I was running. It's just adjusting to the athletes. The speed of our offense - going fast every single play - it's a lot different than anything I've ever been involved in. That would be the main thing."

How did you prepare for the speed during the summer?

A: "I mean, running - just running and running. Our strength and conditioning coaches, they ran us and ran us and ran us. They needed to. You know, in practice, we have a 10-play drive and I'm tired. If you want to do that for four quarters, you have to be, physically and conditioning-wise, prepared."

Has any part of it been easy?

A: "Everybody back home says, 'You're at such a large school now; don't get distracted.' But, you know, I worked too hard to get here. I've just been focusing on football. That's probably been the easiest thing. There are no distractions."

How does Tucson compare for Los Angeles, in terms of your day-to-day life?

A: "Outside of the heat, I think it's the same. There's a whole bunch of California kids here. It's not like I'm on the East Coast or in the South."

As the No. 2, there's a chance - and a pretty good one - that you're going to play this year …

A: "I haven't talked to the coaches about that yet. There's no depth chart. But anytime they call my number, I'll be ready."

Why did you take the redshirt year in junior college? Not a lot of people do that.

A: "I wasn't physically mature enough yet. I was tiny. I was skinny. I was 6 feet, 155 pounds and the offense at my junior college was really complex. It was pro-style, with a lot of checks and reads at the line. It was the best decision of my life. I matured as a person, mentally and physically, and I got bigger. Had I not taken that redshirt, I wouldn't be at Arizona right now."

Where would you be, if you weren't at the UA?

A: "Indiana offered me in the spring, and then a glitch in the academic system happened and I couldn't go. New Mexico offered me when I was on my visit here. A junior college player I played with, Fatu (Ulale) - he's a defensive tackle there - he called and said, 'They like you, they want you.' It was probably going to be either Maryland or New Mexico."

Explain the Vick nickname. Is it as simple as your number and the fact you're left-handed?

A: "It wasn't that I was trying to be like Michael Vick. It's just that people saw me on the sidelines and said, 'Hey, he kind of looks like him.' It's not just Michael Vick. I try to take bits and pieces of everything I do from other quarterbacks. I want Peyton Manning's brain, Philip Rivers' intensity when he's yelling and screaming. … That's one of my favorite things, how he yells at the defense. I try to model myself after many different quarterbacks, but I don't try to be anybody else other than who I am."

Extra points

• Defensive tackle Justin Washington did not attend Sunday's meet-the-team function at McKale Center, and has been away from the Wildcats for the last few days. Washington remains listed on the roster.

• The UA is expected to pursue walk-on place-kickers this week as it tries to build some depth. Jake Smith has been out with an injury, and John Bonano recently returned from one.

• The team has switched to its regular-season practice schedule, which includes Sunday night workouts. There will be no practice today.