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Arizona football: Rodriguez: Tucson an easy place to be comfy

2013-04-21T00:00:00Z 2013-04-21T21:44:11Z Arizona football: Rodriguez: Tucson an easy place to be comfyDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
April 21, 2013 12:00 am  • 

It takes nearly the same amount of time to run a play in Rich Rodriguez's fast-paced, frantic offense as it does to find out if the coach is truly comfortable in Tucson.

Sitting in his plush office this week with his 17-year-old daughter, Raquel, by his side, Rodriguez is the picture of comfort these days. His University of Arizona polo shirt doesn't have a single wrinkle and his navy blue shorts are fine attire for another flawless Tucson spring day.

The second-year coach leans back in his chair sporting an ear-to-ear smile as he talks about the first concert he's been to in 30 years.

"I took my daughter to the Travis Tritt concert last night - what a show," Rodriguez said. "He performed for an hour and a half straight. It was great. You know that's the first concert I've been to since Pat Benatar in 1982."

Yeah, life is good.

Spring football is in the rearview mirror and the 2013 season is still more than four months away. If there's ever a time to reset as a coach and catch a Travis Tritt show, this is it.

"This is home," Rodriguez said. "I've said this to a lot of people - this is an easy town to get comfortable in. There are a lot of people that come here and they feel the friendliness of the community and feel how quickly they are welcomed and they never leave. I felt that the first week I was on campus and the same with my family.

"I think sometimes you say it and you don't really mean it, but this one here - it's truly been a blessing to be welcomed in as quickly as we have been."

The second-year coach welcomed the Star into his quarters to talk spring practice, NFL offenses, the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility and several other subjects.

Here's what he said:

What have you tried to get done in the week since the spring game?

A: "I just went through the scrimmage quickly, but really what I've been doing is sitting down and talking with all the players. We all have a one-on-one talk. I tell them exactly where they are at, what they need to work on and what our expectations are for them in the fall. I had good meetings with the guys.

"All the assistants are on the road for the next five weeks. We'll meet about our current roster and talk about where we are recruiting wise when they return. We'll take a couple of weeks in June to preview the season and our upcoming opponents. We'll look at our first three and everybody in the league. We'll stay busy until the end of June."

What were your impressions of spring practice?

A: "I do think we made more strides defensively. We were real simple schemewise. We wanted to concentrate on the fundamentals. The guys that practiced got better. We made small steps up on the offensive line as well. I thought (quarterback) B.J. (Denker) had a pretty solid spring and got a lot better."

Speaking of him, what do you think of the quarterbacks right now? Do you feel better about the position than you did before the spring?

A: "I feel better because I think we're better there. You hope that happens in the spring. As I told B.J., the starting position will not be determined until the season starts and maybe past that. B.J. did enough in the spring to give us more confidence in him. Jesse (Scroggins), even though he was limited, got his feet wet a little bit. He'll be able to compete too. The other guys have to get better too and have a long way to go."

How excited are you for (quarterback) Anu Solomon to get on campus?

A: "I'm excited about him and Khari McGee. It's two more guys coming into the mix. I'm excited to get them here. We're going to give them reps in the beginning of fall camp and see what happens. "

How has the recent surge of dual-threat quarterbacks and the emergence of the read-option offense in the NFL helped you on the recruiting trail?

A: "What's changed is (college) coaches would say, 'Come to our system if you want to play in the NFL because we're a pro-style system and we'll teach you what you have to do in the NFL.' But, the truth is, what we're doing is more 'pro-style' than everyone else. If you look at the NFL, 75 percent of them are in the shotgun and now they are incorporating the run game out of the shotgun, not just the pass game.

"So we've been saying for years that the new pro-style is shotgun spread no matter what you're running out of it. It helps a little bit (in recruiting). I don't know if it's the deciding factor, but now people can't use that against us in recruiting anymore."

Has the building of the new football facility been an advantage in recruiting yet or do you have to wait for it to be finished?

A: "I think it's helped that they know the commitment is coming and that they've seen pictures and some PowerPoint presentations on it, but the impact will be much bigger when you can actually take them through it. That's what we're excited about. I think from July 1 when we can move in, it's really going to enhance things because they can see for themselves that there is a huge commitment to Arizona football."

What's unique about Arizona compared to the other places you've coached?

A: "The biggest difference is looking outside and seeing the palm trees and sunshine and great weather all the time. That's been a bonus. We do have some tradition, but maybe not as much as we've had at other places I've been. But that's OK. I think we have enough we can build on. Every place is a little unique, but what I think is similar to other places is that it's a true college town.

"Someone once described it to me as a college town on steroids because of the population. But I think it's a great setup for a university and a great setup to build a university athletic program."

When you have a player get into trouble in the offseason, what's the first thing that goes through your head when you're told?

A: "The first thought is disappointment because you want your guys to do right all the time. And when they don't and they make bad decisions, and you know that they're good kids just making bad decisions, you're very disappointed because they're putting a bad mark on their resume just because they aren't thinking correctly. Like any parent would do, you still love them, but you're disappointed in them.

"As much as you preach to them that 'Hey, you're living in a different world and everything is public and everything you do is going to be public and you need to understand that,' it's still disappointing when it happens. It also depends on the level of transgression as far as our discipline is concerned. I think there are always certain times when a guy screws up so badly, you have to let them go. But, I think what a lot of people don't realize is that these are young kids that make mistakes at times.

"And if we believe they are truly a good guy that just made a poor decision, we'll do all we can to correct it and then move on. But if it gets to the point where they're constantly making bad decisions, you have to have another conversation."

How do you make sure you handle a situation like that logically and not emotionally?

A: "You know what I've learned? I used to be a quick reactor. They make you so mad that you want to dismiss them right away or you make a decision right away. But what I've learned over 28 years is sometimes you have to sit back, get all the facts, let the emotions and all that settle down a little bit and then make an informed, calculated decision.

"I think the first reaction from a lot of people is to kick them off the team or suspend him for 10 games and they may not know the whole story. So I think you really have to kick the tires, find out all the facts and make a decision."

What's the biggest thing you missed in the year you were out of coaching?

A: "What I missed the most wasn't the grind or the obsession; it was the building part of it. You see you have something on the ground level and you see it get better and better and better and you have your stamp on it. And you've made an impact. It's corny, but every coach talks about making an impact in a young man's life and when you're broadcasting, you're not. You're not making an impact. You may say a few things on TV that make people laugh, but when you're coaching, you can change a young man's life.

"You can have a positive impact that completely reverses his fortunes in a positive way. There are already stories here in the first year and a half where guys were headed down the wrong path or not doing what they need to do and have totally flipped and now are on track to graduate and playing well and happy as they've ever been. You don't get that in broadcasting, you get that in coaching."

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.


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