Arizona football: Casteel ready for defense to roar in '13

"The only way we're going to get better is by getting reps," said defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel. The Wildcats gave up 499 yards per game last year.


Rich Rodriguez hates huddles. His practices are a blur, run in 20 5-minute periods designed to stress the body and test the mind. Players are allowed a few brief breaks, and just one Popsicle per person.

The Arizona Wildcats' new coach moves fast, to paraphrase a John Wooden-ism, but he doesn't hurry. At least not this spring.

Saturday's annual spring game at Kino Stadium will mark the 40th day of spring drills, counting spring break, a span that could stretch longer if Rodriguez opts to hold one more practice April 16. The UA is using the maximum allowable time in order to help players better grasp two new schemes, Rodriguez's famed spread-option offense and defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's 3-3-5 "odd stack" attack.

So far, spring has been a mixed bag. Here's a look at what's happened so far:

March 5

Arizona holds its first spring practice on campus, a two-hour, noncontact workout that leaves players gassed.

"Fast. One word," center Kyle Quinn says. "It's no-nonsense. There are no wasted movements with Coach Rod's system. We're going to be fast."

March 7

Offensive tackle Fabbians Ebbele and nickel back Jourdon Grandon are held out of the Wildcats' second spring practice after being arrested and charged with assault and trespassing in an on-campus fight. Neither has practiced since.

March 12

Arizona officially starts spring break.

March 21

The Wildcats return to practice sluggish and sloppy after nearly two weeks away from football. Rodriguez is so upset with his team's performance that he puts players off-limits to the media afterward.

"We didn't practice well enough to have any players give their opinions on how the practice went," he says. "You want to know how practice went? Well, you got the message. It wasn't good."

March 24

Arizona tallies 471 yards and scores 10 touchdowns in an offensive-minded scrimmage at Glendale Community College. The Wildcats run for 168 yards and five touchdowns: Daniel Jenkins leads the charge, putting up 81 yards and scoring two touchdowns on nine carries. Ka'Deem Carey and Kylan Butler also put up decent showings in front of 1,000 fans.

"We've always had a stable of running backs," Jenkins says. "We have a lot of talented backs in the backfield."

March 31

Arizona's offense continues to dominate in its second spring scrimmage, held on campus: The Wildcats put up 603 yards on 82 plays, score six touchdowns and rack up 66 points using a modified scoring system that rewards big plays. Quarterback Matt Scott completes 13 of 20 passes for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Rodriguez calls the scrimmage "a little more physical" than the first one.

"There were moments when I thought we looked a little soft and our (lack of) conditioning showed up again, but there were other moments when we competed better," he said.


Rodriguez and Arizona State coach Todd Graham throw out ceremonial first pitches at the Arizona Diamondbacks' season opener at Chase Field. Rodriguez stays long enough to do a television interview, then hustles back to Tucson in time for a night practice. The Wildcats work out under the lights at Kindall/Sancet Stadium, former home of the UA baseball team.

"I want to create a little bit of atmosphere at the baseball stadium, and put our guys in some stressful situations," Rodriguez says.

Spring game

• Where: Kino Stadium

• When: 1 p.m. Saturday

• Cost: Free

Spring football rules

The NCAA sets strict rules regarding spring drills:

• Teams can practice no more than 15 times every spring.

• All practices must be conducted within a period of 34 consecutive calendar days, omitting vacation (spring break) and examination days.

• Only 12 of the 15 practices may involve contact.

• Of the 12 permissible contact sessions, eight may involve tackling.

• Three of the 15 practices can be scrimmages.

• Spring games count toward the 15 practices, and can count as scrimmages.

• Student-athletes are limited to four hours of football work per day, and 20 hours per week.

Source: NCAA