Linebackers bright spot for Wildcats early in season

2013-09-04T00:00:00Z 2013-09-04T10:06:10Z Linebackers bright spot for Wildcats early in seasonBy Daniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Following his team’s 35-0 win over NAU on Friday night, Rich Rodriguez was pleased with his team in some areas and peeved with others.

Tuesday, his unhappiness spilled over to everybody.

For the first time since Rodriguez took over at the UA, the head coach canceled all post-practice media availability and didn’t let himself or any of his players speak to reporters.

The cancellation was relayed by a UA spokesperson, who said Rodriguez made the decision near the end of practice. Rodriguez was heard yelling at his team — not uncommon for the fiery head coach — toward the end of the on-campus workout.

Normally, Rodriguez and offensive players and coaches speak after Tuesday practices, and he and defensive players and coaches follow on Wednesday.

The coach is expected to address reporters following this afternoon’s practice as the team continues to prepare for Saturday night’s game at UNLV.

Before the coach’s annoyance with his team boiled over, he did acknowledge earlier this week he was pleased with certain players and position groups in the team’s shutout win.

One unit the coach singled out as being better and deeper was his linebacker corps.

The group has benefited from the addition of a couple of true freshmen and isn’t as reliant on its starters as it was in Rodriguez’s first year as head coach.

Here’s a closer look at the group and some of the things Rodriguez liked after a 2012 season that saw the linebackers struggle:

Middle linebacker

Starter: Jake Fischer

Backup: Hank Hobson

The lowdown: Fischer will play the majority of snaps in the middle — as he did last year — but coaches will look to give him a breather when possible because he was forced to see so much action last season.

Hobson played in six games last year before missing the final seven with an injury. If he stays healthy, he should be able to take some of the pressure off Fischer. Fischer had seven tackles and Hobson added one in Friday’s win over NAU.

Quotable: “The guys who are returning have a year in the system and should be better. We got more guys that can play. We shouldn’t have to play guys 105-110 plays.” — Rodriguez

Strong-side linebacker

Starter: Scooby Wright

Backups: Keoni Bush-Loo and Derrick Turituri

The lowdown: Wright, a true freshman, impressed in his debut on Friday. He had six tackles, including one for a loss and tipped a pass that was eventually intercepted by Tra’Mayne Bondurant. Turituri, also a true freshman, saw a lot of action on third down and had two tackles, including one sack. Bush-Loo, a sophomore, had two tackles in the win.

Quotable: “(Wright) is 100 miles an hour 100 percent of the time. That can get you in trouble some of the time, but if you play 100 percent and you make plays, then that makes up for some deficiencies you may have.” — Fischer

Weak-side linebacker

Starter: Marquis Flowers

Backups: De’Andre Miller and Jake Matthews

The lowdown: Flowers, like Fischer, is one of the players who Rodriguez wants to play less snaps this year. The more rest Flowers gets the first three quarters of a game, the fresher he’ll be for the fourth quarter. Miller and Matthews, both true freshmen, should be able to take some of the pressure off Flowers this season.

Quotable: “We have some great guys. Me, Scooby, DeAndre, Derek and then you have Jake and Hank Hobson, so that’s already two-deep right there. We also have Sir Thomas Jackson, who can come in and play. So, we definitely have depth. I know last year in the first game I probably played every play, which was close to 100 snaps. This year, out of the 89 snaps, I probably played 60, so it’s a big difference and I think that helps us a lot.” — Flowers

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

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